How do you define success? Is it by what you achieve? By the number of shoes you own? By how many people you help in a day? It is slippery to define, that thing we call success. I’m struggling to define it myself right now. Is it my ability to get through a day without going completely insane? Is it my good friends who support me and provide me with a clearer perspective? Or is it something completely different. Something I hadn’t considered before. Something that, as yet, I’ve been able to define. Is there a recipe that needs to be followed? A cookbook, if you will, that provides all the answers? And if we are able to define it, are we just as able to see what is preventing it in the first place?
One thing I have noticed is that it is easier to define success for others than it is ourselves. We are so quick to praise our kids when they achieve milestones. The “mom glasses” if you will. Kind of pinched that one off a TV show but it got me thinking. If our kids do simple, small tasks, we give them praise. If they get good marks in school, we give them praise. If my son gets through a scouting meeting without swearing, he gets praise. If my daughter cleans her room without asking, she gets praise. I’m so quick handing it out, I forget to save some for myself. I forget to own and praise my own successes. And as thrilled as I am that my son controls his language and my daughter cleans up her mess, why are those achievements praise worthy and mine aren’t?
The answer I think lies in the inability of some people (read MEEEEEE here) to consistently be proud of successes. I have been known, on occasion, to be proud of myself. I have been known, on occasion, to share my happy moment and not be afraid of telling others of what I’ve done. But that word, afraid, stops me more than I’d like to admit. What if I appear a braggart? What if people get turned off and think I’m full of myself? Or worse yet, what if what I see as an achievement and something to be proud of is no more consequential than keeping the swear jar empty and getting my gitch off the floor. What if the light shines on my success and it isn’t so sparkly after all. That fear. That wondering if success is mine for the taking in the first place.
I’ve had success in my life. I’ve done a decent job being a daughter and sister. I chose quite well in a life partner. I think my kids have turned out well despite the odd f-bomb and calls from health and safety about the state of my daughters’ floor. I’ve managed to create a terrific group of friends. I graduated with high honours in my third graduation from college. I’ve had three successful careers so far and counting. I’m not afraid to cook without a recipe. I’ve mastered the art of a great cup of tea. I can now get my leg up to the top of my thigh during tree pose in yoga AND hold it there without falling over. OK mostly. There may or may not be some wobbling but who doesn’t need to find their focus now and again? Especially when you’ve doubted whether your thigh would ever see your foot in the first place.
Doubt is the biggest detriment to success. Doubt plays with your head in those dark places that bogeyman makes themselves right at home in. It smells like fear and questioning and failure. It makes you believe your souffle won’t rise so why bother beating the eggs. It makes you wonder if you are wasting your time trying to get a better job so why not just stay with what you know. Doubt makes your tea taste bitter and keeps that foot firmly planted on the ground rather than reaching for something you didn’t think you could do. Doubt is what you need to overcome to find success.
So what’s my point? Unachieved success happens in suffering from doubt. Success suffers at the hands of doubt when I allow it to wrap its smelly hands around my brain and choke out possibilities. What’s common in all of that? Me. I. My ability to stand tall while balancing a cup of tea on my head as I whip up a souffle tasty enough to bring Julia Child back from the dead to wonder how she ever thought she was a better cook than me. My ability to own my successes, plan for more and believe that it will happen. My ability to evict doubt from the hovel in my head and clear that space for light and peace and possibility. What is success? Knowing that you deserve success whatever it might be and making it happen. Having a good cookbook handy doesn’t hurt either. I don’t doubt that a bit.