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Redefining Success

Redefining SuccessEach of us innately have a definition of success, which we carry around as an unspoken measuring stick.  We use it to make decisions about ourselves and others regarding performance.  We use it to make decisions about relationships, jobs, family, religious congregations we attend, neighbors, cars, schools… the list is unending.  Each interaction draws our measuring stick out. This measuring stick evolves as we interact with more people and get feedback from our environment.

For most of our life, this is helpful.  It spurs us forward and upward.  It keeps us from giving in to our inner desire to lay on the couch all day and watch Netflix.  It reminds us that we need to get up, get going, keep striving.  And it helps us to evolve, to achieve and to contribute to the world in which we live.  As long as life is bringing events that we have expected and approved of, we can use our inner measuring stick to our benefit.

However, there are times in our life when this inner measuring stick begins to work against us.  When things do not go as we expected, when life hands us things we don’t like, that hurt, that disappoint, that paralyze us, how then do we use this tool?  Unfortunately, during those times, it would be wise to pick up a different tool. It is a different set of circumstances, so a different set of expectations is warranted.  But we don’t do that, do we?  We expect ourselves to have super-human strength, to carry on as though life is not painful or nearly impossible.

Daily, I am asked, “why can’t I function like I used to?” Or “Why can’t I function like they can,” as they compare themselves to others who are not experiencing life as they are. These are the people who have come in for help, for support and for solace from a life that has handed them a set of circumstances and emotional challenges beyond what most of us experience.  They are the brave.  They are the hurting.  Yet, they are not trading in their mental measuring stick for one that is more appropriate for their circumstances.

Mindfulness is a tool that many of us, facing circumstances we never would have asked for, utilize in order to become successful in spite of all that we face.  It allows us to redefine success, to evolve or change our measuring tool.  Instead of asking a global assessment question of functioning, it asks, “for this moment, in my current circumstances, what does success look like.”  Often success becomes much smaller wins.  And often, they carry much more weight than any of the “big” wins we experience outside of unwanted circumstances. Because, in those moments, it takes that much more strength, effort and determination to reach it. It frees us from drudgery, from pushing through.  It gives room and breath and allowance for rest, for emotions, and for small steps.

For those of us found in circumstances that hurt, I encourage you to consider a mindfulness exercise.  Think of a person whom you love and care about.  If that person was in the same circumstances and the same pain or disappointment, what would you expect of them?  Ask yourself what you would say, what you would expect, how you would react to them.  Would you be more kind to them than you are to yourself.  If the answer changes as you think of this person for whom you care, I urge you to allow that to become your new tool.  Allow that exercise to evolve how you speak to yourself, how you care for yourself and how you approach each moment.  Redefine your definition of success.  Write it down and put it up in your home, maybe on your mirror, as a reminder of this new perspective.  And rest in the space this creates in your mind from the chaos you were preciously involved in. You are enough. You are capable.  You can take the next step.

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