Do You Need a New Definition of Success? (If not forever, then for a while?)

pshubert via
pshubert via

Call us flitters, hummingbirds, butterflies, recovering failures, neurotics, highly sensitive, multiply talented under-achievers, people with low self esteem, poor self confidence, people who are not measuring up, people who feel they should be doing something else – Call us what you will, that long, straight, steep path to success is not ours.

Not only is our path circuitous, spirally and meandering, but our successes are different, too.

We are the people who struggle to give ourselves the time and space to write, draw, dance, sketch out a blog design, script a podcast, or develop a recipe. We think we should already know how, or that it’s already too late. We can’t decide which creative impulse to listen to, which is more important, and, yes, which has the best chance of delivering us from our low achieving nosedive.

We don’t believe in ourselves because clearly we are flighty, inconsistent, commitment-phobes. We don’t buckle down, except if we get totally obsessed, and then we won’t stop working to eat, sleep or interact with our loved ones. When we’re done obsessing, we go back to wandering around sighing, weighted down by our unfulfilled potential.

We are folks who really, really want something, but damned if we can tell you what it is. We just know we burn for it.

So we go on earning our paycheck or mopping up the latest oopsie of our topsy-turvy lives. We try to come to center by stilling the voice of discontent in our hearts, when what we should do is stop and listen to it.

Our purpose quest looks a lot like that parable of the three people who’ve never seen an elephant standing in a room with their eyes closed discovering this huge creature that stands before them and trying to come to agreement on what it is. We are all three of those people: heart, mind and soul.

Rather than getting caught up in which one is right, don’t worry what the whole thing looks like or what it’s called. Just trust your senses and give it your own name.  When we name some tiny aspect of it, that’s a success.

When we allow ourselves to actually do something we love to do, that’s a success.

When we pay attention to our curiosity, allowing ourselves to fall in love with one more thing, that’s a success.

When we switch from using others’ benchmarks on the path to mastery to using our own, surveying our inner landscape with compassion, seeing it for what it is, not for what it isn’t, that’s a success.

When we acknowledge the harmful things we are not doing, that’s a success. Any time we pass up the opportunity to indulge in self destructive behaviors, we should stand and cheer, even if our cat thinks we’re crazy. (Even if you don’t stand and cheer, your cat thinks you’re crazy, so you might as well stand and cheer.)

Here are a few of my success benchmarks that I’m sharing with you so that I remember to acknowledge them more often:

Each day clean is a successful day.

Each time I acknowledge another human being’s humanity, I succeed in making myself more human.

Each time I sit down to write, draw or pick up a drum, I succeed in taking myself seriously.

Each time I draw a boundary around my creative time and keep it, I teach others to take me seriously.

Each time I represent myself honestly and resist the urge to package myself differently so I feel more  definable, presentable and finished, I succeed in diminishing  the shame that threatens to diminish me.

How about you? What are some of your unique and personal definitions and benchmarks of success?

Next week: The number one antidote to your creative quagmire: Make space in your life for you.

Until then, I hope you’ll consider joining my mailing list by using the links to the right, subscribing to this blog via email, also to the right, leaving a comment, and  sharing this or other posts that have touched you.

With love,


0 thoughts on “Do You Need a New Definition of Success? (If not forever, then for a while?)

  1. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. Looking for work today as I do most days, I stumbled upon something that I could do at RIT that is consistent with what I have done before. However it would be highly stressful and take up most of my time. With much soul-searching and effort this fall I decided that I am only going to take a job that allows me the energy and time to pursue the creative writing that I have just now gotten back to after a nine year hiatus. And didn’t that job description call out to me….”apply…apply…you won’t have to face uncertainty…you’ll be ‘normal’ and validated with a chunky salary.” It would be like sailing downwind…straight and predictable and unexciting. I’m heading my boat up wind, leaning out, with the sheet pulling in my hand.
    – Deb

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