Defining Your Own Success

motivation Aug 27, 2019

Yesterday morning, Michelle's grandma stopped by for breakfast before leaving town. We made jalepeño and herb omelets, a pot of fresh ground French press, and ate Concord grapes straight from the vine growing over our pergola. 

As we were tidying up dishes, she said to us, "Oh, this was just so special."

I responded, "This is actually pretty normal for us most mornings."

Just about every morning, we wake up and make a big, delicious breakfast. If the weather allows, we eat it on the back patio, right under the previously mentioned grapevine. We take our time with it, talking at our leisure before getting on to our work for the day.

It's a simple luxury, but it means a lot. 

When we were teaching, our mornings were completely shot. We felt lucky if we had time to stop at McDonald's for a McMuffin before school. Big, leisurely breakfasts were a Saturday-only treat, and one that we relished.

One day at such a breakfast, Michelle and I were talking about our dreams and how we might want our lives to turn out. Halfway through a delicious homemade breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hash browns, I said, "If we could do this every day, then that would feel like success to me."

. . .

Everyone wants to be successful, but we don't always have a clear picture of what that life looks like. In the United States, we often equate success with a number in a bank account or the car in our driveway. It might be a house in a certain neighborhood or the square footage of that house. 

But you can get those things while your life is still too hectic to enjoy them. You might have to work far too many hours at a job that you hate just to achieve those goals. 

And if you ask me, that's not success.

There is no price high enough for me to consider a life where I am overstressed and overworked. No salary is big enough to make up for the time it takes me away from my wife and creative work. 

Because we define success a little differently than the American dream.

For Michelle and me, our definition of success looks like big breakfasts, walking our dog around the park in the middle of the day, making and enjoying great art in our community... all things that don't depend much on our bank account—as long as our bills are getting paid. I often joke that when I can buy as many records as I want and Michelle doesn't bat an eye, then I'll know that we've made it.

Think about your ideal life. What does it look like? Stay away from monetary goals. Instead, think about what your routine would look like. What time do you wake up? What sort of things do you spend your free time doing—and how much free time do you have? How often do you participate in your favorite leisure activities?

It might look a little different than if you get that promotion at work or if you go full time with your creative work, and that's good. Use this picture of your ideal life as a goal, then try to reverse engineer that life. 

Create your own definition of a successful life. Because after all, no one else is living your life for you, so why should they get to decide what success is or is not?

. . . 

That version of your life might seem miles away, but that doesn't mean you can't start heading that way now. Pick one aspect of your perfect life and implement it as soon as you can.

Think about less valuable things that you can trade for it. Maybe you can keep your Netflix binges to two episodes at a time so you can work on your art during that third episode. Maybe you can set your alarm a little earlier so you can have a bigger breakfast.

Whatever success looks like for you, don't wait to chase it.

There's room in your life even now to have a taste of that success. 

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