What Does Success Mean?

Depositphotos_31409787_l-2015.jpgSuccess is such a complicated and often loaded word in our society. Mostly it is equated with having achieved a certain status at work and a certain level of money. But the truth is that success is just a word and regardless of what society views as success, what is more important is what makes you feel fulfilled and successful in your own terms. The question really should be, “What does success mean to you?” Once you gain clarity around what success means to you, you will be better equipped to set goals and priorities for what you want to do in your life. Here are some questions to answer for yourself as you explore your personal meaning of success. And if you don’t like the word success, you can always substitute personal satisfaction or fulfillment or whatever works for you.

From your own perspective, what does success look like? Including details about concrete items like owning or leasing of such big-ticket items like housing and car is important. And just as important, how do you feel when you are successful? Perhaps it will turn out that your feelings around success are less aligned with the financials or what kind of car you have than you had previously thought.

Turning to work, does your definition of success require a certain title? No judgment if your version of success does or doesn’t include a work status. The key is to explore if having a big title is what you truly want. If title isn’t important, then you can cross off your list and move on to other items. If success does include a big title, ask yourself what that title gives you? Satisfaction? Joy? Recognition? What about how much you enjoy the work? Because it is probably not just about a higher salary attached to a big title, though that may matter to you as well.

So then ask yourself, does success require a certain amount of money? If yes, what is the dollar goal? Thinking about your financial needs and wants is a very important process. Money can’t buy you love. Yet having some financial security is important and understanding just how much money you do need to feel successful will help you to make the right choices that support those needs. Success doesn’t have to mean luxury cars and homes—or it might. What is important is whether those things truly bring you joy.

As you consider what success means to you, think about your relationships, family and don’t forget to think about your health and wellness. To be living a fulfilling and rich life filled with love and kindness and good health is a success from my vantage point and one that I wish for everyone. But the devil is in the details as they say and the details are different for everyone. The more you understand what your priorities are in life, the clearer you can steer yourself towards personal success. And if you have a life partner, it is important to share your views on what a successful life looks like. While your personal goals may differ, understanding and aligning your family priorities will go a long way towards creating a successful life together.

xoxo Rachel

Creating Your Social Network For Greater Happiness

Interracial Group of Three Beautiful Women Friends LaughingIt is a fairly well researched fact that your social network is a big contributor to your overall life happiness. If you are like most of my clients who are entrepreneurs, in between jobs, or retired, you might not be going into an office every day where you interact with others on a regular basis. And because of this, you could be missing a social support system that you didn’t even realize you would miss. And if you are working in an office and are regularly interacting with other people, who those people are will make a huge difference in how you feel.

If you work with other people who have very different interests from you, you are missing out of a great community at work. Even if you find one friend at work with whom you share interests and are able to connect will make a huge difference to your everyday sense of happiness. If your job doesn’t supply that, you should ask yourself if that is the right place for you. If you aren’t working in an office, you need to be a bit more deliberate to seek out others for your personal community, but it is worth it.

There are certainly individually differences in terms of how many people you need in your social circle. But in general, you will benefit from having a couple of people who you can go to in times of distress for support and to have meaningful conversations. And it is also helpful to find a small group of people who enjoy the same activities and interests as you do. Consider joining an existing club or create a new group. There are lots of people who meet monthly or weekly to share interests in areas such as books, volunteering, meditation, walking, hiking, biking, crafts, or you name it. Check out https://www.meetup.com/ for local ideas as well as your local papers.

Sharing talents and interests with others in your community is a great way to build your support system. And it is important that the people in your life are generally happy themselves. This is a really important point that is often overlooked—particularly among people who have many connections in their life yet still feel something is lacking. If the people in your life are unhappy, they won’t be supporting your own happiness. Find some new people to connect with who are happy.

And let go of friendships that are destructive to your own well-being. I know that isn’t easy. But think of how you feel after conversations with certain people who make it a habit of complaining and comparing misery—particularly at work. You can feel poisoned. Imagine if you replace those conversations with meaningful, positive and constructive discussions. That will increase your own positive emotions. So that means finding other happy people with optimistic attitudes. If your company doesn’t have happy people, you might want to consider a change of venue. And if you are not working or are on your own, setting up times to get together regularly with people who have a happy view is essential for your own cheerfulness.

So as you develop your community, keep in mind these two very important factors that will increase your feeling of pleasure and happiness: seek out people who have common interests, and build relationships with other folks who are generally happy. Even if you are an introvert and find that your personal circle only needs to have a few people, connecting with like-minded souls who share your interests and who are happy will make all the difference to your own happiness.

xoxo Rachel

Letting Go

Depositphotos_31135103_l-2015.jpgI have been practicing letting go a lot lately. It’s a fairly vague and at the same time broad topic, and yet it is simple in explanation. Letting go most often refers to letting go of the outcome, whether you let go before the outcome happens or after the result is in and it’s not what you expected. Letting go of how things turn out is incredibly helpful for reducing anxiety. And if you are like me, and I suspect that you are given that so many people are anxious about stuff in life, you try to reduce your anxiety. You might even work really hard to be less anxious. You meditate. You are mindful during the day. You breathe deeply and relax your shoulders. And yet you are still anxious about things that are coming up in the future, like a meeting, or a big event, or a tough conversation or just getting somewhere on time. So you tell yourself over and over (because it is a practice) to let go of that anxiety. That certainly is a good practice and I do encourage you to continue to practice releasing and letting go of the anxiety. However, have you ever considered letting go of the pressure of telling yourself not be so anxious all the time? That may sound confusing, but hear me out.

When you relax your thinking around what is the right way to be in life, you are truly practicing the concept of letting go. When you put parameters around how you should and should not be in life and say to yourself things like, “I should be less anxious,” you are setting yourself up for greater suffering. When you notice the “should” in your self-thoughts, you’ll have a clue to where you are pressuring yourself needlessly. If instead you recognize that you are anxious, acknowledge it, then just let it be, you might find some softening in your relationship to that anxiety.

This morning as I was reading Jack Kornfield’s The Wise Heart, I was struck by the concept of living with “what is” regardless of the positive, negative or neutral emotions you are experiencing. I tend to want to fix things—particularly things like physical aches and pains and emotional states that are uncomfortable. But what if instead of trying to fix them I just let them be? What if I let go of the need to fix and release some of the straining to make changes? What if I say that it’s ok to be anxious, it’s ok to have a sore neck, its ok to be human in a human body? There is relief with letting go of what I think is the right way to be. Some of the pains actually lessen and some of the emotional discomfort simply melts away. I can still take other actions to reduce the pains with physical therapy or other means. But loosening the hold of the mind beliefs that I shouldn’t have aches and I shouldn’t have anxiety goes a long way to reduce suffering.

It helps if you find a quiet moment to stop running around, take some deep cleansing breaths and calm yourself. When you are busy and moving at lightening speeds, you are likely to be reactive without realizing it and your reaction will be something that you are in the habit of doing, like clenching your body and getting stressed out. Slowing down and taking a pause will give you space to acknowledge your body sensations, feelings and emotions. Then without making those sensations, feelings and emotions right or wrong, just sit side by side with them and let them be seen, let them be heard. Gradually and with practice the thoughts of how you should be will not be as important. Gradually you will let go. Gradually the suffering lessens and the joy for life has a chance of showing up.

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from suffering. May you live life with ease.

xoxo Rachel

Balancing Planning and Spontaneity For Greater Joy

Depositphotos_10749956_l-2015.jpgI’ve been traveling more this month than usual and all the physical transitions reminded me of a key concept for increasing joy and reducing stress. Yes, spontaneity is wonderful—and—planning helps! I am glad that I spent time preparing for a big trip all around Scotland that my husband and I took to celebrate our upcoming 30th wedding anniversary. Knowing in advance where to go and what to do made the multiple changes from airports to buses to trains to hotels go smoothly. And yet by not obsessing and scheduling each moment otherwise enabled us to find spectacular views and unexpected treats along the way. (Also don’t forget the well-known finding that the joy of a vacation is extended to all the days before your trip when you anticipate and get excited about your plans. I spent months enjoying the planning on this important trip!)

I am always playing around with the concepts of living in the moment vs. planning and frequently I struggle to reconcile the two. But in truth there is good reason for both styles. It’s always a balance between the two. Planning helps to enable you to be present when you are in a situation, particularly if the context is new or unsettling. So for instance, if you are getting ready for an important event in your life, a job interview, a big presentation, or in my recent case, a trip to an unknown location, it is very helpful to prepare in advance. With some planning you can be at your best and be present to the unfolding experience because you have anticipated aspects that perhaps you struggle with. That doesn’t mean that you have to plan every second. And that doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter a few hiccups along the way. But it does certainly increase the likelihood of a joyful ride.

This approach works well for big presentations, especially if you have concern about stage fright. I like to write out in complete sentences what I will say for the first few lines of a presentation. That planning takes away any concern I have about going blank or stumbling over words. And then I am freed from anxiety and will be off and running and can allow for improv, spontaneity—call it what you will—during the rest of the presentation. It’s a wonderful way to embrace both planning and being in the moment.

Welcoming planning and spontaneity is also great for your run-of-the-mill workday. I like to block out my calendar with planned activities or meetings. And I always include chunks of time that aren’t planned to allow for flexibility and creativity and unfolding of thoughts. But I know that even the planned parts will be more enjoyable if I am present and open to the unexpected—good or bad—that shows up. Life is ever changing and you never know what will happen. So the more you are aware that you can be prepared while also being open to what arrives will make your days that much more enjoyable.

xoxo Rachel

Don’t Measure Yourself Against Others

Happy joyful attractive mature womanOne of the interesting aspects of working on my own is that I have met and gathered with many other sole proprietors and entrepreneurs. I do this for support, for collaboration and for energy. Yet one of the difficulties that I have experienced in these groups is my tendency to compare how I am doing relative to everyone else. I think about how long have they been in business, how big their business is, how well-known their brand is, how much impact they are making in the world and generally speaking how successful they are. And then I measure myself against them. What a bunch of nasty demons that brings up! Welcome to being human.

Measuring yourself against others isn’t only common among entrepreneurs; it is quite common throughout our society. We compare our careers, our title, our relationships, our kids, our bodies, our finances, our happiness, our you-name it to others all the time. Sometimes we compare and feel like we are doing better that someone else. Much of the time we end up feeling less than, like we don’t measure up.

However, here is the truth: whatever someone else has created in his or her life has nothing to do with you. Don’t waste your time measuring yourself against others. You are uniquely in your own life experience, just as they are uniquely in their life experience. Viva la difference. Because only you can know what you want, only you can exist in your body, only you can experience your life and only you can create the life that you have. And you know what? You can’t always know how others actually feel about their lives. Although you can probably safely assume that they are insecure as well and also compare themselves to others.

Remember that even very successful and wonderful people are human and have human suffering and insecurities just like the rest of us. They may have created an awesome life, but it is their life and one-of-a-kind filled with joy and sorrow, just as your life is one-of-a-kind filled with joy and sorrow. You might feel like someone else is lucky, but in all likelihood they have worked hard to create a life that you admire. They have made twists and turns throughout their journey and they have had successes and flops. You typically only see the end result or at least only a slice of their life without the details of their struggles along the way. You notice all the glory. Life is more complex than just glory.

Whatever you create in your life is certainly in your own hands so yes, please do dig in and search for ways to live an open-hearted joyful life. However, use your own inner compass for measuring how you feel about your life experience. You can certainly explore what others are doing for ideas and learn from others about their life journey. Just don’t bother with direct comparisons to measure the success of your own life. Cultivate a deep understanding of yourself and what drives you and what supports you and what serves you and you will be much more satisfied with your unique and prized life, warts and all.

xoxo Rachel