You’ve heard the cliche, success is a journey, not a destination. In many cases I agree. There is more fun in the chasing than in the catching…..but catching is really cool, too. So what does the dictionary say about “success?”
- The accomplishment of an aim or purpose
- The attainment of popularity or profit
- A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity
- The outcome of an undertaking, specified as achieving or failing to achieve its aims
Step One: Know What Success Means to You.
What is your definition of success? While it may initially seem the odd question, success is totally related to perception, desire and the goals that were set by the person who is evaluating their outcome. What is success to you? Is it okay to want to be successful? I pull from the most revered of all western texts, the Bible, to substantiate that success is a worthwhile pursuit with “I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health – that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul! (3 John 2, MSG). You don’t have to stop with Christianity; you can find the blessing of success in the OT Jewish scriptures as well: “But prosperity is the reward of the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:21). All of that to bring out two points:
- Wanting to be successful does not make you a faithless heathen only concerned with yourself.
- Success is measured by many different goals, like health, faith, relationship, life.
What is your definition of success? To know for sure, it takes a life statement. What is it that you’re journeying toward? We’ll use mine to give a format.
“As a published, NYT best selling author, to reach a comfortable level of self actualization and faith; to be a benefit and blessing to the people who touch my life; to fulfill the call of God on my life with honesty, passion, integrity and authentic witness; and, to offer the love of my life the desire of his heart with all of the passion, adventure, knowledge and love that I possess.”
Wow, that is a tall order. Blessing people means that I have to have sub-goals of financial, spiritual, emotional, psychological and educational components. I have to be able to communicate with others, to actively listen so that their idea of blessing is what I am bringing to the table. I have to know that the love of my life has the same soul deep commitment to me as I do with him – even when he is having another of his hurricane moments. He has to know that I will never willingly let go of him, even when I am the tidal wave of emotion that day. The success might be listed as the sale of the three books in my trilogy to screen play after the best sellers list, but I assure you that his disposition and our relationship drastically impact how and when I write. It’s tough to create when your emotions are all over the place.
Step Two: Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
Right now, before you even begin to map out your dreams, put down every bit of regret, self remorse, guilt, “should” statements and negative self talk. Of the 5,000 + weekly readers to this site and the hundreds and hundreds of subscribers, I pejoratively hear two things.
1. You’re in a relationship that sucks and you’ve tried everything that you can think of. Then, you’ll give me a hundred reasons that you “should” do what everyone tells you. My problem with that? (I can’t tell you how much I hate the words “should” and “what if”) Fact: You’re still miserable. All those helpful voices don’t live inside your life.
2. A person, for whatever reason, romantic or not, left and you’re not processing your pain at the rate you wanted to. They may have died, divorced, dumped or just broken a friendship or relationship of some sort, but you’re in a pile of goo on the floor. This article is for you guys….I can’t write that many responses. 🙂
A Case Study of Someone Who Is Failing Daily…by giving up.
Dreams have to have rich soul based soil to be birthed; they require that you stimulate your innovative thinking. You might begin with where you are standing right this second. Really pick up your gratitude feelings for everything you come in contact with. Maybe you’re one of the folks that has written in about a dead relationship. You can’t fathom a way out. Instead of feeling the conflict, decide what it is that you actually want in life. For the sake of God and the rest of us who love you, do not just write out the same old excuse that you’ve been dolling out to people looking into your life. Here is a rough case study of a conversation I’ve been having over the past six months.
It begins with my friend defending his failing marriage. “I wish I could be the best husband in the world. She’s been wonderful to me.” Use of the word “wish” aside, this is a sad thing that I heard from a person that is locked in the most damaging codependent relationship I have seen to date. This friend doesn’t realize that this “sweet woman” who he so conflicted over is his enabler. It is intentional? Nope. She’s doing what she saw growing up with two highly dysfunctional parents and is recreating the chaos that is familiar. Saving him from his own stupidity is her life’s work; as his mental state degrades under the strain (addiction), she’s addicted to his degradation. What is worse, the addiction or the savior complex? Both are a waste of life. Why does he want to stay and go at the same time? Fear, insecurity and low self esteem compliments of his parents.
The sad reality of broken relationships like this is that they decompose slowly over long periods of time, usually in silence. My friend will give rise to a whole new generation of people with not only the problems that they have as a couple, but a whole host of new ones…children learn from their parents as early as twelve months. By the time that they are three, they’ve formed the whole basis for being emotionally healthy or not. In this whole mess, there is one question that he can answer honestly: he doesn’t really have any clear cut dreams or plans for the future. There is a little wish list when he’ll let himself dream…but then he’s clamped back into the chains of reality and survives another day of life. Tick tock. Tick tock. It wasn’t long after I started counseling people that I realized not everyone who lives in prison is at the penitentiary.
It’s important that you’re internally honest. Can you imagine living this life that you’re in for the next fifty years with few substantial changes? Yes or no, that is your game state and it is as individual as each person on the face of the planet. I hear from lots of people where one person in the relationship said yes and the other said “No Way In Hell.” It’s not an indictment of no love; one wants to grow, change and adventure. The other prefers a quiet life of being centered where they are, wants to retire where they’ve worked since they were 19…you get the picture.
Look around for components of the life that you want that are already there. I have my house – wow, I love my house. I live in the perfect town to raise children. I am close to lots of adventure, and only hours from pretty much anything I would want to do in life. Is that your state? Maybe you adore your kids – plan how you’re going to be the best parent in the world full of love and adoration. Act that way, meditate on it, be it, live it. That person that you want to meet and fall in love with? Rehearse it in your head, play the movie, go out of your way to create a dream with details. Maybe you’re a long term, marriage-counselor-failed-staying-out-of-fear-and-obligation-done-but-still-present person that is hanging on for the children. The good news? If your kids are young enough, you’ll probably die of stress induced heart disease before they graduate from college, so maybe a pine box is your ideal way of dealing with decisions that weren’t as forever as you truly felt they were. People grow and change…and if you didn’t do that together by whatever fancy, it is what it is.
Let your guard down with your own fate; let the people that you love know that you’re in it for life with them, even if you’re planning to move half way across the state. A fully committed, happy divorced parent is better than two together that live in tension, discord or dead affection. Perhaps you need to plan how to save a decent amount of money for a new car or home, to change addresses to complete your education. A solid plan will take you there without chaos and one step closer to the “ultimate biggie.”
What is most important in this phase is that you spend the majority of your time being grateful for the highs and lows in life, grateful for the flow and change of the world. Letting go of the past is hard, but less so when you recognize that it’s played it’s part in your growth and change. Be incredible grateful for that person, that job loss, that business closing. I know from my own losses that I wouldn’t change much ~ I am who I am today because of my upbringing, because of working that drive thru window, because of joining the military to learn discipline, because of both my marriage and divorce. Although it didn’t feel like it then, these hard times lead me to the place where I love myself without censure. I am proud of me….and that was one of my lifetime goals!
Step Three: Dream Big. Bigger. Come On, Hit It Out of the Park.
Setting a goal that isn’t based on something bigger than you isn’t setting a life goal.
Dreams are meant to go from “wish” to reality through the use of your logical mind setting a step by step plan to accomplishment. The number one reason people fail in life is the failure to dream big and plan smart. They are too worried about obtaining that little piece of life today that they sabotage their own focus and resources. Your goal can include milestones like mine: I want to buy the only-by-order rare car… the Audi RS5 by Senner. Click that link and be prepared to fall in love if you’re into anything remotely like sports cars. I love all things fast, fun and adventurous so a car that can top out at 178 mph is just up my alley. Again, not about the money, but about what my baby and I will experience together with the thing. I’d accomplish this goal just to put a bow on top of it, hand him the keys and watch the look on his face. His smile is worth the world to me….get this…because I LOVE him. Only him. Always him. It’s my goal in life that he’s happy; I will never let that go. So there is a life lesson….if it’s worthwhile….hit it out of the park. Go all in. Get dirty with it, beleive in each other when there is no real reason, stand by the storms in one another’s lives and hold on. Passion. Exceptional love. That’s worth fighting for.
“God hides some ideal in every human soul. At some time in our life we feel a trembling, fearful longing to do something. Life finds its noblest spring of excellence in the hidden impulse to do our best.” Robert Collyer
What is your dream? I was raised in the “backwoods” part of Oklahoma to a very modest life. Okay, we were pretty poor, in fact below the poverty level. I paid attention in school and was the first kid to attend college of the eight children in my family. What are my professional goals now? I am going to be a bestselling author. Notice the construction of the sentence. I am, not I want to be. I see the mental movie in my mind, have thanked God time and again for that word, that chapter, that ending scene. I have my characters well developed, I know what I want and have 150% faith in it. I am going to be….not a wish, but a destiny that I am on my way to fulfilling.
What are my personal goals? To use that profession to bless my family and friends, and to work holistically as a psychologist with newly diagnosed terminal and life altered people who need help learning how to live their best life in the presence of their disease, to retain their own identity intact. Why is there a career goal under “personal” goals? It’s my calling in ministry, what I was destined to do by God. I am a teaching pastor – but church so far hasn’t been my favorite venue. There is no time for hypocrisy with the dying.
It’s okay to want something different than you did when you were a twenty something, still growing into adulthood and impulsive with emotion. It’s okay to reach your mid life 50 year point and figure out that you really did want to own your own small business instead of being a corporate executive. There is no time in your life when it is not time to start the life that you dream of. Word of advice: if you are living a lukewarm life now, chances are you’re in life that developed, not a life that was planned. You “drifted” into where you’ve landed. It’s really not a surprise that it’s less than fulfilling, is it? A boat rarely lands on the coast of the desired shore by setting its sail in to the wind and having no one at the helm to steer the course.
Step Four: Break Down the Dream with Attainable Goals
If my goal is to become healthy and fit in the space of a year, it’s easy to get discouraged when you step on the scale. Break your larger goal into smaller pieces and take action on those smaller, manageable pieces every day. NEVER write out a goal without taking immediate action of some sort, however small. Call that person in the world that will understand and say “I have resolved to make this dream happen; this is my new goal. Pray for me.” Then DO IT. Most people talk but then sit in their circumstances and fade into oblivion. So many people are desperately unhappy with their lives, but they will take no action to improve their health, their economics, their relationships. The need love, but would rather starve to death emotionally than have some person in their life think badly of them – or worse, some public group that doesn’t live their life at all. Social pressure keeps people repressed and unhappy. I am always amazed as I speak in public venues how the faces of the faithful are often a lot like you’d imagine after biting into a lemon. If you’re happy, notify your face!
Instead of worrying about that year from now goal, chop it into fourths. A rough exercise: the goal is to lose thirty pounds in three months. I know that my body burns 1,200 calories a day through normal function. I will commit to 1.) Getting on a fitness program of walking one mile every morning on the elliptical machine I never use 2.) Focusing my diet on fresh vegetables and lean meats, limiting myself to 1,500 calories a day and eliminating white sugar and white flour from my eating habits. 3.) use the Yoga DVD that my daughter gave me for Christmas on Monday, Wed and Friday each week and 4.) spending an hour a day on positive meditations about myself. In addition, I will drink clean water and limit my intake of any kinds of chemicals.
You can attack that ninety day plan with gusto, and anyone can maintain a ninety day regimen. If you can’t, break it down into weeks or days. Have a plan and go for it.
Step Five: Change the Stage and Increase The Size of Your Possibilities
“Ah,” said the famous Robert Browning, “but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what is a heaven for?” When you dream big, be willing to dream of something outside of anything that you’ve ever known. As a kid from the wrong side of the tracks with two or three clean pair of clothes and a modest home, I dreamed of being a multi millionaire – and I have been close to the mark several times. I dreamed of making a mark, changing life – and I’ve done that, too.
Nothing is impossible, not if you love from the depths of your heart and believe with your faith that it can be so. It’s not the money that I am really after – it’s the freedom to be, the freedom to get in there and help people without restriction.
Maybe it’s sounds a bit cold, but you need a “T Assessment” of your life. Everything you really want on one side, everything you honestly want to change on the other. Be brave here, it’s just you and the ink. Take out a clean sheet of paper and list your life. On the left, the things that you know you need like air. I listed “being a great mother to Taryn.” Children are the most important thing in my world. I listed faith, my home, being self aware, the relationship that I have with the man who holds my heart in his hands….I want it to be everything that we know it can be. I want to make his dreams worth living. On the right side? I know that I don’t want specific things that are in my life now that I cannot live with forever. I will not be depressed forever. I will find the balance of life that sets me free. I don’t want to be enslaved to “just enough” living. I will not be in debt – at all. I will not let the boundaries of my life be narrow or small. I cannot imagine a life where I don’t climb the mountains, zip the lines, taste the amazing cultural foods and in general, laugh until my sides hurt. I can’t fathom not sharing that with the children in my life. A great song to listen to while you’re doing this is one of my “new favorite” bands Joan Red and their song Strong Enough.
You have to be reasonable. If your life long goal is to be an actor, you need to be in a location where there are auditions for the type of discipline you want to conquer. Stage, theater and big screen all have different hometowns. You need to be where your “action” is. Changing your stage step by step can help you in many ways. First, the process of detachment from an unhealthy lifestyle is less painful than a clean break. Begin to visualize yourself in that new life, building in your mind the high expectations that you have of yourself. If you’ve ever said “I guess I need to lower my expectations” of your current life, you’re in the wrong place. It is in rising to meet that challenge that we are empowered to become more aware, to grow as people, to press further into the call. Status quo is actually a slow, painful death that will lull you into a false sense of fatality.
Changing the stage could also mean a health change, or the development of a deeper spiritual life. Maybe living by the “law” of your faith has left you with less of a personal relationship in faith than you wanted or dreamed of. Maybe your mental or physical diagnosis has taken over the main part of your identity with yourself, or worse yet, your family. I don’t want my actions or behaviors chalked up to depression, or my physical state to be gauged by my neurons. I am responsible for myself and won’t allow my family to anticipate that I will act a certain way over a certain diagnosis; I appreciate other’s input, but my dreams and goals are my responsibility.
As a person diagnosed with a major “illness” (I don’t like the word disease – it implies that you’ll never have peace by the nature of dis –ease) I’ve done my homework to find out what homeopathic help I can offer myself, what taxes my body, what triggers the headaches and the other unkind things that happen in my world. Today I am down to minimum – important medications – I live a relatively normal life. When I get up in the morning, I am excited to be here, anticipating the amazing day ahead. I am proactive… I know what kind of diet that I need, what stressors can be life threatening, and how to just have faith and calm when I find myself on the floor once again.
How do you succeed when life has you on the floor? Change the stage. I know my steps and that this temporary setback won’t last forever. I think about the look in my children’s eyes when they receive a special gift, or the excitement that my love would have over his dream car. I think about how much I would love to give one special amazing man this airplane called a Cirrus S22 as a birthday present; I think about how much I would love to sign your copy of my book for you. I remember the most clear, lovely set of blue eyes saying “I love you” ; I reach out with faith and know that I am loved beyond reason. When I lose my way, I come back to the first steps and before you know it, I am no longer self sabotaging, but carrying toward the goals.
Jim Rohn once wrote “You want to set a goal big enough that in the process of achieving it, you become someone worth becoming.” If you have some type of limitation or have been saddled with the word “addiction” or “disorder” hear me now: your life can be what you want to make of it. It’s not over. You can overcome any hurdle in life and have the success you dream of. Never let your problems define you.
Step Six: Develop the Confidence of an Eagle
“It’s not just that I can. I can do almost anything that you can imagine, but anyone with a working brain claims that. What sets me apart from the rest of humanity is that I am willing to try with 150% of all of me. I am willing to create the need, see the bigger than big picture, go off the side of the cliff, paint outside the lines. I don’t care about convention, I don’t care about “the rules” and I don’t care if I fail. It just reinforces my faith. I care about love, hope….faith. I will never – never – let go of the dream.” Alison Rodgers (from the book Unbroken.)
Your confidence HAS to be based on what God (or whatever you call God) has to say about you – not the negative things that a parent, guardian, spouse, friend, lover, sibling, friend or coworker once said. We have been conditioned to believe that confidence means self assurance, self reliance and self sufficiency….but that just scares the crap out of people. If you think that you’ve got to be self-everything, then you are required to know everything that comes along with all those “self” words. Just say NO! Staff your life to your weaknesses. Especially if you are like I have been and you began you life with low self worth; these ideas can become kind of a mask that hides a scared kid who never gets to grow up. That is why family of origin therapy can be so important if you grew up with domestic violence or a broken relationship – remember, children would rather be with one parent who is thriving than two who don’t belong near one another. That is coming from a kid whose parents did divorce – with seven children at home from 1 year to 18 years old.
Confidence comes from being okay with who you are, proud of it including all the wobbly bits. Do I know everything about succeeding? Nope. So why am I writing this article? Because yesterday I listened to a woman tell me all the reasons that she, at age 54, would never be able to get the education she needs to fulfill God’s call on her life, and expressed her remorse at not “knowing all the big words” that we rare M.Div female creatures use. As I listened, I saw the real problem – she has no confidence in herself. I don’t care if I know every big word in the exegetical realm of eschatological hermeneutics for the philosophical representation of Greek mythology in the resurrection story – if I have no confidence in myself, the sentence is nothing but a bunch of dumb words strung in some order. The real difference between her and me – she can’t fathom living the next thirty years of her life the way that she is today, but can’t figure out how to change life sans the confidence to try and willingness to fail. I am willing to put it all out there on the line, and failure doesn’t bother me a bit. It took Edison a thousand “failures” to develop one light bulb – he said he learned a thousand ways not to do it. That is great confidence. They told Eisenstein he was teaching disabled, an idiot. He laughed at them, in their faces that said “failure.”
You have to know that you’re damn special.
God made one of you, whatever name you use for the divine nature of the created, beloved creature called human being. Soar with what wings you’ve been given. If you’re fortunate enough to have someone love you as I adore my baby….know that it’s a rare and beautiful thing. Now get off your butt, find every bad habit you can quit….list those down, and decide what you want in life. Not based on rules. Not based on society. Not based on avoiding what you’re remembering of your family of origin. Remember the time that you felt the most free, the most real, the most intense and start there.
Next time: The Top Ten Steps of Success