In today’s world, and especially in Western Society, we place a great deal of value on the idea of “success” and being “successful” in whatever we choose to do in our lives. The desire to be successful is the driving force behind a great deal of what we do and for most of us, it dictates the course we choose for our entire lives and also how we live from day to day.
Definitions of what success looks like and what it means to be successful are completely subjective and vary from one field to the next, from one community to the next and even from one individual to the next. Each of us can define for ourselves what success really looks like and yet many of us have unconsciously inherited someone else’s definition of what it is and as a result, we end up living in pursuit of some illusory unattainable goal or a life that we don’t really want.
In my family, and even in my larger ethnic community, a successful career is defined as one with a solid job in one of the professions such as being a doctor, dentist or lawyer and a successful life means getting married, buying a house and having kids by the time your thirty. When I was in my mid-twenties, I was well on my way to living out this life. I was about to graduate from law school with a coveted job lined up at a big corporate law firm and I was in a relationship with my first real love and I was sure that we were going to get married and go the distance, much to my family’s delight.
At the same time, my somewhat newly discovered passion for music was growing stronger every day and there was this undeniable voice within me that kept telling me that I was destined for something more. Not that there was anything wrong with a legal career or the path I was traveling, but deep down inside, I knew I wasn’t going to be fulfilled by that work and if I denied the creative yearning that was growing stronger and stronger.
Coming face to face with this truth and acting on it was one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever had to make. It required me to question everything I knew and was taught to believe about how I was supposed to live my life. It required me to have some extremely challenging conversations with my parents explaining why I couldn’t keep going on the path that we had “agreed” I was going to take with my life. In the midst of all the soul-searching and changing direction, the relationship I was so certain about ended, leaving me with no semblance of the life I was on course towards establishing and with no choice but to take one massive leap of faith.
And that’s what I did…I kindly declined the big job offer. I held my ground with my family and my community and I went for it! I’ve been actively engaged in the practice of my crafts and in the business of music ever since. More recently, I’ve also been working with TDL, providing one-on-one mentoring to our amazing clients to empower them to live the life of their dreams – an opportunity that only came as a result of me creating space in my life by letting go of what I knew I didn’t want. Since that first leap about five years ago, it’s been one crazy rollercoaster ride, but I haven’t experienced one ounce of regret because I know in my heart that I’m on the path that I was born to walk. I’m living a life that’s in alignment with my purpose of spreading peace, love and inspiration by expressing my creativity and I’m doing what lights me up with the intent to serve and make a difference. And that feels good!
There are still those occasional tough conversations with my family and with others who don’t always quite “get it” and who can’t wrap their heads around the choices I’ve made. What I’ve learned is to be so solid in my resolve and so confident in the rightness of my choices for me that I don’t get rattled by those conversations and the opinions of others.
I’ve also learned to separate my desire to be loved and belong with the need to get approval or follow the herd. In other words, you don’t have to be like them to be one of them. And you don’t have to live for their definition of success to get their love. And if you do, that’s not real love anyways, so you might as well do what’s going to make you happy.
The more we can let go of the need for anyone else’s approval in how we live our lives, the more freedom we have to really go for the life we dream of. The more we realize that we don’t need anyone’s permission but our own, the more empowered we will be in CHOOSING the path that our soul is leading us towards and the more fully we can embrace the life we desire and our own definition of success.
For me, being successful means being fulfilled in what I do, it means being fully expressed creatively, and it means loving and accepting myself enough that I can be a source of love and inspiration to others.
What about you? What’s your definition of success? Perhaps you’ve been living for someone else’s approval or according to their version of what your life should be. Are you willing to step up and step out onto the path that you really want to walk? Are you ready to define your own success?
Written for The Daily Love (Oct 7th, 2012)