We have such limited mindsets around success. On one hand, it is something we yearn for – to be validated, to achieve our goal – to have made it. Success is the ultimate mountain – like a Mt Everest. When you achieve that peak, and that peak only, you’re successful. Success is an end point.
Success can feel elusive. Even the most accomplished among us can have a mindset that success is unachievable. A participant in the Rising program explained ‘every time I get to where I thought I wanted to be, in terms of a successful outcome, I shift the goal posts that much further, and think, oh, now I need to do this.’ We never get there.
The old view of success – that it’s all about making money, having a good job, and achieving all the things society expects of us, hampers us. As we progress in life, this idea of success becomes confusing because we might achieve all those things and still not feel successful. This is because success is a mindset and a way of being, not a destination.
As a culture, there is a scarcity mindset around success. We are stingy with it. We think ‘My team hasn’t achieved all its KPIs yet’, or ‘I won’t know till the final report is in’, or ‘I won’t know I’m successful until years from now.’
This mindset has success be only about the big win at the end. It is binary — you either succeeded or you didn’t. Yes or no. You made that target, or you didn’t. You won that gold medal or you didn’t. This is true – but only in a few contexts. Life – and by that success, is so much more nuanced.
To shift these unhelpful and limiting mindsets on success, and to reframe it as a powerful tool, consider that success is also a creation, a choice. The potential for it is always with us, and we can claim that every day.
Success might be getting out of bed today and making your kids breakfast after feeling low or sick for a time.
It might in choosing courage to go on a date – irrespective of whether there is a second date or not.
It could be personal growth, a learning on how you have evolved, which may not look any different to others, but you know.
Success can even be a public loss you faced, that by external measure was a failure. Stacey Abrahm’s example from the recent US elections shows how her loss at the 2018 Governorship in Georgia was a win in so many ways. She claimed these wins and owned them, including standing up to voter suppression, and registering new voters. These successes fueled her over the following years.
In the villages, progress was empowered by creating this new relationship to success. In the midst of a huge vision – ending hunger – people created smaller opportunities for success along the way. One community set a goal to build 2 new latrines– the first in the village. They built one in the allotted time, but they created this as a success. They unpacked what they had learned and discovered – what they had achieved. By celebrating this, and recommitting to their goals, the people did not lose heart or inspiration. Years later, that village has now 100% safe sanitation.
To access a more expansive mindset for success:
- Notice your automatic mindset around success. Notice how stingy it is. Notice how it’s never satisfied. Notice the scarcity. Notice how you’ve gotta be climbing Mount Everest (or the equivalent in your field) or nothing. And even then – when you get to Mt Everest and you weren’t the first person, or the fastest – notice how this mindset will find a way to trash even the most externally validated accomplishment.
- Enquire into success as a choice and a creation. Choose what you can celebrate and acknowledge. Make it a practice to look for, and claim, your wins. Support your wins along the way. See how and where you have succeeded, against your own criteria.
Let me know how you go!