What is failure anyway? Not succeeding at something we try? What is success? Financial independence, career stability, a house, a family, and maybe if we are lucky, doing what we love?
For years now, I have defined success with financial freedom. I have compared myself to friends with high paying jobs who have chosen the conventional life. The dangerous part about comparing with others who have a completely different life, different dreams, and different goals, is we never allow ourselves to see OUR success.
I grew up in a society that puts value on money as a measurement of success. I am familiar with the contradiction that money isn’t everything. However, those have been empty words as society’s actions speak louder. We are shown through propaganda and media how to make money fast, how to be financially successful, how to avoid debt, and ultimately, told this all will bring happiness. We all know this isn’t true, yet we fall into the trap just the same. But, where is the passion, the love, the fulfillment? Where is that kind of success? How can we change those empty words of “money isn’t everything” into a practice of caring, sharing, and giving?
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I was in my kitchen cutting up sweet potatoes as I was dancing and singing to India Arie in my apartment alone. The sun was setting and I had decided to force myself to take a break from work to enjoy myself. The problem was I didn’t want to stop working because of how much I love what I am doing. I get to sit in my bed with the sliding glass door open and the sun shining through. I get to hear the ocean waves and the life below my apartment. I get to write, organize, and plan my workshops and speeches. I love it so much that most nights I can’t sleep because of the excitement. But still, I wake up with such adrenaline that I am ready to take on the world. So, really, stopping to eat is the only thing I may enjoy more than working:)
As I was reflecting on my life and where I am, I started thinking about a vision I wrote last year. I wrote I would live in a two bedroom apartment with my partner, I could walk to a market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, I would around the corner to a coffeeshop (where I am writing now), I would be inspiring, motivating, and working with women, I would be speaking and writing, I would be able to see mountains from where I live, and I would be within driving distance of a body of water. Guess, what… that is 100% true. Every single part of it. The only part missing is the salary. Sadly, I made maybe 1/10th of what I wrote. (Lucky for me, I chose a country with a great exchange rate to the dollar.)
However, I have been so focused on monetary success that I had blinded myself from seeing my REAL success. The incredible thing is I have been denying myself any sort of happiness or celebration over the past few years because of my focus on what I didn’t have. I have beaten myself up over how little I have in my bank account, how I have used all my savings in order to follow a dream, and how I haven’t even begun started paying my student loans off as my friends are buying houses and getting married. But, for the first time in years, I can see how successful I am.
After having this revelation, I have decided to let go of my previous definition of success to adopt my new one. Success is loving what I am doing, being able to cook my meals and watch the sunset, making time for myself every single day to do something for me, and making time for the people I love. Success is making goals and accomplishing them and inspiring others to do the same. It is intending to do something and making sure it happens…and also knowing when to let go. Success is being within integrity of myself and my life. Success, to me, is the life that I am living. And, finally, I am ready to let myself be free and to revel in my new found definition.