When most of us think about our success, we think of it as an endgame. Some of us define success as something to achieve or gain. Success is often equated with material possession, power, or status. It seems bright, big and noticeable. Therefore, people might think your successful because what you have or achieve, right? And, once you get what you strive for, you move to the next idea of success. You look for the next level to achieve. More money to earn. The next phase in a supposed hierarchy of goals to accomplish. But picture this, what if you saw success in a different way. Not as the end, but the beginning of a different aspect of your goals. Not as the finale, but a continued, dynamic, interconnected process. What if success is not a loud bang, but a soft whisper? What your tears and sufferings are also part of your success?
I learned recently that success isn’t what I thought it was. In this realization, I identified that I saw success in one direction and based on the material understanding of success. In this view, I overlooked the small wins and the non-material victories. That is easy to do when you focus only on the big tangible, visible wins. I felt that achieving my PhD was success. I thought building a creditable, profitable business was success. Being married for over 25 years and having six-plus figure salary was success. One day, when I achieved some of these material successes, I asked myself, now what? I reached a place of what does this all mean, for real. In my aha moment, I learned that success isn’t the noticeable wins only but the silent fails. Success is a process of making mistakes, growing, overcoming, and disappointments. I contemplated on tears, naysayers, and painful moments that didn’t stop me. I thought about the small accomplishments, like, studying all night to complete an exam, completing my dissertation, and constructing my first coaching model. These were the things no one knew about. It was quiet. These moments blended into my life unnoticed. Similarly, I reflected on my marriage--I define my marriage as healthy and happy. That’s what people see, and my spouse and I are viewed as a success. But, no one sees the disagreements and strife between my spouse. No one notices our experiences with overwhelming life problems, like losing my job or him losing his—yes, we had this happen. Or incurring excessive medical bills, or some of our unwise decisions that caused stress in our marriage. Then, combining these experiences, with a wayward adult child who tested our patience and his own karma and luck. The real success was overcoming these issues. The true victory was staying strong when we felt weak. The real accomplishment was rebuilding when we didn’t have much material at our disposal. Shedding tears and feeling frustration in one moment but keeping a smile on my face and sharing positive energy when I coached a client or facilitated a workshop. This is what people don’t see. They don’t see how you hold your head up high when no one supports your vision, when a project falls through, or when a situation in your life feels shitty, yet you keep going.
I have learned that success is continuous and builds upon different experiences. Your failures and mistakes are part of your success. What you don’t gain or receive is part of your success, too. I learned that success comes and goes, can be fast or slow down. Success is multifaceted and relative to your actions, inactions, and beliefs. In short, success is more than the completion of a phase or how much money you have in your bank account. It is more than your status and influence. I learned that success is happiness unrelated to what you have or don’t have. There are many wealthy people who are not happy. There are many powerful people who have no influence on their own lives because they compromised who they are. There are rich people who look great on paper but are poor—poor character and no liquid or disposable income. I also realized that we cannot compare our success with the achievements of others. We are all on different paths and have our own life-lessons to learn. Therefore, we must define success for ourselves. And, when we do, we must understand how each decision, every action, any failures, and all aspects of us and our life experiences play a part in our success. We must celebrate the small wins, we must hear the whispers and see the minuscule victories that blend with life—yes, that includes mistakes, failures, disappointments, and closed doors that we experience. After all, they too lead to and create our successes. I invite you to see your success as more than the end of a goal or temporary achievement. Your success is not finite, final or finished. It is all things, wrapped into various morsels and components. Success is the interconnected parts in an ever-changing dynamic that you get to experience in different ways. It is your definition of true authentic happiness.