There isn’t a one-size-fits-all measure of success
The title for today’s post on success comes from a quote by Maya Angelou.
Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
— Maya Angelou
This is how she defined success. And it serves as an appropriate follow on from yesterday’s post where we explored the foundation of success.
The freedom to healthily pursue success in life comes from knowing that we are loved and accepted and delighted in by God — and loving, accepting, and delighting in ourselves — regardless of what we ever do or don’t do.
Without that separation of our worth and our identity from what we do or don’t achieve in life, we will end up pursuing success in unhealthy and dangerous ways.
That is why Maya Angelou says that success starts with liking ourselves.
Having written previously about liking ourselves — and knowing we are liked (loved!) by God — today I want to focus to the second and third clauses of her quote.
When we reach that wonderfully freeing place of truly and deeply liking ourselves, liking who we are, we are then in a great place to think about the what and the how of success.
I want to focus today on just one word though, and that is: you.
Success, says Maya Angelou, is liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
Success for you will not be the same as success for me. Success is always uniquely personal. And it has to be. We are all completely unique individuals with unique talents, abilities, interests, circumstances, relationships, and opportunities.
This is why we cannot, and indeed must not, ever allow anyone to dictate to us what our measures of success should be. No one else is us. No one else is the same as us.
Be inspired by the success of others. Listen to the input of loved ones who know us well. But know that you must always reject any measure of success being imposed on you that doesn’t match with who you are, what you want to do, and how you want to do it.
This isn’t meant to come across as individualistic or isolationist. How we think about and pursue success is inevitably intertwined with those around us who we do life with.
As a married man with two children, I cannot help but think about success in relation to my wife and my daughters. Life is not about me, myself, and I. But even with how I think about what success looks like in marriage, and what success looks like as a parent, there is no one right one-size-fits-all measure of success.
We have to be careful not to judge the choices of others here. We make decisions and choose ways to measure success that we feel are right for us. But it is very easy to then start projecting those decisions onto others.
Everyone’s situation is unique. Everyone is not meant to be the same or make the same choices. That is why Maya Angelou is, I believe, right. Success is deeply personal.
We each have to find our own measures of success and find peace with that. We mustn’t allow the pressures of those around us, or society at large, force upon us measures of success that don’t fit with who we are. Nor must we be people who force our measures of success on others.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be open to friends and loved ones challenging us over measures of success we choose. We all know that we can get sucked into making poor choices and need the wisdom and insight from those around us.
This post isn’t a mandate to ignore everybody and do your own thing regardless. We are communal beings. We make better decisions in relationship with others.
So, be humble. Listen. Learn. Always be open. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Understand that your measures of success will change as you go through life. Embrace change. Keep learning and growing and make sure your measures of success adjust as you do.
But ultimately, no matter what, you have to make sure that you own your measures of success. You have to reach a place where you like yourself, you like what you do, and you like how you do it. And if you’re not in that place, you need to make some changes.
All posts in this series:
Part One: The foundation for success
Part Two: Liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it
Part Three: Success starts on the inside
Part Four: Defining success