August 27, 2021

3 questions to reframe success, change your relationship with yourself and redefine your growth.

On the flip side of our relationship with the villain failure, is its seeming opposite, the hero of success.

But is the idea of success really the opposite of failure? Or are they the same thing, depending on your perception?

When you think back to your childhood, how was success defined for you? Was it something you openly discussed with parents or teachers, or was it an unsaid belief system that you adopted through watching the world around you?

For me, success was never openly discussed. Which is a strange thing, as a kid, I felt I so clearly knew what a failure was, but a true, real, deep, success? No idea. In our childhood world, the idea of success was in the external. Money. House. Stuff. Holidays. Titles. Importance. Education. Adventure. Lack of fear. Lack of emotion.

Growing up believing that self-worth was something that needed to be earned and that it was connected to external achievement and a set of perfect circumstances of life, meant that when our family had to move when I was 12 due to our family business failing, nothing was discussed.

The grief was so overwhelming and the shame, that we moved away from all our family and friends, to begin a new life somewhere else.

The idea of success, was always, somewhere else. It was in another location, another job, another house, another degree – always adding to the self, to create what a collage of success would look like.

There is very clear cultural conditioning around that collage, it includes all the things, plus, home, family, marriage and physical perfection. 

And so then, if we see the world through the black and white lens of the external definition of success, how do we view ourselves when we are in the periods of our lives that the cultural definition doesn’t fit our world at all?

We suffer, internally. Social media gives us an excellent tool for amplifying the external idea of success. But in truth, it is not the external world that is responsible for how we view the world on social media. It is us.

We bring our own definitions with us, ones we know we know, or ones we don’t know we know. Whether we are conscious or not of our definitions of success, our views of our own lives are effected as we engage with the world.

It may be the person we work with, or the person in our family, who has an opinion on our lives and what our best pathway to success might be. But rarely do we talk about when we feel successful.

As feeling is internal, we get to gauge how an event or situation makes us feel. What story are we telling ourselves? Is it one that is kind, forgiving and focused on the learning, or is it the story of deep suffering? One that says we may never be good enough. We may never achieve our goals. 

So how can we begin to reframe our thinking around success, so that we can create our own authentic internal definition of what it feels like, and looks like, to us?

These are 3 ways to reframe success that I am using right now, in the midst of many life, career and finance changes that completely changed all the goals I had set for myself.  What would you add to the list?

  1. What activity was I engaged in when I last felt a true inner sense of happiness, joy and success? This might lead to viewing the doing and the process itself as feeling successful, as in, when we are chasing a feeling rather than an outcome, we have the opportunity to feel success when we choose.
  2. What challenges have I faced that I have overcome? Rather than seeing how we “won” when things worked in our favour, what did we do when things were not easy and how could we feel successful in this process and see success in our ability to overcome life’s challenges?
  3. How have I been able to help others when they are struggling, learning or suffering? Could we reframe our sense of success to how we helped others in their challenges? Could our own pain and learning have provided guidance to someone else, thus making us successfully passing on our knowledge and providing compassion?

If we can accept that success is the chasing of a feeling, of a perception, then we have the ability to redefine our lives through the lens of success in ways that bring us more joy and meaning, rather than endless chasing for the external.

It is not to say the external is bad, but without the fuller feeling in the internal, it is failure dressed up in fancy shoes. Just like in the dojo, no shoes means we get to show up as our authentic selves, ready to transform not just our bodies but our limitations too.

“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”

Miyamoto Musashi

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