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When Is Success Not Success?

As I've written about before, I'm glad that I never managed to become successful as a singer. Failing at that allowed me to follow a much deeper and more real (for me) dream. But when I first started coaching, I still dragged a lot of those beliefs about success with me.
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Retro style portrait of woman with thumbs up
Retro style portrait of woman with thumbs up

Today I found myself thinking about success and fear and what they means to me now vs what they used to mean.

When I was about 12 I realized that I could sing, and not just like "I have a nice voice" sing, but a "with some work I could be a major opera singer" kind of sing.This idea of myself as a professional opera singer formed my whole self identity for most of my teens and a significant part of my 20s. I always felt like my "success" was just round the corner. Any day now I would be a professional performer and my life would officially start. Problem was I spent the better part of 10 years waiting for my life to start, because life is only "real" when you've made it right?

The interesting thing about pushing for a vision of success that you don't really buy into on a deeper level, is that you sabotage the hell out of yourself!

The reality is, I love to sing and I love opera. Here's the catch though, I hate performing and more than that, I always felt like I was fighting to maintain the idea of being a professional singer, rather than being one. When I look back now, and see the millions of ways that I sabotaged myself because I didn't feel like I fit the model of success, it's actually quite hilarious. I didn't feel successful, so I made damn sure that I would never be successful. After all, you're never going to make it if you keep dropping out of shows and not turning up to auditions!

As I've written about before, I'm glad that I never managed to become successful as a singer. Failing at that allowed me to follow a much deeper and more real (for me) dream. But when I first started coaching, I still dragged a lot of those beliefs about success with me.

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One of my biggest struggles as a coach has been feeling like my work is good enough, because often I don't match other people's idea of success.

To show you how ridiculous this is, Consider my background as a coach.

  • I self coached my way out of serious depression and anxiety, before I had ever heard about emotional intelligence or coaching.
  • I started my blog having zero understanding of how it works and having no idea of what I was doing.
  • I had no money for studying when I started training. Seriously. I begged and borrowed training material, spent countless hours in libraries and online learning everything I could get my hands on. And I lucked out when a friend of mine who is a psychologist gave me all his university texts books so I could continue learning with his help. Then finally I ended up getting a university qualification with a straight A+ average.
  • I learned how to use Wordpress, Facebook, PayPal, membership platforms, mail chimp, survey monkey and even InDesign (and I'm technologically challenged so these are a big deal for me!)
  • I've run self development workshops for anything from 2 -30 people at a time.
  • I've single handedly run my practice for 4 years
  • And then I started self publishing books.
  • Oh, and then there's the little matter of the hundreds (thousands if you add in my blog and FB page) of people who have been positively impacted by my work.

Yeah. Little ol me. I am a damn good coach and I worked my butt off to find ways to get to where I am now, so take a moment to consider that list, and then laugh with me as I tell you that I still have days where I don't feel like I'm successful (and there are even drama queen days where I feel like a failure) because I'm still working on some of my goals, or because I don't "look" successful. After all, I'm not Oprah or Tony Robbins yet right?

Go on, laugh.

You should be laughing, it's absurd.

Here's the thing though, we live in a society that constantly preys on and encourages our fears, and teaches us that the end game is the only thing that counts. Whether the measure of success is the size of your bank account, or your ass... If its someone elses measure of success that you don't genuinely believe in, on a deep and value based level, then striving for it comes from a place of fear. But more that that, because we focus so constantly on the end result, all the time that is spent in that "Not ideal yet" space, is perceived as failure.

Success is not a place, its an experience

We need to change the conversation about success, we need to start evaluating why we are striving for a particular and narrow version of success. We need to question who we are trying to be successful for. And we need first to gain real clarity on what would truly make us feel successful, and go after that with passion and tenacity.

And enjoy the ride. After all, you don't feel like a failure when you're on a road trip and haven't yet reached your destination do you?

Success is not a place, it's an experience.