Diary of an ex-ex-writer: defining success continued

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece called ‘Defining Success’. I pondered with you how I was feeling after leaving my role as an analyst, in search of greater happiness. And how, ending up working on a farm was both joyful and slightly perplexing.

Despite being significantly happier, I was finding myself confused about whether that was enough, and if I was more or less successful than before. So, I asked what you thought, because a problem shared is a problem halved right?! I asked you how you define success. And here’s what you said;

Either my level of happiness or happiness of others.

I think for me it’s about feeling comfortable, safe and happy! So I guess for me it’s not about working crazy hard but still having enough that I can do what I want without thinking twice about it.

My perspective on this has changed a lot over recent years. In the past success to me was very materialistic, do I have a nice car, do I have a big house, am I performing well in my job, am I wearing nice clothes, do I have a lot of savings, etc. I have done a lot of internal work in recent years and have come to the realisation that none of this really matters. The way I measure success now is answering two questions; am I happy and are the ones I love and care about happy?

Happiness, family and connection with others. 

Having a purpose

Happiness, security and continuous learning.

Happiness in whatever you do and no amount of money can help if you’re unhappy. 

Time spent with the ones you love.

When I got ‘success’, I wondered who it was really for. Now, I feel successful when I do something for myself, when I take care of myself.

Happy comes up in six of the nine definitions I received, which I’ve found both heartwarming and reassuring. But it only got me pondering more, as I found myself debating what happy really means (welcome to the world of a writer/psychology student who over-thinks everything). That was until I saw this comment (shout out to lovely artist Pete);

Success as a single objective is a fragile and unreliable mirage (how quickly fortunes change or can be corrupted), but appreciating day to day successes creates the stepping stones to confidence and stability. Riches beyond wildest dreams not guaranteed though. 

After spending the last seven months researching the challenges that professional cyclists face when they retire from elite competition, and then somehow finding myself if my own turbulent time of career transition, I’ve realised the concepts of ‘success’ or ‘happiness’ feel too concrete for anyone going through significant change.

They are the concepts that people are always trying to work towards. The goal at the end of the rainbow. Trouble is, when and where is the end? When we get a new pair of jeans, a better job, a bigger house? And then what’s next?

As humans, we are actually always in a state of flux. I may be feeling it now more than ever, but I know as soon as things slow down and I do find whatever my new normal looks like, I’ll be working towards the next thing. Again. Just like all the cyclists I’ve spoken to who feel loss and uncertainty because their career as they once knew it has come to an end, they will feel these feelings again even after they’ve started whatever is next for them.

So actually, maybe success, is being able to find peace in the process of change, because change is inevitable.

It was thinking about this at work on the farm, as I priced up the ‘cheerful carrot’, ‘juicy strawberry’, ‘Bobby egg’ and ‘Vivi rainbow’ toys with a smile the size of Esteban Chaves on my face…

…at that moment I felt successful, because I was happy. How could I not be, look at their little faces!

I was, as Pete said, appreciating a very normal, but very real, every day success, and if acknowledged properly, that could be used as a stepping stone to feeling more confident about my life choices, which would lead to feeling more secure. Unsurprisingly, nothing I was doing was making me monetarily rich, but I was becoming rich in all these other ways I had never imagined. I was rich in joy. And joy is priceless.

That day I purchased a ‘cheerful carrot’, brought him home and he now sits smiling away at me amongst all my other bits and bobs that light up my desk with memories.

He serves as a constant reminder that any moment of happiness, is a moment of success. Anything more than that is a bonus. The ‘cheerful carrot’, from a box of cheerful carrots, has lived up to his own hype and I’m very grateful for that.