How successful are you right now? Where do you place yourself on a scale from 1 to 10? And wherever you put yourself, are you happy with your score? If not, what would you need to do in order to really succeed?
I believe that the Western (read: American) version of success is all messed up, outdated and tired, in serious need of a revamp. It’s all about fame and fortune and power and money, no matter what the personal cost. It’s about striving towards some future goal in the hope of someday finding inner peace and happiness. It’s about comparisons to others and keeping up with the Joneses and showing the world how well we are doing. All too often success has a price and the price is our well being.
As part of my research, I googled the word Success.
Dictionary.com defines success as:
1. The attainment of wealth, position, honours, or the like.
2. The favourable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavours.
Merriam Webster Online described it as:
1. The favourable or desired outcome.
2. The attainment of wealth, favour, or eminence.
Note the future dated words: Attainment, Termination & Outcome.
And whilst success is described as a noun, it seems to be very much about doing things (verbs) in order to have stuff (nouns). But what is it that we really want to have and why? Answer these questions honestly and your life will instantly become more successful.
What do we really want? I have asked this question to thousands of members of my audiences over the years. The answers usually include important things like money, possessions, security, love, respect, recognition, health, wealth and happiness. Yet when I invite them to dig deeper, most people share that they are really looking for PEACE OF MIND or CONTENTMENT or SELF ACCEPTANCE.
The problem with the current success formula is that it says we need to DO a lot of things in order to HAVE more stuff so that we can BE successful. And we keep postponing our success to some future date. We often play the WHEN / THEN game. WHEN I win the lotto, get the promotion or pay off my mortgage; THEN I will be happy. We also feel that we NEED more things in order to feel successful. I need a better job, house, body, partner, or a nicer car, suburb, suit or status symbol. And it all seems like such HARD WORK and so difficult to achieve. Well here is the good news: Success can only be experienced now, in this moment, in this second, and success can only happen INSIDE OF YOU!
The diagram below will illustrate my point:
In the diagram, the horizontal line represents our life from birth through retirement to death. It shows that every day we grow older as we continue on our (external) journey of doing which leads to having. So we work to have money and we study to get a degree. And we are able to learn important skills to assist us in being more effective on this journey, physical skills like machinery operation and software usage and communication skills and time management. On this journey we have no choice regarding the fact that we will get a day older every 24 hours.
The vertical line represents the inner journey we travel in parallel with the outer. This is the journey of knowing and growing ourself, the (internal) journey of being. This is where we learn self acceptance and trust and forgiveness and awareness. This is where we learn to drop our conditioned beliefs and acknowledge our true self. This is where we connect with spirit and thereby become inspired. And we are able to learn important skills to assist us in being more effective on this journey, “soft skills” like self management and meditation and prayer and self awareness and consciousness. On this journey we have infinite choice. This is because everybody grows old but not everybody grows up.
Our western society is obsessed with the external journey. It believes that relentless working on the horizontal plane will automatically lead to growth in the vertical. This formula is fatally flawed. Just look at “famous” names like Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Bernie Madoff, or even Princess Diana. These people “had it all” – fame, fortune, power and respect. Some of them even left a fabulous legacy. Yet it would appear that their inner journey was incomplete. Something vital was missing inside. The inner peace that should have accompanied the outer success did not happen for them.
I believe that we are out of balance. We have become so obsessed with being the best and winning and competing that we have too little time left to look within. We spend so much time on the horizontal journey that we have no time or energy left for the vertical. We are so busy striving towards our future goals (or just bloody surviving) that we lose ourselves in the mix. The symptoms are stress and burnout and fatigue and road rage. The results are dis-ease, divorce and depression. The coping mechanisms are alcohol and cigarettes and caffeine and drugs (both legal and illegal). The consequences are a dysfunctional society and a whole lot of unhappy people.
So what to do?
I am often approached after a presentation or workshop and asked where do I find the time to read and attend workshops and continually grow myself. I sometimes get the comment that because I am in the business of personal growth I have no choice but to continually improve. My response is that we ARE ALL in the business of personal growth, all involved in the horizontal as well as the vertical journey and all looking for the same thing. And that thing we are looking for is INSIDE of us. It can only be found by looking in there with as much dedication and discipline as we pursue a college degree, our first million or our dream home. My personal search has led me to discover powerful eastern wisdom and practises to help me find the balance inside, because the east has always put far more emphasis on the internal journey than the western cultures have up until now.
So here is my formula for Success, described for balance in terms of Health, Wealth and Happiness.
1. Health has 4 components – Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual.
- Physical – Eat for energy, not weight. Read the labels. Try to eat more live, raw food and less processed, dead food. Eat consciously, slowly and with reverence. Get sufficient exercise and adequate rest.
- Mental – Watch less news reports and more sunsets. Read or listen to self help literature. Learn to really manage your mind or it will continue to manage you. Find effective ways to “switch off” from the incessant mental chatter of your mind.
- Emotional – Develop your emotional intelligence. Learn to express your emotions in a balanced way, as repression is dangerous. But also do not become overwhelmed by your emotions. Learn how to use the tremendous power of your emotions to help you achieve a meaningful, successful life.
- Spiritual – If you are a religious person, use your religion to connect with the highest part of you. Give prayers of gratitude and thanks. If you are not religious, find ways to connect with your spirit, such as meditation, music, nature and being of service. Or use both in combination. Either way, choose to live a more inspired, spiritually connected life.
2. Wealth is what is left over after the money is all gone. The wealthiest people on the planet do not have lots of money. What they have is lots of assets which are worth lots of money. Whilst saving is good and necessary, you cannot really save your way to wealth. You create wealth by investing in business or property or shares or other valuable assets. Or you develop intellectual property, which has intrinsic value built in. Wealth is also created through changing your belief systems about money. We need to develop a healthy respect for money and understand the rules of the money game, without becoming obsessed by it. Read books on wealth creation and also autobiographies of wealthy people you look up to and respect.
3. Happiness is an inside job. It is the vertical journey. It is not really dependent upon what you have or what you do. It really depends on how you FEEL about what you have and do. I would rather have a little and appreciate it a lot, than the other way around. Happiness comes from self worth and self acceptance, from living up to your own ideals and not the (perceived or real) expectations of others. Happiness comes from the realisation and release of your conditioned negative beliefs and behaviours. You were born happy, until life shut you down. So don’t try to put happiness into yourself – it is always alive in there. Rather discover and remove the beliefs, blockages and fears that are suppressing your true self from expressing right now.
My definition of success is: The ability to live a Balanced Life filled with Health, Wealth and Happiness NOW, whilst working steadily towards Achieving your Goals.
The truth is: You are already successful right now. You have faced the tough obstacles life has thrown at you and you are still here. You have grown as a person, in spite of adversity. If you are fortunate enough to have some basics, like access to the internet, a cellphone, a roof over your head, a refrigerator (with some food in it) and perhaps even a job and an automobile, then you are better off than 9 out of 10 people alive on earth today. To quote author Timothy Ferriss, from his bestseller The 4 Hour Work Week: “People don’t want to be millionaires – they want to experience what they believe only money can buy. $1 000 000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.”
You live in a world which gives you amazing choices for both journeys – horizontal and vertical. I repeat – the west is obsessed with the horizontal. Nothing wrong with that – keep on improving your “hard” skills and make loads of money if that is your goal. However I strongly suggest that you create balance by finding new and innovative ways to improve your “soft” skills. Dive deeply into your vertical journey and you will find a depth of joy you never dreamed possible. Your complete peace of mind, self acceptance and contentment are only a heartbeat away.
Stop postponing your Success – Choose to live it NOW!
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