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Making the Mark
How do you measure your life?
School’s out for the summer, but report cards don’t stop when the sun comes out. Adults measure progress, status, happiness, and success long after they toss their graduation cap in the air. Unfortunately, as we move through life, the metrics we tend to use for self-evaluation can set us up for significant suffering.
What are we measuring?
Humans are hard-wired to strive. Kept in check, it’s healthy. Reach. Grow. Stay on your toes. Our pursuits, taken too far, can wreak havoc in our lives. It’s crucial to be conscious about the things we devote our days to doing. Success is a highly individual construct. What gives me a hit of pride and joy won’t necessarily spark happiness for you. Stop to consider what success means to you. Is the definition that drives you borrowed? The world gives us lots of signals of what it means to be achieve. In your mind, is success a number, title, size, or position? Maybe it’s a feeling. Whatever your definition is, don’t leave it unexamined. Pursuing someone else’s dream raises the risk that in the end, you’ll reach an arbitrary finish line very unsatisfied.
How do we measure?
Finish this phrase, “I will know I’m successful if. . .” To what extent is your response within your scope of control? Consider whether the outcomes you measure are more contingent on luck than skill. If the criteria you use to measure your success depend exclusively on other people’s choices, you are placing the fate of your happiness in someone else’s hands. It’s a precarious place to stand in wait.
Instead, consider a different scorecard. Weight your evaluation of personal success heavier on internal factors than external circumstances. Reframe your rubric to focus more on process than outcome. Sometimes success is a destination, but we need to take responsibility for how we get there. Who we are as we pursue our goals matters. When we think about achievement, we have to count the cost of what we were willing to do to get to the finish line. When we achieve a goal, we can’t ignore the collateral damage it took to get there. Did anyone get hurt along the way? What price did we pay? Winning isn’t just about what we get or what we do. It’s about who we are on the path to where we’re going.
Success, in part, is how we show up. It’s who we are at our core. It’s the compromises we are unwilling to make. Even if you fall short according to the world’s standards, it will always matter how you played. Give yourself credit for character. Integrity. Grit. Compassion. Courage. It turns out, when we focus on these things, we greatly increase the odds that true success will come our way.
Examine Your Relationship with Success
Success is. . .
I know I’m successful professionally when . . .
I know I’m a successful parent when. . .
Being a successful partner requires. . .
My friends will think I’m successful if. . .
My parents will think I’m successful if. . .
My siblings will think I’m successful if. . .
Growing up, my parents taught me that being successful means. . .
I think _____ is successful when ______.
I experience envy when I see _____’s success.
Failure is. . .
I’m not successful when. . .
If I’m not successful, then. . .
If I’m not the best. . .
If no one on the outside would ever see _______, I would gladly stop _______.
Thus far in my life, my greatest achievement has been . . .
I feel proud when. . .
After I take my final breath, my most important contribution on this earth will have been. . .
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