Success, a word we all desire, a word that can be defined in the broadest of spectrums but tends to be lumped into a singular box: career. If you ask someone if they are successful, or have been successful in their lives, chances are one of two things will happen: they will puff out their chest and rattle off the things they have accomplished or they will get slightly red in the face and try to justify why what they have done has been worthy of such a question. Both of these reactions rest in the realm of ego- lifting you above others or dragging you below others. Inevitably though, most peoples minds, upon being asked this question, jump to the realm of career and finance.
What have I done? How much money have I made? What is my rank?
Well, as much as there is nothing wrong with this, it is only looking at a singular piece of the Success Pie. Success is a way to describe accomplishment of an aim and this accomplishment suggests that there is a certain degree of fulfillment derived from the accomplishment. This is very vague, right? That's the point. You can apply the term success to any activity within any area of your life. It's not just that you can apply the term to any area of your life, rather, it is imperative that you do if you want to experience a wholly balance and fulfilling life.
When I think of success I think of a house, one that shelters all of you, and this house has pillars that holds the roof up over your head. Each pillar is a respective area of your life: personal development, relationships, mental health, physical health, self expression, play/creativity, career, finance, spirituality. Each of these areas can independently reflect the question: how successful are you? Well, would you want to have a house with pillars that are completely varied in their strength and ability to hold the roof over your head? No. My point: your success house will never be wholly strong if only a few of the pillars within it are strong. Which of the three little pigs do you want to be? It does not matter how much effort you pour into your magnificent career or your physical health, these pillars cannot carry your house alone.
Enter the social entrepreneur. You developed a career out of something you felt passionate about. This passion was a passion for humanity, animals, the whole planet and it morphed into a magnificent monster that is changing the world (THANK YOU- you're f*ing awesome). It's a beautiful, slightly twisted cycle: the more of you that you pour into your work, the bigger it gets, the more it positively impacts the world, the more you feel amazed and fulfilled, the more you pour in. I get it, I'm one of them. It's easy enough to go all-in on your career, even easier to do it as an entrepreneur and is basically a requirement as a social entrepreneur, because this career doesn't just take your body (work) and mind (ideas) but it takes your heart and soul too and you gladly give it up because you are working for an incredible cause. The other "problem" is the you get so much fulfillment from your work- it authentically expresses who you are, it lets you be creative/innovative, it provides income, it makes you feel like you're accomplishing something great- that it is easy to believe that it is enough. There are so many boxes that this career checks for you that it becomes easier and easier to redirect your resources (time, energy, money) into this career and aware from other areas of your life.
This is all well and good... until it isn't. We know this, things are fine until they're not fine, then they're seriously not fine. You carry on pretending like it's all working, neglecting your whole life for the greater good of a portion of your life, your work-life, until a relic from the rest of your life shows up to remind you of what you have forsaken. I'll never forget reading an article in a yoga magazine about a teacher's experience with injury and her inability to teach as a result. It was eye-opening, realizing that I was so connected with my work as a yoga instructor, I identified so much as a yoga instructor, that to lose the ability to instruct would honestly shake my identity to the core. This is what can happen, your work is a direct reflection of your life and it becomes very, very easy to eventually view your work as your life.
When life strikes, what are you going to do? If something happens that shakes your life to its core, is your house strong enough to withstand, given only one or two pillars are truly strong?
This isn't just about catastrophe either. If the world's best player is on a team with a bunch of sub-par players, this team isn't going to win the championships, that is unless the player is able to share it's secrets of success with the other players and raise them up to another level. If you are not nurturing all pillars of your life then you are not functioning at max capacity, if your career is a direct reflection of you and you are not functioning at max capacity then your career is not going to reflect all that it truly can be. Nothing incentivizes a social entrepreneur like the opportunity to do more with their career. As indirect as it may sound, the more fulfilled, happy and successful you are in all areas of your life, the more YOU will become and be capable of accomplishing, the more your career is going to extend to levels of influence that you may never even have dreamed of. You are the sum total of your many parts and the more you nourish your parts the more your sum will grow and as you know so well, the more you expand individually, the more your work expands too.
Sounds like a win/win? Well yea, it is. It seems impractical or impossible to find more time and energy to devote to the other areas of your life, but it isn't, it all starts with mindset. You have to believe that it is totally possible to experience just as much success and fulfillment in your WHOLE life as you do in your career.
Start by checking out the Pillars chart below- see for yourself how well you're doing. Print out and make a mark on the line to denote how successful you feel with each pillar, to the far left is "pretty shitty" and to the right is "pretty awesome." You can also just write down a 1-10 scale.
(This activity is one of MANY activities that come in the Undoing 8-week Mindfulness for Entrepreneurs journal)
Stay tuned... next week I'll discuss how to rebalance success without sacrificing the resources that you commit to your career.
Chelsea M Latham
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally refer to me as a Reverend, because I had the need to speak so passionately about just about everything. Little did she know that some day I would build a business upon sharing the wisdom that I am so passionate about. So here you go, here are some bits and bobs of thoughts strung together for your enjoyment.