I used to believe that success was external. I know that I’m not alone in this belief because I see it every single day in the way people work towards external success, but feel unhappy, unfulfilled and heading towards burnout.
Having the right body
Having the right job title
Having a certain amount of money
Getting more things
Needing external validation
Having a certain amount of followers on social media
I see so many people, and I myself was one of them, appear to have all the external boxes of success checked, but are mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausted.
2020 has really opened up my eyes and heart to fully embracing a redefining of success. So many of us were brought to our knees by the global pandemic and as we began to rise up, we realized we have been racing in a race we didn’t even want to be in. We were looking at success through the lens of societal programming. Which is stress, stress, stress, hustle, hustle, hustle, or you need all these things to be happy and successful. We have more, are doing more, but still feel unfulfilled. This can change if you align yourself with your definition of what a successful life is to you.
I spent most of my twenties working towards soaring up a corporate ladder. I had tons of responsibility, my business card said the right thing, I felt externally validated, and I was making good money. Externally, it looked like I was playing the game of success well. But I was burnt out, stressed out, and cried on my commute home almost every day because I was so emotionally and mentally exhausted from following a compass of success that was so far away from my true north and authentic self.
Thinking each day, “I’m doing everything society told me I should do to be successful and feel happy, so why am I feeling so sad all the time?” This thought process made me start to believe that something was wrong with me.
In my late twenties, I hit rock bottom. I was burnt out, so rock bottom was the only way I was ever going to evaluate my life. And it was in that emotional and mental rock bottom that a brand new world opened up for me, and my entire life began to change.
Two things changed for me: One, I redefined what success meant to me and started to align my actions and behaviours and beliefs towards that. Two, I began the work of strengthening my inner world.
That was almost 15 years ago and I owe the life I live today to those practices.
What does success mean to you? Not to other people, or societal programming, but to YOU.
Success to me is about feeling happy, healthy, abundant, free, joyful, and energized while I work to achieve my goals, not the other way around. Meaning, I don’t wait to have my goals completed to feel those feelings. Those feelings are my guide that helps me to achieve my goals and all of that is success, not just the outcome.
I want to be able to feel it without having everything that I want/need/desire yet. I want to be happy with just being happy. I know that if I am not happy now, if I am too stressed out, too burnt out, I won’t be able to enjoy it when it does arrive. I believe that it will arrive, and I will enjoy it even more if the journey to working towards it is a joyful one. Not without its challenges, but at least aligned with my definition of success.
I’ve already hustled, stressed, pushed, pulled and worked endless hours, and rat raced my way to try and achieve what I thought was success. That led me to burnout. I left that world behind, taking on a Contagiously Positive philosophy so that I could take a slower, happier, less stressful, mentally and emotionally free, more enjoyable pace to life. The sacrifices I used to make to try and “make it” were too great. I sacrificed my health, my happiness, time with my family and friends, and my emotional and mental freedom. When I used to rush, push, and force my way through life, I felt emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually fatigued. There is no way, knowing what I know now, that I am going to head back down that road.
When you define what success means to you, and align your actions, behaviors, and decisions with it, you will start to see and feel that success is so much more than what is seen out there in the external world, it is actually what is felt internally. You understand that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing if it doesn’t serve you, feel good to you, align with your authentic self or values, or resonate with you.
That isn’t to say that you won’t still work to achieve money and material possessions (do it, work towards it, desire it, take action to achieve it) but do it because it is aligned with your version of success, and do it with more ease, less stress, less hustle and way more happiness along the way. I love to fill my home with pretty things, I enjoy making money and having financial freedom, and I like to have nice clothes, but I don’t sacrifice my mental and emotional health to get them. Doesn’t that sound much better than pushing, rushing, manipulating, forcing, hustling, and stressing your way through life? YES!
In your notebook or journal, begin by writing the answer to this question:
What does success look like to you? Not just career success, but life success.
Next, what needs to change in your life to align your actions and decisions with this new definition of success?
Strengthening Your Emotional & Mental Muscles
Working on my mental and emotional health has been a daily practice. This practice will never end. It doesn’t prevent external challenges and stressors from happening, but it does ensure that I don’t take up permanent residence in the challenge or stressor. It helps me to stay optimistic. “This is so difficult, but I will get through it.”
I lost my biggest revenue earner when COVID-19 hit. Losing that revenue was and has been stressful, but I’m not allowing it to keep me down, or have it affect my relationship with my husband. Knowing what success means to me, one of them is not losing my relationship to work or financial stress, aligns my behaviour and attitude. Meaning, I’m handling the stressor of losing the revenue, making the shifts in my business that I need to make, while also ensuring that my attitude and behaviour towards my husband stays in love.
How often does a bad day turn into a bad life because of the domino effect that we allow it to have on all other areas of our lives?
If we haven’t worked on strengthening our inner world, it will be very easy to not just end up in negative-ville, but to take up permanent residence there. And that is what we want to avoid.
The principles and mindset shifts that I share every week are what help me to stay mentally and emotionally strong. I don’t teach you (or practice myself) how to never experience a negative emotion, that’s impossible – we will absolutely have challenges and losses and “negative” emotions. I teach (and practice) how to be so emotionally, spiritually and mentally strong that you can recalibrate back to your ideal default setting as quickly as possible while also feeling what you need to feel to heal, learn and grow.
That is why I give you so many soul assignments – working the daily work to feel good strengthens your inner world so you feel that even though you may not have everything you want (yet) you have everything that you need. That feeling turns any feeling of lack into feelings of abundance, love, optimism, and appreciation.
It starts from the inside out – the outside stuff is just sweet bonuses.
So pick one practice and start to make your decisions, and take actions from how you want to feel, not how you don’t want to feel. My favorite practice for this is the emotional scale. Using your emotions to help you make your decisions and keep you following your true north. You can access this practice here: The Emotional Scale
If this share speaks to your heart, begin with the self-awareness of defining what success means to you and begin to take aligned action from this space.
What would this version of yourself do?
How would she/he act?
What decisions would she/he make?