We are all so busy talking about, thinking about and doing everything we know how, in order to achieve success; yet we spend such little time talking or thinking about how to celebrate it when we do.
There are a number of reasons as to why we have become so bad at this, and of course, many of them stem from the speed at which things are happening now all around us. We often feel that we can’t or shouldn’t stop or slow down. The constant pressure is there to move on to the next thing and on to the next accomplishment.
We can get too busy focusing on what hasn’t happened, what we don’t have, what needs fixing, who needs telling – rather than allowing ourselves the comfort and joy of simply taking time out to sit with our achievements and be proud of them.
I have a client, Jodie*, who has been working closely with me for over a year. During our time together she has returned to work after having her second child, is navigating the death of her dad after a long illness and has achieved a promotion at work that she badly wanted for years. You could describe Jodie as a high-achiever. The interesting thing is that she most definitely wouldn’t. She feels she is failing in almost every area of her life and is struggling with knowing what to do to improve on this.
The work we are doing together is very much focused now on my getting her to see just what it is that she is achieving; to slow down and to observe that she has so much going on in her life and to help her acknowledge and appreciate just how incredibly well she is navigating the very real and present complexities of her life.
She is most definitely grieving her dad – although she feels incredibly grateful that he got to meet her son Adam. She is tormented with guilt about having to leave Adam in the care of her trusted child-minder, who has been part of the family for the past six years, despite recognising that Adam is totally content and happy and has settled so well into his new routine. She constantly worries about something falling between the cracks at work, despite all of the evidence that her team are thriving under her leadership and having the results reflect that. To do this work with Jodie, I believed that it was vital that she could freely define what success now looks like for her. This mattered, mostly because sometimes how we define success for ourselves, can in actual fact contribute to the problem, rather than ease it.
Take for example, if, for you, success means always getting things done perfectly; then you’re instantly setting yourself up for disappointment as you witness the mercurial properties related to perfectionism. You think you are just about to reach it and right before you can touch it, it nudges forward again. Similarly, this obsession with perfection that so many of you feel, only pushes out of your reach your focus on self-improvement, on working at doing better in a way that feels right for you.
SO, WHAT IS SUCCESS FOR YOU?
Is it to do with being seen to work hard and doing what you said you would?
Is it showing others that you can have what you want, once you say you want it?
Is it being seen to be popular or being known as steadfast and reliable?
Does it lie in demonstrating your abilities to others?
Is it proving yourself as a loyal friend or a loving partner?
Is it based on financial outcomes or even proving to yourself that you have and are enough just as you are?
When it comes to success, it’s important to acknowledge that, to begin with, you may need to unlearn your current habits. Placing too much importance on what the future outcomes could and should look like can also be extremely damaging and draining and only serves to reinforce the vicious cycle of self-doubt. It also risks leaving you feeling like you’re never good enough which is the sure-fire route to burnout when you can’t connect with that feeling of satisfaction of having achieved what you wanted to.
My client Jodie saw this and it resulted in her admitting that to suit herself she was forever changing what her definition of what success was. “I would be close to achieving one ambition and then start the process of criticising myself for not being closer to the next. It reduced the real meaning of getting what I wanted and this allowed me to ignore it”.
Success must always be meaningful. In order for you to understand what it is for you; it needs to totally align with your own values and personal belief systems. Being in tune with your emotions can be really useful here as well as observing what your triggers and stressors are telling you.
So, when you achieve your next goal, get the next promotion, run that half marathon, write that elusive book, attempt a new recipe or introduce a new daily practice into your routine remember to celebrate this fact. Remind yourself that the capacity for success is within – you just have to let it in. I’ll finish with the always appropriate words of Michelle Obama “Success isn’t about how your life looks like to others. It’s about how it feels to you.”
(*My client gave her full permission to discuss her situation here once we changed her name).
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Change & Transformation Coach and author of GET UNSTUCK who through her private practice, writings, programmes, workshops and podcast has inspired, activated and helped thousands of people to make significant changes in their lives. She is an accredited Personal, Leadership & Executive Coach and the Lead Coach in the IMAGE Business Club. Follow her on Instagram @1niamhennis. GET UNSTUCK is available now for pre-order and will be released nationwide on November 11.