How Do You Define Success?

My friends and I are having a conversation one day about job satisfaction and fulfillment, and the years we’ve spent in the corporate world.  Most of us have reached some degree of contentment in how our career paths turned out and some are still halfway towards reaching the top. By top I mean, the pinnacle of success. The latter, being a relative word.

 People come from different backgrounds, culture, and upbringing. This fact plus the uniqueness of every person and the particular experiences each has gone through defines ones’ own personal view of what success really looks like and feels like.

Though I cannot accurately interpret these definitions from the viewpoint of others, let me share with you how success is pictured from my own view. 

I started out life as an achiever mostly in academics. This winner mindset propelled me to give my best in everything that I do, be it at work, music or in any display of talent.  While the experience proved an age-old wisdom that, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve”, it rewarded me with a glimpse of joy. The problem was, that, to me, it was never enough. Pure, lasting joy, then became the cornerstone of my success definition.

Perhaps the excitement of being on top was just fleeting.  The self-gratification was temporary. The applause lasted for a moment and the spotlight dimmed after some time.  Perhaps age did catch up or life became more real as I’ve come face to face with my own mortality.

The transition took place moment by moment, piece by piece.  Soon enough I found myself longing for something deeper, more profound,  something seemingly elusive but more solid and real. 

Then it finally made sense. Instead of chasing heavenly painted rainbows I was drawn to create my own.  

 

Connecting the dots in my past helped me understand why there was sort of a lack.  Something was missing despite the number of shining moments I have reveled in.  There, I found a great hole carved out by the plain absence of meaning.

Everything I did then was for me. I took home the glory, for me.  I was proving myself to the world, to other people, to people I didn’t even know. My sole focus at that time was to convince people of my own worth.

I realized later on,  how exhausting this can be and so I abandoned that path.  I trod on new waters and became fully aware of who I am and what I can do, create and contribute. 

I started to believe that knowing my worth is enough. That forging meaning in what I’ve been tasked to accomplish in this world makes more sense.  That giving is oftentimes more rewarding than taking.  That fulfillment in it’s truest sense is an overwhelming feeling that’s not short-lived. Rather, it’s something that rewards your heart with boundless joy and serenity no words can even express.

In a sense, I became content in knowing that at the end of each day, I gave my all and I have put my heart and mind into the things that I do. That means then that I’ve got to make sure that whatever I do is worthy of my time because I’m exchanging every second of my life for it.  

 

Come nightfall, I should be in a state where I can pat myself on the back and say, “You did a good job, today”, and my Creator simply nodding a proud yes.  That my friend is, success, simplified, in my own terms.

Questions:

How about you? How do you see success from where you stand? Share your thoughts here.

 

Some Days When I’m Not Winning

A friend of mine told me once: Pick one thing that you can win today. Once you make it, pick another, then another.”  How I hope I learned this sooner. – #sundaewrites

 

I always make it a point to come prepared. It doesn’t matter which assignments I take, be it at work, ministry, personal goals or any activity set out on my calendar.  You see, I don’t like to be in a place where I’d hear myself mutter “I should have…”  I have high expectations from “me” and fortunately (or unfortunately), I project these expectations towards others.

Half of the time things go the way I envisioned them, and the rest of the time, they don’t. I get so pumped up on those “sunny days”, and well, “rainy days”- they always get me down.  These down moments seem to carry on forever. My heart bleeds, my positivity loses strength, my demeanor and stance obviously mirror defeat.

photo credits: glenn carstens peters

 

Still, I show up.  

As much as I want to analyze my feelings and thoughts piece by piece, I desire so much to just hit the rewind button and start fresh- wish I was better that day, wish I was smarter, wish people were more kind, more responsible, more caring.  When I realized I couldn’t even fulfill the wishes I had for myself, I understood how ridiculous it is to expect my wishes for other people to come true.

As I was driving home one evening I felt the urge to confront myself one question. “Why do you easily get frustrated?” A number of answers came up.

Your standards are too high

You’re trapped in the illusion of a perfect world

You’re over confident

You fooled yourself into believing that people are perfect

You like to operate in your own little world and expect people to fit in there

A lot of thoughts came running like athletes on a marathon pushing towards the finish line. Suddenly it felt too much. These voices. They hit you like a big wave, smashing and forcing you under water till you struggle to breathe and lose the will to swim.

Then it stopped. Calmness stepped in like a sudden quietness, a glimmer of pure silence.

I wrestled with that peace.  Reluctantly I said, “Okay’ I’m going to keep my commitment to those I made it to”.  And that still, small voice answered, “No, keep the commitment you made to Me”.  It’s like He knows, He’d hear me say “I quit” time and time again.

Point blank. I didn’t have the courage to say yes to that. So I argued some more

“It’s difficult”.

“It’s unfair”.

“How can you expect that from me?”

Did I get more answers? No.  I was left with those questions.

photo credits: jean gerber

 

I guess, there’s no easy way to go about it, no easy way to go about uncertainties and the feeling of being let down.

A friend of mine told me once: Pick one thing that you can win today. Once you make it, pick another, then another.”  

Some days we lose, some days we win. I think the outcome is important, but more than that, the process is.  Whether we get a trophy or a zero star rating on any given day, it should not stop us from taking the next step.  We don’t get it all figured out at the start, even as we go on. But do we always have to have the answers? Maybe, but even if we don’t we go out there and keep asking anyway. We go out there and pick ourselves up.  We go out there and show up. Life “wills” you to take risks. When you do, it will define you and redefine you. At the end of it, you can never lose.

 

Questions:

Have you also experienced being let down? Did you wrestle with frustration? How did you come off it and what lessons did you learn? I’d love to hear from you.

The Bitter Pill

“Your mind and your heart is a battlefield.  You decide what wins, and who wins.”#sundaewrites

 

Disappointment.  It depletes your energy. It saps your motivation. It makes you think and do a lot of crazy things you wouldn’t have thought or done if you were in your happy state.

Remember the times you took out on people who have nothing to do with what you’re going through or the times when you’ve thrown in the towel and sadly exclaimed, “It’s over”? Crazy. Why? Coz often times we make decisions in the heat of the moment, in the height of our feelings.

Everyone has had experienced the weight of being let down. I have my fair share of it in different aspects of life- relationships, faith, service, work, even in the things that I do out of passion- music, and writing.  There would be people who would admire what you have or have accomplished but they never got to see the hard work you’ve put into it.  There would be times when your efforts are valued less, or go by unnoticed.  There would be moments when it would feel like, you’re hardly getting there not getting closer to your dreams or inching forward to what you want to accomplish.

Mind you, it’s tough. But that’s just how it is.  Yesterday you were happy, today you are sad, and tomorrow, you might find hope. The day after that you may feel invincible, the next day, you look at yourself in the mirror and say “What a total loser”.  Sometimes you may experience all these in one single day.  Take for example the old man who worries about money one morning, and wins the lotto in the evening. Just like that.  Or the day when you had a happy get together with friends, just to come home to news of a loved one’s death. Yes, just like that.

One struggling woman shared this beautiful “pick-me-up” kind of reminder that was passed on to her by her grandmother. It says, “Do your best with what’s in front of you and leave the rest to the powers above you”. Beautiful, sensible, comforting.  Indeed, we can only focus on one moment at a time. While the larger world moves around us at the very same instant, we can do something with what’s right before us.  After all, you’re only certain about this time Now, and not the time after that.

credits: nik macmillan

 

Our mind is a battlefield.  Oftentimes we already know what to do but it seems difficult to point ourselves in that direction.  That’s because we insist for things to happen the way it “supposed to”.  We find it hard to let go or we spend too much time asking “Why” and turn our back on the more important and liberating question of, “What now?”.   We’re stubborn like that, and we’re scared to move on.

Our heart is a battlefield too.  We should always guard and defend it from enemy invasion.  One thing I’m learning now is to cry my heart out to God about battles that I couldn’t defeat,  struggles that many people don’t know.  I always used to fix things my way. But not this time, not anymore.  When I surrender everything else to the powers above me, the weight on my shoulders is gone,  my heart is healed, my mind is clear. Then I can focus on what I can do best to what’s in front of me.  When frustration comes again, any time of day or any moment now, I just repeat this thought in my head, “Just do what you can now, tomorrow is another day”.

Hope this helps you get through your seemingly darkest days.  Always remember that you are not alone. There is still so much love in the world and so much love you can give to yourself.