Well, yes and no. But I’m inclined to think from what I’ve been hearing and reading lately it’s more of a yes.
I’m not exactly sure how I’m defining successful here but the more time I spend reading posts on LinkedIn and other business and entrepreneurial type publications the more I keep coming across articles written by those – somewhat semi-famous in their fields — about how they achieved their major career successes.
What I’d been looking for to motivate and inspire I found was often leaving me feeling discouraged and frustrated. This is because the more articles I read the more I kept hearing similar messages about how to be a successful (seemingly defined by wealth, power, and prestige).
Phrases like ‘Never let yourself be satisfied’, or ‘Aim higher’, or ‘Work harder’, or ‘Push yourself beyond what you think you can handle,’ or ‘As soon as you reach a goal, set a new and bigger one,’ or ‘Don’t rest until you get there’ (for someone who loves her sleep this one sounds awful), or ‘Don’t ever let yourself settle’, and so on and so forth. I think you get the idea.
I do believe such authors are genuinely trying to be inspirational, but after a while it starts to seem like the underlying messages are all the same: “The only way to be successful is to never feel good about who you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re at.”
Now I’m not saying having goals, dreams, and ambitions are bad. Not in the least – in fact I think having things we are working toward and accomplishing on a regular basis is a pretty critical part of our personal happiness and satisfaction, but where is the line?
The more I read, the more I hear: “PUSH, PUSH, PUSH! GO! GO! GO!” and the less I hear: “Set a goal, work toward it, reach it, and feel really good about what you’ve done and be really proud of yourself for persevering and doing a good job.”
Or “Take time to appreciate and be grateful for what you have and what you’re doing with your life.” Or “Find a moment to look back to where you were and where you are now, and let yourself just absorb and sit in this feeling accomplishment.”
It seems pretty unhealthy and unbalanced to push so hard without ever allowing oneself to be satisfied or just take a few minutes to sit and absorb and feel good about the goals one has reached.
And what drives such behaviour? From where I stand it seems like many are out spending their time, energy, and effort working themselves to the bone in order to prove they are good enough. That they are worthwhile and significant human beings. And it comes at the expense of all the other really important things in life.
If this is the case, then it must be worth it. But do you think it works? Can we actually prove our worthiness or significance through our big accomplishments?
I have heard many times from clients I work with that they just really want to be successful to prove to someone (usually a parent- oh Freud does it always have to come back to the parents?) that they are good enough.
And to that I ask: “So then what? Once you’ve achieved your ambitious goal that you believe will earn you wealth, awe, and admiration at the cost of all else, what will happen? Do you feel like you will finally be happy and this feeling of internal discontent will be resolved?”
Can one be willing to sacrifice and forsake all else – friends, family, wellness or any other semblance of healthy life balance without being motivated by an internal struggle toward resolving something deeper?
And if this is the case, is it worth it? Especially if “getting there” won’t actuallyget you there?
And if you’re never actually allowed to be satisfied, how can you ever feel content with yourself and your life?
Is it possible to push oneself this hard AND be emotionally and psychologically well-balanced?
Just because its what I’ve been reading about and experiencing in my practice, it doesn’t mean I’m across the board right with this and there aren’t also many exceptions.
But I want to hear from you. I want to hear about what you think are healthy and positive motivators for success. And further to this, how do YOU define success?