Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What does success mean to you?

Last year I was asked to give a one-minute speech with a tip on how to be successful. So I started to think about all the things it takes to achieve success: determination, focus, perseverance (especially when there are setbacks), discipline, taking risks and being willing to fail, adaptability, being authentic, asking for help, believing in yourself, enjoying what you do, being responsible and reliable, great communication, being likeable, etc. When I shared my thinking with a friend, he asked: “Well, what does that even mean – “to be successful?” 

I realized that this was actually the key question – because you can do all the things I just listed and more, but if you do it in pursuit of the type of success that others value, only to find out that it doesn’t really matter to YOU, then what is the point?

I had given this question quite some thought over the years, so MY definition for success looks something like this: 1. Be authentic, stay true to my values, and don’t pretend to be someone I am not. 2. Pursue a purpose that is meaningful to me. Right now my purpose is to love myself so I can love my life and to help other people do the same.  3. Enjoy time with my friends and people who I care about, talking, laughing, sharing and supporting one another. 4. Be comfortable financially: Live within my means, be in a comfortable living environment and be able to travel. 5. Continue to learn and grow.

Now this list will look different for everyone, and there is no right or wrong, since it’s about what is important to YOU, and it may change over time. But here is the hard part: Even if we have a clear idea about what success looks like to us, all the messages we see around us every day may point towards a different definition of success. Whether it is commercials on TV, ads in magazines, news stories, TV shows, going to networking events, seeing other people’s updates on LinkedIn or Facebook - it’s easy to believe that we need to achieve more, get “there” more quickly, be “better”, and be happier in the process. =)

That’s where we come back to loving ourselves. Accepting ourselves the way we are right now. Being compassionate with ourselves. And empowering ourselves by remembering our definition of success and what is truly important and meaningful to us. This is not a one-time exercise, it is a practice. But each time we practice, we are one step closer to making it a habit. So I choose to remind myself again, today, that I am here to love myself and help you do the same, so we can lead happier and more fulfilled lives. And I remind myself that today, I want to savor and cherish my interactions with everyone I care about. That is success to me. What does success mean to you?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What’s holding you back? Leggo your Ego!

When I first contemplated leaving the corporate world over 5 years ago, one of the biggest things that was getting in the way was my ego, my false sense of self. Leaving my career behind meant giving up so many items – like my nice steady paycheck (which paid for the beautiful house, the wonderful vacations, and restaurant dinners), my title (which I had worked so hard for), and the ability to tell people that I worked for a big company. It was funny to realize that this “little” thing called ego could be so strong and was so tied to my work, my role, possessions and experiences. I had never thought of myself as a materialistic person, yet here I was, not wanting to let go. I finally had to ask myself what was more important – feeding my ego or gaining my happiness and freedom?    

Why was my ego clinging so tightly to these things?  It was afraid that if I let go of these pieces, that my sense of self would be threatened. That would mean that I would be vulnerable. I would be opening myself up to the innate fear that I was not enough, that I was somehow flawed and unworthy of love. And we will always do whatever we can to avoid feeling that.

The same thing happens when we get criticized by someone else or when we think that we “failed” or made a mistake. We may become very defensive or aggressive, because our sense of self is being threatened.  

I finally decided that gaining my happiness and freedom was more important than feeding my ego and left the corporate world 5 years ago this Friday. And since then, I have learned that if we love ourselves, if we know that we are enough, that we are completely worthy of love RIGHT NOW, then we don’t have to protect our ego so fiercely. We don’t become so upset when we lose our possessions, when we no longer have our work title, or when a belief that we held turns out to be wrong. And we don’t have to become so defensive or aggressive when we get criticized.

So continue to practice loving yourself, so you can leggo your ego and find more happiness and freedom. Find things you are grateful for every day, so you can focus on the positive and be really present in the moment. Acknowledge yourself every day for all the little and big things you do. And be compassionate with yourself every day, so you can have more compassion for your loved ones and friends. ♥

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Gifts of Imperfection Part II: How to Believe That We Are Worthy

Last week we talked about how we often have a long list of things we think we need to accomplish first BEFORE we think we are worthy. (See here for the article.) The problem is, as soon as we finally reach an item on the list, there is always another one – it never ends.

So what gets in the way of us believing that we are worthy RIGHT NOW?  Shame.  Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable. We believe that we are somehow flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. We are afraid that people won’t like us if they knew the truth about who we are, what we believe, what we are struggling with or how we are soaring. 

In order to deal with shame, some of us withdraw or hide, some try to appease and please, and some respond by being aggressive and attacking back. Yet all of these strategies move us away from who we truly are. They don’t allow us to accept ourselves just the way we are.

There is only one way out of shame : We have to do the very thing we are all afraid to do - talk about it. We have to reach out and share our experience with people we trust. (Don’t share with people who are judgmental, since that will make you feel worse.) We have to talk about how we are feeling and ask for what we need.  Shame loses power when it is spoken. 

What are you ashamed of? Who are the people in your life who can listen to your shame stories and love you for being you, including your struggles? Reach out to them and talk to them about the very things you are ashamed to admit. Because you don’t need to accomplish anything from your list first. You are worthy RIGHT NOW. ♥