Success. What is it? Being a mom to school age kiddos, I find myself defining it through their eyes as an accomplishment, whether it be progress made in school, doing well on a spelling test or hitting a ground ball in baseball. According to Webster’s dictionary, it is defined as, “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
Success has never really been a word or action I’ve pondered; being a school teacher, success could mean a multitude of things. Sometimes it meant surviving the school year with a tough class, gaining respect from students, or not having disgruntled parents approach me during the school year. Success could also mean above average scores on state tests or goals met on IEP’s. I found success as a school teacher to be dependent on others, mainly the students, and not so much about myself and/or what I did to accomplish the above.
This past year, however, I have been chasing the meaning of success like it was my responsibility and/or j.o.b. The root of this obsession was failure. Yes, the one thing many of us try to steer clear from and most of us fear, FAILURE.
Rewind: I left a very secure, reputable career to journey through a world of business and sales – something I had never done before. It was a risk, but I felt I needed to take this leap to spread my wings and prove to myself that I could create my own success. In this new journey, I learned a lot about myself and discovered many positive qualities I never knew existed. This birthed a whole new level of confidence, and I felt I had gained the qualities that could/would create the success (climbing the ladder with financial gain) that I had watched around me.
To make a long story short, that business idea didn’t quite turn out. In fact, it failed. Many people might be shaking their heads in disagreement. Was I successful in the process? Yes. It did, however, come to an end and that is okay. Failing is okay; it doesn’t make me a failure and in fact it became a stepping stone to the next chapter in my journey. Although I can say this with confidence and a smile now, it took awhile to heal and process all that had taken place with failure being the focal point. In all honesty, this entire last year has been an emotional roller coaster. It was a reprogramming of my emotional state, not allowing shame, guilt, fear, or resentment to take residence in my heart. I will spare you the journey, but I will share some of the lowlights, highlights and defining moments.
Being on the other side now has made me realize I haven’t lost any time or traction in my life with this transition. Instead, I have regained perspective on life’s true treasures, felt the peace and comfort of God’s presence, gained wisdom, and discovered the grit it took to get back up and keep moving forward. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine – it was a process of stripping one’s pride in the face of humility. The lowlights were the emotional battles I faced with shame, comparison, and the repeated “should-ing” on myself: “I should have done this. I should have done that.” This emotional battle was consuming and exhausting.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up,” James 4:10.
True confession: I am a Christian who tends to pray for others and not so much myself. Instead, I try to figure life out all on my own. The result of trying to figure it all out has left me feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and out of control. How quickly I have forgotten that I am not in control of most things, so I need to let it go and surrender, allowing peace to settle in. Easier said than done. It is a daily decision to surrender, to pray away the anxiousness, and to truly trust in God’s plan for my life. Every day is a choice to choose to be grateful or filled with envy. Each day I can live in the past and “should” on myself or to be reminded of this beautiful scripture in Isaiah 43:18 – 19:
“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
What I found in this year of transition is that there is in fact another definition to success: “The correct or desired result of an attempt.” I have also learned that we all have different definitions of success in our own personal and professional lives. My personal desire is to live in joy and have peace within. It starts first by living in gratitude, and not focusing on the things I desire, but what I already possess – love, health, family, beautiful friendships, and most importantly my faith. No matter what job or career I have, I am not defined by it. I will BE who I am, DO what I do, and LIVE. I will live my best life by loving, writing, praying, reading, growing, speaking, and being the light for others.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33