Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Scott and I have been talking a lot recently about what it means to be successful. How the world/society defines it, whether that's correct or not, and how we can opt in/out. What message do you internalize about success? Scott and I agreed that the message we have received is that success is being better than, or even sometimes being the best. That you haven't truly "arrived" until you are comparatively doing as well as - or better than - your peers in the same industry. The problem with this mentality is that there is always someone better to compare yourself to. It gives you literally zero control over whether you feel successful in any given moment. Your success is contingent upon others lack of success. When you break it down to that statement, it seems completely ludicrous - that we can only be satisfied when other people are failing? Messed up! I don't think that anybody is knowingly subscribing to this philosophy, because why would they? Not only is it twisted and completely opposite to the kind of world that we want to live in, it also causes all kinds of personal stress. What would I have to do - how much would I have to sacrifice - to reach that kind of success? How unhappy would I be until I finally reached it?
There is a better way. First, you have to recognize that you are buying in to the world's definition of success. It's ok! The message is so pervasive that it's hard not to (and truly, even when you recognize it, you have to keep pulling yourself out of it!). Second, you have to constantly replace those ideas (and the self-talk that comes with it) with something else.
So how do you want to define success? My definition is this: Success is setting my own realistic and trackable (is that a word?) goals - born from a desire to have joy and to follow the path that God has set out for me - and meeting those goals. That's it. Setting the goals themselves is probably the most important part, because you can't set goals that are contingent upon the actions of others. For example, I can't say "I want to sell this many books." Of course, I might have that in the back of my mind, but it's not my official goal because I can't force people to buy books! My goals are more like "I will spend this much time learning about marketing" or "I will post this many times a week on social media" or "I will learn how to do graphic design by this date" etc. I have control over all of those things and, theoretically, they will all convert into more book sales. But here is the key: my happiness or feelings of success will not be based on my sales. They can't be. Otherwise I would be super happy and fulfilled on days with big sales numbers and super depressed when I've sold nothing for a week. Not sustainable or helpful for creating a sense of peace and joy in my life.
I have found that this same process will build resiliency in any aspect of life. Parenting is a huge one. How can we be happy as parents if our "success" is our children's behavior!? What!? My success, rather, can be based on my effort. I can seek to recognize the areas where I lack and set specific goals - that I can track - that will hopefully lead to better behavior in my kids. But we can't hold our happiness hostage until that happens!
So, do I hope that people will love my books? That I will sell a lot of them? That my kids will be angels? Absolutely. But I am utterly thrilled that I have met my goals thus far. That I have learned the things I set out to learn and that I am now working on new goals and new points of interest.
If you don't know where to start, I suggest including God in the conversation. I promise, he wants you to be happy, and he will help you know what goals to set! We can choose to not succeed on the world's terms and it's way, way better.