Well...not so fast, Turbo. In the third part of my six-part series on honing your Inner Compass, I'm taking you along on a fresh look at success.
Through over two decades of work as a social worker, counselor, manager, and coach, I've developed a rock-solid belief that success is not always as simple as it seems. One's true definition of success can be surprisingly hard to pinpoint. First, there are a lot of forces that can act as filters or lenses that color how we see success. Culture, peers, family-of-origin, community, and countless other influences can make us think that we should want things that, deep down, we really don't - or that we shouldn't want things that, deep down, we really do.
Second, our parameters of success change and evolve as we do. But these shifts often happen so subtly that it takes our conscious minds some time to catch up. For example, someone who once saw career growth and workplace influence as top success indicators may go through a lot of struggle and strife before realizing that his or her ultimate vision of success looks very different after becoming a parent.
Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a life-altering event or near-breakdown to jolt us into that level of consciousness. That's why being proactive about getting crystal clear on what success means to you now is such a pivotal part of developing a strong Inner Compass. That means you - not to your mother or father or friend or boss or fifth grade teacher or favorite celebrity...you. And that means now - not in the past or in the future...now.
Alright, alright...you get it, already?! But, as with so many of the of the other workings of your Inner Compass, gaining this clarity can sometimes be easier said than done. Never fear...here's an exercise I adapted from the amazing and inspirational Danielle LaPorte* (author of The Fire Starter Sessions and creator of the Desire Map). It's designed to bring your personalized definition of success into focus by getting to the heart of what you really, truly want.
Disclaimer: This exercise is a bit of a whopper, time-wise. It definitely does not fit my "bite-sized nuggets of awesomeness" goal. It's more like a "big ol' doozie of awesomeness." But it's worth it and can be done in chunks, if an hour of uninterrupted time is about as easy to track down as a unicorn these days.
What You'll Need: A few blank sheets of paper and a pen/pencil (or a fresh document on your computer); about an hour or so.
Step 1: In a free flow, stream of consciousness way, write a list of what you want in your life. Don't over-think. Don't consider if it's realistic. Don't try to figure out how you'll get it. Don't judge whether you should or shouldn't want it or whether or not you deserve it. If it comes into your mind, it's valid. Keep thinking and writing until you have at least 20 items or so.
Step 2: From the list created in Step 1, mark your top 4 Wants - the ones that really light your fire or strike a longing inside of you. Again, this is about your deep desires, not what you "should" want or what you think you can realistically get.
Step 3: For each of your top 4 wants, ask yourself repeatedly "Why do I want ______?" and write down what comes up each time. Try to do this with an open mind and without judgment.
IMPORTANT: Force yourself to spend at least 5 minutes on each Want before moving to the next one (set a timer, if you need to). This will help you break out and go beyond what's obvious to your conscious mind.
ALSO IMPORTANT: Try to get down deep to the feelings you expect each Want to bring you. This may come in the form of an answer string. For example, if the question is "Why do I want to own my own home?" the answer string could look like this: "Because I don't want to have to worry about being forced to move by rising rent...because I want to settle down and stay in one place...because I want to set up roots in a community...because I want to feel stability and belonging." Or, it could look like this: "Because I want to live in a my own place...because I want to show that I am independent and successful...because I want to be respected...because I want to feel validated, capable, and strong. " Or it could look entirely different.
You get the drift. The goal is to write as much as possible about each Want so you have a lot of data to pick through in the next step.
Step 4: Scan your list of reasons from Step 3 for words or phrases that have to do with the way you want to feel. Highlight or circle each one. Then, look over the highlighted items to find themes that repeat in several of your Wants. Choose 4 of these theme feelings that really resonate with you and list them.
Step 5: Brainstorm the tangible actions, events, and things that could pump up each of these chosen feelings in your life. There will probably be some that were on your list from Step 3 but there will undoubtedly also be some new ones that pop up. List at least 10-15 items for each chosen feeling.
Step 6: Review your brainstorm list from Step 5 and cross off anything that is in conflict with your Core Values or feels inauthentic at a gut level. IMPORTANT: Make sure not to mistake uncomfortable or scary for inauthentic and in conflict, as they can sometimes feel similar. (Click here for a really simple way to tell the difference from the also amazing and inspirational Marie Forleo.)
And there you have it - your new fangled, updated, personalized, unfiltered list of success indicators. There are bound to be some items on this list that feel great and cozy and some that stretch your comfort zone and scare the pants off of you. Hey...I never promised your road to success was going to be a stroll through the park. It helps to remember that you don't HAVE to do any of it. It's always up to you to decide. But I have a feeling that even just having thought about those pants-scaring ones will shake things up and inspire you to see possibilities that you would have never considered previously. It often works that way. Pretty cool, huh?
And, if nothing else, this list just gives you some clarity and perspective to make sure you're not working toward goals that are outdated or out-of-sync with who you really are and what's really important to you now.
Stay tuned for Part 4 of this series, when I'll help you bring some color, texture, and zing to your Inner Compass. Oooooo...this is gonna be fun! Click here to get on my mailing list if you don't want to miss it.
*This exercise was adapted from Danielle LaPorte's Goals with Soul workshop, in relation to her concept of Core Desired Feelings.