A few weeks ago, Lizzie Davey sent her weekly motivational email and asked this question.
…And, while it WAS my most successful week financially so far, I didn’t feel any different at the end of it. I didn’t feel the high I got when I landed my first client. I didn’t feel the joy I feel when I can get out the house in the middle of the day for as long as I want without having to answer to anyone.
I felt exactly the same as I did at the beginning of the week.
And now I’ve figured out why I wasn’t ordering in the champers and donning gold chains around my neck. It’s because money doesn’t equal success for me.
For so long, I thought I’d feel “complete” and “happy” when I earned X amount each month. But when I reached that and exceeded it, I just felt the same as I’d always done.
Success for me is about personal achievements: getting great feedback from a client, landing a job I absolutely love, and being able to create a schedule where I have the freedom to come and go as I please.
Then Lizzie asked her readers, like me:
What does success look like to you? How will you know when you’ve “made it”? Is there a financial amount attached to it, or is it more about time and inner achievements for you?
I emailed Lizzie, thanking her for bringing up this topic. She challenged me to define success. I responded that I wanted to explore my thoughts in writing. While I don’t yet have a complete description of success, I have made progress in the definition.
Success ≠ my bank account. While I need money to give and live, my bank account does not define success.
Success = achievements? Others consider someone successful if that person is an Oscar-winning star, or has won awards. That would mean that only if I achieve something you recognize, then I’ll be successful. That means you’re judging me on what you see me do. What about the inner conflicts and challenges I overcome? Someone on the outside doesn’t see those, and those achievements may be even more powerful than what I show on the outside.
Success defined by outside visible actions doesn’t define what success means to me.
To paraphrase Lizzie, getting great feedback from a client or landing the job are achievements from the outside. I may look successful. But the process—inside work—is what really led to the success. I built on the talents I was given and worked on the confidence to become the person who could achieve the goal.
Overcoming the inner challenges is the success; the job/client/kudos are manifestations of the inner achievement.
As Lizzie said “But when I reached that and exceeded it, I just felt the same as I’d always done.” In part, I agree. I did the work, performed well, and achieved a payment. Yet I don’t feel the same inside. I probably faced some inner conflict while working on the job/client and I overcame those challenges. Now I feel grateful for the internal accomplishment, for the Divine assistance I received that led to the external payment.
The internal accomplishment is my success.
On the Creative Freelancers Unite (Facebook community) we talk about wins. I learn to define an action as a win even if it’s small and I don’t attain the ultimate goal.
A publication may reject my submission. Does that mean I wasn’t successful? No! The action of submitting is a win. I overcame the fear of submitting an article, I overcame an internal obstacle and was successful in that battle!
Inside-Out. Perhaps success starts from the inside and moves out. I need to feel positive inside for me to be successful from the outside. My internal accomplishments are my successful wins!
What’s your definition for success?
- contact Lizzie (firstname.lastname@example.org) or
- post your comment on this blog
Ralph Waldo Emerson had some thoughts many years ago:
On True Success…
To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of a false friendship;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others,
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child
or garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
–I truly hope I leave the world a bit better because I have lived!