by Sara Notenboom
When you think of the concept of success, what are some of the ideas that immediately come to mind? Accomplishment? Achievement? Triumph? Being #1? Being the best? Standing out?
I think it fair to say that for many, the above list is a fairly accurate representation of what success entails. Why wouldn’t it be? After all, from the time we are young we are taught to believe that success is about standing apart from the rest. We are told that success is about making the grade, winning the game, landing that job, etc. About things that warrant praise, invite the approval and validation of others, and ultimately conjure up those “good feelings” – empowerment, elation, satisfaction, and so on. We become immersed in the notion that true success is only found when it is appreciated, recognized, and rewarded by others. The idea that, “I’m only as successful as the recognition I receive”, becomes the stuff of obsession and addiction, and we inadvertently put ourselves in a place of unhealthy striving. Personal authenticity takes a back seat, and disingenuous expression rides shotgun because we start doing “whatever it takes” to attain external validation. Feelings of misalignment begin to run rampant because we start to lose sight of ourselves in the pursuit of these elusive “good feelings.” In short, we lose a sense of control over our lives. Ironically, we begin to feel disempowered, dissatisfied, and dejected.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that recognition, praise and acknowledgement from others is inherently bad. I’m saying that when the pursuit of those things overtakes the pursuit of personal fulfillment, a problem arises. Really, it’s when “looking good” for the sake of distinction becomes far more important than our own sense of happiness and wellbeing.
So what is success? Well, in my books, it’s about selfish selflessness. Allow me to explain…
True success, in my opinion, is all about nurturing our gifts – making our personal evolution our top priority. Honouring ourselves by allowing individual expression to be what we ultimately strive for in all that we do, and in all that we create. It’s no longer about “them”, and when it’s no longer about “them”, authenticity shines brightly, because we are freed from feeling we need to seek external validation. We can fill ourselves up. Success is about selfish fulfillment – a good and beautiful selfishness that serves to uplift the planet.
When we practice selfish fulfillment, we become happier, gentler, and softer, because we recognize that we here to give of ourselves. That we are in fact gifts to the world just by being who we are. We recognize that personal expression is, in and of itself, an act of service. We move away from a mentality of competition and move into a mentality of contribution. It becomes about how much we can give, not about how much we can get. It’s about where we are now, not where we’re going to be.
For me, success is about:
- Extending compassion. Always.
- Infusing love into everything I do.
- Practicing fearlessness and taking risks (even if it scares the sh*t out of me).
- Writing from a place of vulnerability.
- Making fun a necessity, not a luxury.
- Making an impact in the lives of others.
- Practicing gratitude… Every. Single. Day.
- Telling people how I feel about them. Often.
Success is to be measured internally, not externally. It is to be personally defined. Grant yourself the permission to nurture your gifts and live your passion. Go forth and contribute of yourself. The world needs you in all your authentic awesomeness. After all, you are the only you there is on the planet, and you have a responsibility to shine.
Sara holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English Literature, and is currently completing her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. She has a particular interest in the area of grief and bereavement, and is an experienced bereavement support facilitator. Sara regards her work as her calling, and is passionate about empowering people to embrace their lives fearlessly. Follow Sara on Twitter @SNotenboom