One of the affirmations I am teaching this month in intenSati class is "Success is all I see". It is paired with the action for FOCUS, which is a lot like chair pose in yoga except your hands and arms are pointed down towards the ground instead of the sky. Then you criss-cross your arms (over under over under) and add a little jog in place. (Ok, maybe it's not really like chair pose.) You could leave out the jog and just squeeze your legs together like you have an unlimited Metrocard between your thighs (I heard that metaphor in a bikram yoga class) and you'll get a wonderful benefit. I love FOCUS!
So, returning to this affirmation about success...I am choosing to see it all over the place this month and this is a very exciting shift for me! I grew up with a lot of success in the conventional sense of the word. I was a star soccer player, high scoring point guard on the basketball team, straight A student, student government secretary and even Prom Queen. I had a lot of great friends, was a good girl in class, and I did service for the community that garnered very positive attention. Whether or not I struggled with feelings of inferiority at times (and I did) the point I'm making is that my understanding of what it means to be successful was entirely tied to RESULTS. I was a winner and if I lost a game or did poorly (at the time that meant a B), I picked myself up and was motivated for the next opportunity to achieve greatness. I certainly loved what I was doing but as far as feeling successful at it, that was about winning, scoring and achieving. It was about being the best.
Well, when I arrived as a freshman at Cornell University, I was not really surprised from an intellectual standpoint that everybody was outstanding and were also high school standouts. Emotionally, however, was a different story. I started to compare myself to others. I was straight As but she was Valedictorian. I was musical but she played 3 instruments. You get the picture. I internalized that I was no longer successful enough to feel successful. This thought process was progressive, not to mention destructive. I was playing Varsity Soccer along with All Americans and all I could think was that I was nominated but that wasn't good enough. In fact, now I was "just a scrub on the bench" (again, nobody told me that, it was my perspective). I was taking a challenging, pre-med course load but wasn't a success because I was getting Cs and in some cases Ds, which turned into Bs and Cs after we were all graded on a curve. Then there were all of the pressures I felt inside the Greek system. Socially, I just did not have it in me to pander to fraternity guys or sorority girls and rather than feel empowered by my perspective that most of what I saw around me was just just plain dumb, I felt unsuccessful. By fall semester sophomore year I had developed a full blown eating disorder and lost all sense of myself as a success.
This lasted a very long time. Once you start to believe you are a failure, it can be very hard to turn that thought train around. That is why catching your limiting beliefs early is KEY. Grab them, bring them to light and challenge them before they becoming too firmly planted!!!
I worked for years on recovering that feeling of success but it always remained elusive. Everything I was doing felt like it didn't measure up to what I used to do. I wasn't winning awards anymore so I didn't have any external markers of success. I also grew to resent external praise, so I was in this weird conflict of wanting it and hating it at the same time. At some point, I began to realize that my old way of defining success and the measures and markers which I felt I needed to feel successful weren't working. They were outdated. Like, seriously outdated.
I wish I can say I just turned it around 1-2-3 but it's actually taken me years to transform. (I'm told this is good because it means it will last a lifetime once it's really internalized. Success is all I see.) I am still very much in this process of releasing old, outdated perspectives on success and embracing, believing and truly living by my new ones. I have a lot of teachers and mentors who offer great ideas and I've come up with my own, too. It's exciting. Actually, it's more than exciting -- it is freeing! When you let go of a way of thinking you've had since childhood that is no longer to your benefit, it's a huge release. Breathe in, breathe out.
So, with that, I offer to you ways I am seeing success these days:
Success is what I see when you give a great effort. Ex. I am a blogger and exerting a great effort to write truthfully and get my work out into the blogosphere. Success!
Success is what I see when you stay committed and show up for your passions. Ex. I woke up really tired today but went to 6:30am intenSati anyway. Success!
Success is what I see when you do a behavior that may not be for your highest good, but is at least a less extreme version of what you used to do. Ex. Yesterday I ate three cookies for a snack instead of 3 bags. Success!
Success is what I see in people's collective, shared routines for the greater good. Ex. Scores of people packing into the 6 train to get to work on time this morning. Success!
Success is what I see in the reaching for a goal. Ex. I will teach on Friday and Saturday morning this week and see my dedicated students working on their fitness and health goals. Success!
Success is what I see in service. Ex. When someone extends a hand to uplift another person, even if the person they are trying to reach rejects the hand of help, it is still a success.
Don't get me wrong, I certainly have very big dreams and goals for myself today and I love to get great results. The difference is I don't need to to feel an emptiness or sense of failure any more if I haven't reached them yet or even if I never do! I will never again hang my happiness on achievement alone. The gift of seeing success and feeling successful is found in deeper, more intricate ways. I hope this helps you see this for yourself.
What does success mean to you?? The bigger the better when it comes to how you choose to define it and I would love to hear your ideas.
Thank you for reading!