The Anatomy of Success

What was the first thing that came to your mind when you read this post title? Did you actively wonder whether you are a success in the world? Perhaps you began at once to measure and compare yourself to others who you believe are successful.

It can be quite a losing game, if you are not careful.

Maybe it would be good to back-up a bit. After all, what really is success? Do we get to choose our own definition, or do we feel obligated to use those others have created?

I’ve struggled with this concept during my life.

In my early years the expectations which defined success seemed to be easy to grasp. During my school years, it was primarily my test scores and grades and where I stacked up to the others in my classes. Sure, there were other measures, like how skilled you were in sports or music or extracurricular activities.

As time went on there was more friction involved and success became more difficult to achieve. Folks wanted to know what college you got into, what your major was, what your job prospects were, did you have a girlfriend, was it serious?

The focus seemed to be on bigger and better regardless of whether you could classify your actual anticipated outcomes.

That’s part of the problem with success. It slips away as soon as you start to accomplish it. It moves a little further from your grasp and keeps you reaching.

You think to yourself, I’m almost there and then another step appears, another task to check off.

If you are fortunate enough, you move into the business world and search for a job you hope will offer you a decent income, growth potential and a good retirement. You might get married and have children, a house, a car and go on nice vacations.

For some, these are the measures of success that matter most, and by and large, they are the ones society treats with respect.

I wanted all of these, and I am fortunate because they all came into my life. I am deeply grateful for this, for each one of these.

But do they define my success in the world? Can they? Am I not more than these?

What about our other dreams? The ones that live deep inside of us? The ones no one else can see? What about the success of these?

I care about these too.

Do you have some dreams that you want to live outside of yourself? Dreams that you want to shine?

If you do, I encourage you to breathe life into them. I also encourage you to relax all of your ideas about success.

Maybe, if you need to, write down what success would look like if you accomplished them, but then purposely set the list aside. Put it in a safe place and forget about it.

You see, dreams are different. They came with you when you arrived here on earth. They live in you but want to live outside of you. That is their great measure of success. They blossom and bear fruit and share themselves with others, perhaps far beyond your wildest imagination.

This post comes from inside of me in some previously hidden place that I wasn’t aware of until right now. It’s the same place my first book came from when it was born.

I’ve come to realize that I am a channel, a way for my inner dreams to reach the outside world. And I’ve come to realize that I profit by shifting my definition and measures of success. I try to release what the world believes and embrace what feels true to me.

When my dreams take flight, I soar with them, and they are my best version of success.

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One Good Thing and One Bad Thing

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while you may think you know where I’m going with this title. Perhaps you believe I’m going to ask you to embrace the ‘good things’ and release the ‘bad things’ in your life.

Nope, not this time.

Instead, I’d like to make a case for something else.

I’d like to suggest that we find ways to learn from both the good things and bad things in our lives. I believe we’d be best served by looking for the enormous values inherent in each, far beyond what we might imagine exists.

But first, a few thoughts about the usage of the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I think they’re problematic, mostly because they depend on the situation.

For example, salt. For some situations it is an absolute necessity, while in others it contributes to high blood pressure, which can in excess, be fatal. And what about water or fire. Both good and bad.

I think the concept extends to other areas as well. Compassion, when given, offers support, hope and love. When compassion turns to enabling it can hurt the giver and receiver and make the situation even worse.

So, maybe it’s best to accept that it is our choice how we interpret good and bad that sets the stage and realize that it is more about what happens next, once we’ve decided which category something falls into.

I’d like to ask you to do something. Grab a piece of paper and pen then sit quietly and allow your mind to drift a little and see what comes to you when you ask yourself to name one good thing and one bad thing from your life. It can be something that just happened or something that stands out from some other time in your life.

I’ll pause while you consider.

Okay, hopefully you’ve decided.

Here’s what comes next.

Write down what you chose for a good thing, skip a few lines and write down what you choose for a bad thing. Then, choose one to focus on first.

Let’s say you picked the bad thing. In the space you left open, write down your reasons for why you chose to view it as a bad thing. Now, look deeper into it and see if any good also came out of it. Then, repeat the process with the good thing.

I’ll share my example to help illustrate.

My car heater fan stopped working one day this week. Here’s why this seemed like a bad thing. It’s January in the northeast US and very cold to drive without heat in your car. Also, it’s inconvenient to get my car to the shop since I still have places I need to go. There’s also the matter of the potential expense.

What I ended up writing down after considering what took place is this; my wife and I were able to fairly easily work around the inconvenience, the heater fan actually began working again (still took it in to have it checked out) and the cost for repairs was only $46.56. Plus, my mechanic was able to thoroughly check out my elderly car and tell me I could keep it for several more years without concern (which is great news for me- I don’t have to buy a new car!)

It turns out that examining the actual outcomes presents a much clearer picture of reality than paying attention only to my initial fears.

For my good thing, here’s what happened.

I received some very positive feedback on my book, talking with (god) which I really enjoyed. After glowing for a while, I realized that I haven’t actively pursued my marketing plan to share the book with the world. This made me sad and a little frustrated with myself.

These bad feelings inspired me to think deeper, to brainstorm directions I could take and eventually to decide that what I really want to do is to donate copies to places where folks really need a sense of love and hope (prisons, half-way houses, domestic abuse centers, shelters, hospitals).

Allowing yourself to look beyond your initial concerns and fears and view each situation from different directions may provide you with wonderful new insights. I hope it does.

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Exercise One- Seeing Beneath the Surface

An idea came to me that it might be fun to include exercises that readers could choose to do as part of this adventure. So, I thought that maybe after every twenty posts, I’d offer you one.

I hope you like the idea.

Here’s how the first exercise goes. You can use any size paper you like. A standard notebook page will work well. Begin by turning your paper so it goes lengthwise and make five columns, labeling them as follows; Concern, Reason, Reaction, Deeper Reason, Benefit(s).

Let me explain and then share an example to get you started. I find this exercise rewarding and have made positive shifts as a result of spending some time with it.

In the first column you write down some issue or concern that is troublesome for you. This may only take a few words, but write whatever you need to define the issue.

The second column identifies the reason or reasons why the issue concerns you. You may need to list several reasons or it may be as simple as one.

In the reaction column, write down how you respond to the issue. Consider your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual reactions.

Column four is an opportunity to go deeper and explore what might be beneath the reasons you initially identified. This is often where the shifts begin, so give yourself a little extra time with this one.

Hopefully you find there are benefits that arrive from this exercise and you can note them in column five. A great focus here is to allow yourself to see what positive outcomes are created by shifting your perspective.

So, that’s the set up. Now for the example.

Although I’d like to think of myself as a pretty tolerant individual, I have to admit that when I’m driving, there are lots of things other drivers do that bother me.

So, my column one lists…slow drivers.

In order to better understand myself and find a way to deal with this ongoing problem, I have to ask myself, why does this bother me?

My answer for column two is…because it wastes my time and keeps me from getting places when I expect to get there.

And my reactions in column three are…a great deal of sighing, inner irritation, drumming on the steering wheel and maybe some inappropriate language.

There has been a great deal of predictability to this. Certainly, more than I would like. That’s why the next step is so important to me. It’s where you get a chance to open up and ask to receive clarity. For some, the asking will be internal, while others will open to the divine for support and guidance.

For me in this case, I asked Lia (the part of god that appears as the divine feminine, also known to me as Love In Action, or simply Lia).

I sat still, slowed my breathing, calmed my mind and asked Lia for help to see beneath the surface.

Here’s what appeared in column four…what came was an image I recognized immediately. It was a car accident I was in. I was sitting waiting for the traffic light to turn green and was rear-ended by a pickup truck traveling 30 mph. It never slowed down and hit me so hard it shoved me through the entire intersection.

Wow, I knew this meant something big.

Enter column five. What was the benefit in seeing this image that lived beneath the surface…I realized that when I’m in my car and on my way somewhere, I’m impatient to get there because, without consciously knowing it, I’m afraid. I want a smooth ride with no interruptions. I don’t want anyone slowing me down and preventing me from getting to where I’m going. And, I don’t want to be in another accident. I want to be safe.

The benefit of seeing at this depth is that I can modify my behavior and reactions. When I get in the car I can tell myself to relax, take my time, enjoy the scenery, be patient, and realize I am loved and cared for.

Sometimes it takes a while before I can see beneath the surface, but, I’ve found it is always time well spent.

I’d love to hear what happens for you, if you decide to try this.

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