“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you’re doing, you will be successful.”
Don’t you just love a new year? You’re up to your eyeballs in good intentions, your skin is glowing from eating all that January kale, and gleaming stacks of fresh calendar pages eagerly await your big plans. As you put those finishing touches on your roadmap to success for the year, I urge you take a moment to look back. Waaayyy back … to 1987 and the timeless triumph of cinema that is Wall Street (the original - not the unspeakably bad remake with Shia LaBeouf from 2010). In case you missed it, a young-ish Michael Douglas struts around NYC (sometimes with a hilariously unwieldy brick of a “mobile” phone) extolling the virtues of greed while raking in tons of cash doing unethical things. You might shake your head in disgust, maybe even pity his superficial and empty life, but back then a guy like that practically had “success” stamped on his forehead. Think about it - money, power, fancy suits, an endless supply of hair gel, a cool vintage limousine! Ok, so the limo wasn’t vintage at that time, but still. People chased that image of success for years. And get this — some still do!
Not you, though. You’re a totally independent thinker, way too smart to get caught up in some ridiculous Gordon Gekko idea of success. Right?
Not so fast. If you aren’t feeling completely fulfilled in every aspect of your life (so, all of us except Richard Branson), it’s possible that you have fallen into some form of that Wall Street success trap without even realizing it. Today’s version is much more insidious than its 80s predecessor, in part because the message reaches us through less obvious channels (hello, social media!). We are constantly bombarded with information, much of it sneakily telling us what we should do, be, and have in order to be successful. We finally get access to the endless supply of hair gel, only to find out that now we must have an HGTV-perfect house and a million Instagram followers, too. Sigh.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being inspired and motivated by someone else’s achievements, but we get into trouble when we run blindly toward a goal (money! fame! unlimited hair gel!) without stopping to consider whether we actually want it, or why. And when we end up spending all our time and energy pursuing something that has no authentic meaning for us, the striving is more difficult and the eventual achievement less satisfying. It’s like that time you spent 30 hours a week for a year practicing yoga to make your “wounded peacock” as solid as your neighbor’s, only to master the pose and realize you sort of … hate yoga. Cue the existential crisis.
How about taking a different approach this year? Defining success for yourself is the ultimate way to reclaim your power — parents/friends/strangers from the interwebs/80s movie villains no longer have any say in what success looks like for you. You are free to decide what matters in your own life and free to pursue it on your own terms.
Start here …
1. Dream a little dream. Magically render yourself “successful” … in your head. Start with a blank slate and ensure that the ideas you form are your own. If all you see is you swimming in a pool filled with Golden Retriever puppies, don’t panic! A good coach can help you solidify your vision.
2. Be specific. How does Successful You spend time? Where/how/with whom does he/she live? Is that a three-day work week?? Is she setting fire to that yoga mat???
3. Focus on things you can control. If Successful You commutes on a traffic-free road every day, you might have better luck adjusting your schedule to allow you to travel very early in the morning than convincing all the other motorists in town to stay home until 10 am.
4. Don’t get too attached. Remember: you are constantly evolving. Your mental image of authentic success will change. When it does, simply go back to Step 1.
Here’s to a truly new year filled with unparalleled success — your way.