Living a successful life looks different for everyone. While one person may want success in terms of financial abundance, another may want achievements to his/her name. There is one thing that distinguishes people that have created success from those that haven’t. It’s the why. Those who achieve their definition of success always have a why, or a life purpose that carries them through many trials. Despite fear, rejections, and failures, those who have a breakthrough never lose sight of their why.
Through much of our lives, we live the way others expect us to live our lives. We may have grown up hearing adults and peers around us telling us how great we would be as a teacher, or how kick-ass we would be practicing as a defense lawyer. Slowly, our experiences and efforts become directed towards fulfilling this prophecy because it made others around us happy — and in turn, made us happy. But by doing so, we forget what truly lights us up, what makes our hearts sing. We chase this idea of a good life and throw away the great and extraordinary life we could have had.
How to Find Your Version of Success, and Start Living It
There’s no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It’s why you were born. And how you become truly alive.
– Oprah Winfrey (more quotes)
If the why to what we choose to do (even in minute decisions) is to make others happy because it makes us feel significant, then that why won’t be enough to take us to extraordinary heights. It won’t wake us up with excitement every morning. This is why each person’s definition of success will be so different. How do you want to live, so that when you’re 95 years old and reflecting on the life you’ve had, you will feel proud of all you’ve experienced and accomplished? What would it feel like to be completely regret-free? To know you made a difference?
There are a few critical steps we must commit to taking if we want to live an outstanding life that we can be proud of.
Sit down and breathe
Without the deliberate action of taking time to reflect, our lives will constantly be roaming and aimless. Even if you believe you have specific, smart goals, it would be pointless if those goals aren’t aligned to who you really are at your heart. The first step to living your successful life is to sit and listen to your breath. Listen to the moments in between each breath, and give gratitude. Whether you start with two minutes or ten minutes of daily, quiet reflection and gratitude, make a commitment to start.
Reflect on the times you knew you could fly
Ask your soul to play back for you when you were truly lit up with joy. Find moments in your past and present where you loved the life you breathed. This deliberate practice could be done through repeated writing exercises, while exploring the beautiful bounty of life on nature walks, or through mind-mapping (my favorite).
Mind-mapping requires a big sheet of paper; in the middle of the page, write “my life joy” or some variation. Circle it. Then, let your subconscious take over — write whatever else comes to you, connecting it with spokes. One particular thought could have many different spokes come out of it, or it could have only one other idea. Remove all judgment, and just scribble as fast and as far as your subconscious mind takes you. Once you’re done with this exercise, you’ll have a clearer picture of what makes your heart sing.
Make small, conscious choices
Once you know what brings you sheer joy, contemplate how you can use this gift to contribute to the world. Then, you can set goals — small or big — to make conscious choices to help you live a deliberate life. Each action step should be something that pushes you out of your comfort zone but also is not such a stretch that it’ll require a tear.
For example, if you love to sing, make small commitments to align your actions with the joy. You can start by singing in the shower, singing at small family gatherings, singing at charitable events, etc. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that small steps are reflective of small intentions. Small steps lead to massive changes.
Build your version of success
Whatever your version of a successful life, taking deliberate actions is key. The difference between the successful and not-so-successful, however, is the why behind their success. If your why comes from the heart, it’ll take you through more than you think you can handle. It’ll also be the fuel and momentum that takes you from dreaming of a life you could’ve had, to living the life you choose to live.