By: Judy Widener
It’s common to watch as others become successful, then beat ourselves up because we’re not getting as far as fast as they are. It’s hard not to fall into the trap comparing ourselves to others. So how do we avoid it?
First, let’s explore the concept of success. What does the word success mean to you, and how does it define who you are? If success is synonymous with achievement, then you’ll need to produce something outside yourself in order to be successful.
In this scenario, success is an ending point. After you put forth the effort, you’ll produce the outcome you wanted, then you’ll be successful. You’re not successful until you produce the outcome: the promotion, the income, the paid off debt, the garden teeming with zucchini and zinnias, the independently-sustaining adult children, etc. This is a case of deferred gratification.
But if success means the attainment of something, then you’re successful any time you create an internal state that you want. Very different from achievement. Through your personal growth, you can attain inner peace, harmonious relationships, self-love, self-knowledge, confidence, motivation, fulfillment, and the freedom to just be you.
To contrast the two: you can achieve success in business, but the happy feeling you seek isn’t guaranteed to accompany success. Have you ever been bewildered because you achieved a success, but you weren’t happy? Our culture trains us to look to external factors to trigger our happy feelings, but that doesn’t always happen.
The deeper truth is this: you don’t need to wait for permission or justification to feel good. You’ll attain happiness, satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment when you choose to create it inside.
Generating your own positive feelings is the only path to lasting inner peace. As long as something or someone outside you dictates when and how you feel, you’re at their mercy. And peace is impossible.
Here’s a common example. One of the biggest challenges couples (and families) face is the temptation to compare successes. Sure, we can intellectually agree that we each have our own passion and personality that we express in our own inimitable way. But daily life can reflect a less accepting view.
Competition creeps in when your career grows at a pace that may be faster or slower than your partner’s. It’s so tempting to judge faster as better!
You might also engage in measuring your partner’s relationship skills against yours, and finding fault in the difference. Do you think your mate isn’t expressive enough, or that they’re too emotional? Maybe they’re not committed enough or they’re suffocating you. They work too hard or they’re lazy. Even recreational activities can get thumped with the judgment stick.
Underneath each of these examples is a judgment that’s common, but hard to admit: You would be a better person if you were more like me. My way of relating is the best, my hobbies are the best ones, etc.
Judging is an attempt to focus your attention on the other person, so you don’t have to deal with your own issues. But the nature of relationships is that each of us holds up the mirror that reflects our partner’s strengths, fears, doubts, beliefs and baggage-the whole kit and kaboodle.
So try as you might to focus your judgment on them, your mirror always reflects the spots where you haven’t yet achieved “perfection” (the personal growth you’re seeking).
When you see your reflection clearly, you’re free to create your own definition of success. So how can you feel more successful now?
You don’t have to wait until you achieve a goal to enjoy success. When you want to feel successful, pinpoint where you’re successful now. Look around your life. Find desires that you’ve already attained-they’ll feel fulfilling any time you focus on them.
Finding as much joy as you can, as often as you can, is especially important in the area of personal development. It’s so easy to believe that you can’t feel fulfilled until you’ve attained the full picture of who you want to become.
But every step along the way can be celebrated as its own success. You don’t have to earn it, either. Joy is available to you now. Look for it everywhere. Grab it. Squeeze it ’til it pops.
When you master the process of creating joy, you’ll feel fulfilled in every moment. Not in a schmoozy way. Not in repeating an affirmation way. In an honest way. A real way.
The key to enjoying success is to tie it to things you’re passionate about.
For instance, you could choose to be a successful lover of life, a successful seeker of personal growth, a successful partner and friend, a successful nurturer of your children, a successful painter of pictures, and dozens more. No longer waiting for a long-term outcome or comparing yourself to others, you’ll be free to enjoy other people’s success, too.