Over 10 months ago, I started a year-long ritual to find more true success.
One thing that is fascinating about longer-term rituals is that they allow for really deep change. If you meditate once, it will make your day better. But meditate each day for a year and it will make your life better.
You will become a different person. Your relationships will change. Your experience at work will change.
That’s what drew me to this ritual. I was curious what shifts could take place if I committed myself to something for a year.
With less than six weeks left before completing the full ritual, I spent some time recapitulating what I had learned and gotten from it so far. Here are 3 crucial lessons:
1. Success is not what you think it is.
This is, perhaps, the most important point. Our culture is teaching us a very perverted image of success… we’re taught to think that success is about dating a hot person, or having a huge net worth, or having a gazillion social media followers.
In reality, none of that matters unless other factors are in place. Dating a hot person is great only if they’re also pretty on the inside and a good fit for who you are.
Having a huge net worth is great only if you have found a way to be a responsible steward of it and use it to make your life and the life of others better.
And, well, having a gazillion of social media followers generally only makes sense if you spend time on social media (or pay someone to do it for you which makes the thing even more meaningless) which, according to research, will make you more miserable.
So, it’s probably fair to say that our culture’s definition of success is… not very helpful. That’s probably why my definition of success gradually shifted while I went through the ritual.
Before, I knew (theoretically) that there was a difference between something that looked like success and real, felt success.
I knew (theoretically) that success could look really humble.
I knew (theoretically) that how something feels internally is more important than how it looks like externally.
But I didn’t fully believe it. The cultural conditioning was too strong. Spending almost a year on a ritual helped me overcome most (not all) of it.
As a result, I’m now free from the lies society tells us about success and can instead choose my own definition. And defining what success means to you is arguably the most important part of living a successful life.
2. It’s easy to overlook true success.
Related to the first point, I also realized how easy it is to overlook true success.
After reviewing the experiences I have had over the last year, I realized how much had shifted for the better. My relationship is more balanced, I am more independent and stronger in myself, I am once again doing things that I had really loved to do as a child, and and and.
My entire list of positive things included about a dozen points, each more meaningful to me than the next. Each made my life a lot better. Each contributed to my sense of flourishing.
But you know what? Before compiling that list, I was doubting that something had even happened. I had made the mistake of thinking that success entailed something external and flashy, such as, I don’t know, a Lamborghini? (I don’t even like Lamborghinis.)
Success had to be impressive.
And according to the twisted values and beliefs of our culture, finding balance, inner strength, or a sense of childhood joy isn’t impressive… unless you discover it while talking to Oprah.
We also think that success has to be obvious.
But feeling more aligned and fulfilled isn’t necessarily very obvious. Perhaps that’s because true success feels very natural to us… and we’re not great at registering things that feel natural.
To live a life of success, we need to be able to recognize true success… even if it’s not flashy, impressive, or obvious.
3. Make success about your efforts, not your outcomes.
Throughout the last year, I realized that the easiest way to make myself feel like a failure was to tie my self-worth to outcome instead of process goals.
Outcome goals are about things you can’t fully control, such as “I’m going to get X amount of views.” In contrast, process goals are: “I’m going to write 10 articles each month.”
As a coach, I should have known that tying self-worth to outcome goals was a bad idea.. and I did know that. I just wasn’t applying that knowledge to myself.
When I finally decided to give myself more appreciation for my efforts (regardless of their outcome), it immediately made me feel better about myself. Suddenly, my sense of success was only dependent on my actions, not on random chance.
Ironically, by feeling better about my efforts regardless of their outcome, I was free to try harder… which led to more positive outcomes.
What I learned from my long ritual is that due to cultural conditioning, my concept of success needed a lot of un-learning.
Unless you’ve either lived in a cave for almost all your life and/or are Buddha, this is probably also the case for you. Most of what we have been (directly or indirectly) taught about success is wrong.
Or, at the very least, it’s superficial. It’s a sign pointing in a direction that won’t bring you happiness.
If something doesn’t feel good to you on some level, it’s not success. It’s your idea of success. And those are two very different things.
By letting go of false ideas of success, I freed myself from that. I no longer felt compelled to pursue a version of success I had never consented to.
True success whispers to our soul, it doesn’t shout to our ego.
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