How About a New Definition of Success?

Our culture is hell bent on the pursuit of success. But what is our culture’s idea of success? From where I sit, it looks like men are deemed successful if they are rich. Period. But if you’re a woman? That’s just the beginning. You’d better be rich, thin, stylish, smart, creative, savvy, married (to a handsome financier), toned, polished (hands AND feet), colored and whitened (hair and teeth), with a house that looks like it could be a photo from Home & Garden. Oh, I forgot, your children should be perfect, too. If not, you’re just not doing enough!

Almost every woman I know struggles with feeling like just a little bit of a loser. My sister is amazingly creative; she has made beautiful pieces of art for as long as I can remember, from paintings to pillows to hand-crafted silver jewelry. She recently invented a new cordless roman shade that works with a magnet system, so it’s safer than cords and is eco-friendly. All while raising two delightful adolescents AND pet sitting for friends and neighbors alike. Yet, she often feels she’s not doing enough. A dear long-term friend owns and runs a forty-person commercial interior design firm, cheers on her three kids at multiple athletic competitions and donates tons of money and time to amazing causes; yet can get down on herself if she’s “too hard” on an employee. I do it too. With two biological teens and three more I mentor, plus running one business with my husband and another one on my own (more or less), I often hit a wall of dread. Why can’t I get more done? Why am I still 5-10 pounds away from my goal weight? Why don’t I have a wider menu of cooking prowess than fajitas, veggie pasta and egg salad?

My question is: what is this all about – WHY are we all so hard on ourselves and WHEN are we going to stop the madness? 

I want us to make a pact. Starting today, let’s make some new rules about success: Let’s say, instead of having to be all “that” and do all “that” and look all “that,” this is what we decide success is:

Comfort. Let’s decide that the more comfortable you are, the more successful you are: Let’s wear clothes that breathe — even if that means more elastic and lower heels. Or maybe just sweats and pajamas (my personal favorite uniform).

Sleep. Let’s decide the more sleep you get, the more successful you are. Seven hours is great. Eight better. Nine is outstanding.

Learning. Let’s hear it for learning, instead of achieving. Either through reading, listening, interacting, or best of all, by going big with an idea and failing. Let’s applaud audacious failure.

Simplicity. Let’s decide that birthday parties with moonbounces and DJ’s are out and that jumping rope and eating donuts off a string is success. And while we’re at, let’s decide that how long you can keep the same furniture and décor is “sustainable” rather than dated.

Fun. Let’s decide that the more fun you’re having, the more successful you are. That any time you’re hanging out with your teenagers, swimming with the kids next door, drinking margaritas with your gal-pals or going to the movies with your honey is the definition of success.

Enjoyment. Let’s decide that success means you enjoy your work. No matter how much or little money is in question. Whether you’re CEO of a fortune 500, a stay-home-mom, an artist, or a Walmart greeter. If you don’t like it, quit. If you like it (most of the time), it’s a success. And, while we’re at it, let’s decide that working more than 10 hours a day is a bad idea, not a good one.

We can’t know we’ve reached success unless we define it. But we don’t have to accept the common definition. Is everybody ready? I’ll go first!

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