What is success?
Do we decide that we are successful in an area of our lives only because we see the results?
For instance, are we successful at living a healthy lifestyle if we fit in certain size jeans or because we are faithful to only one type of eating?
Are we successful in our chosen business or career if we make tons of money and maybe only do that one thing for the rest of our lives?
What is it that defines us, and how do we come to a place where we can feel good about what we have achieved? How can we also know when it’s time to let something go?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately since I am an entrepreneur.
I’ve done a lot of reflecting, trying to figure out what success means to me, and what living a successful life looks like for me.
You see, not too long ago, I became burnt out mentally, and ultimately, emotionally and physically.
I’ve been working really hard and pushing through a lot of emotions in order to get things done. My main goal was to achieve. I felt that my achievement would bring me happiness and fulfillment.
In reality, I ended up stressed out and exhausted. I felt passionless and I had no idea whether I could continue, or even if I wanted to. Also, the way that everything played out affected not only my business, but it also impacted me on a deeper, more personal level.
I was mentally tired.
I decided to take a break and let things be for a while—you know, just let my ambitions sit still. I decided to take some time to focus and take care of myself. I worked on stripping away anything extra, and at this time, this particular business project was extra.
I kept my focus simple. My main focuses were eating healthy, exercising, spending quality time with those in my immediate circle, and believe it or not, doing a facial once a week. If I could manage those simple things and still show up to work every day, I decided I’d be okay.
I worked really hard for several months just on getting back to myself. Sometimes, I got criticized for where I was. I’m an ambitious woman, yet on some days, I could barely get out of bed. It was all I could do to keep myself from falling apart when I would attend meetings. And I say this because I think as women, we all come to a place where we really have to dig deep inside of ourselves and think about what is it that really matters.
I want to achieve great things. As a single mom, I want to make a lot of money so I can give my daughter the best life ever, and so I can provide opportunities for my other children who are already grown.
As women, there’s so much weight on our shoulders. Men have the burden of providing—they work their asses off, too. But women are the nurturers, and we also have to be the doers and the achievers.
In our society, we often have to face the expectation of being perfect.
I found myself in a place where the illusion of perfection just wasn’t working anymore. I felt raw and open and just unable to keep up the facade any longer. I had to bring myself to a place where I knew that my peace mattered more than anything else. I had to bring myself to a place where nothing and no one could take away my peace.
Once I felt like I had that, I felt stronger.
I was more confident, and I could be more truer to myself. I decided that my life was going to be my choice and not because of anyone else’s influence. My success would come from my soul and the value of my experiences rather than an outside indicator.
When I was a little girl, my biggest dream in life was to be a dancer. I wanted that to be my calling more than anything else. I let someone turn me away from that dream by their criticism of me—I let that criticism settle in my soul and make me feel I wasn’t good enough. Because of that, I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t want my own daughter to do because I didn’t value myself and I didn’t feel worthy of a life that I desired.
But the universe has an amazing way of bringing us where we need to be. And so, when I was 27 years old, I was given the opportunity to become not only a dance instructor but also a professional competitive ballroom dancer. I can’t even tell you what it felt like to be living the dream that I had since I was a little girl.
When I think back on that time, there wasn’t a lot of money involved. I mean, I could barely pay my bills. But I was living my dream. There is nothing that even comes close.
So when I found myself in this situation many years later, I often think back to when I was living that dream and ask myself, “What about that proved success?” The money definitely wasn’t there. What was there, however, was the realization of a desire and the pure joy that comes from living a passion.
So here I am again thinking about this idea of success. How did I get so far away from dreaming that I started believing that the only evidence of success is achievement? How did I let go of the journey itself? How did I let go of celebrating the grit that it took to get me to where I’m standing right now?
Maybe success isn’t what’s in our checking account. Maybe it’s not about living in the best and biggest house or being in the best relationship.
Maybe success is being the best version of ourselves that we can be right now in this moment.
Maybe success is looking back and acknowledging to ourselves that we worked our asses off to get here. We did something many people wouldn’t even attempt. And if we can look back and see growth, we have succeeded.
We have new opportunities presented to us each and every day, and it’s our job to say “yes.”
The true definition of success is allowing ourselves to look back and celebrate how far we’ve come.
Looking forward is important.
Moving forward is necessary.
Trusting that the journey is good and we’re moving past the bullsh*t to our own success comes from taking inventory of all of our successes up to this point.
Giving ourselves permission to dream and have goals is radical.
Pursuing those dreams is success in itself—it’s doing what most people would never attempt.
And looking back at how amazingly far we’ve come on our journey is priceless.
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