Recently I had a meaningful conversation with my sons about living up to their full potential; working hard and making sacrifices in order to be successful. At those young ages you think success will be easy and attainable. I mean, if you work hard enough or come up with the next great idea you could easily become a millionaire, or at least independently wealthy. Optimism squeezes out any doubt, and hopes of a brilliantly bright future blind any fears that may be trying to pull at your heart.
As we were talking, the subject of success continued to surface. Being successful, chasing success, having a successful career, marriage, life—how do you define that? The discussion piqued my curiosity, “what is the standard by which you can look into your own life and say, ‘yes, according to (insert standard here) I am a success.’” I realized as we dove further into the conversation that even being raised by the same parents in a similar environment, the idea of what success looks like is different from one person to the next. What I might define as successful, another member of my family might not.
Some might consider making a lot of money the standard for success, others might say investing in people is worth more than silver or gold. Some might think less is more and others can’t get enough. So I began to wonder, “What is the one factor or idea about success on which we can all agree.”
Many of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I am a very amateur runner. Maybe jogger is a more accurate description. Anyway, not long ago I ran in a 5k where the proceeds went to help sponsor the Ronald McDonald house, I am a big fan of this organization and what they do. It was hotter than Hades and the humidity had to be at one hundred percent. When it was finally time for the race to begin, the national anthem had been sung and we heard over the bull horn, “on your mark, get set, GO!” I started to run. The only problem was I wasn’t really able to run as fast as I started out. What I mean is, I was running at a pace I knew I could not maintain. I was caught up in the adrenaline of the moment. The excitement of a yelling crowd, upbeat music playing in my ear buds and other runners flying by me.
I desperately wanted to keep up.
So I did.
I was living in the moment and it was beyond my abilities, but it felt so good to be so fast, so I kept going. By the second mile, I was feeling the heat, my legs began to feel like lead and I could hardly catch my breath. Moms with strollers which housed large children began to pass me, ladies and gentlemen who were twenty to thirty years my senior sailed by, all I could do was keep putting one foot in front of the other. I continued to slow until by the third mile I prayed, “Lord, please help me to survive this and finish and I promise to be smarter next time.” Now, it remains to be seen if I’ll be smarter, but I know I learned a valuable lesson.
Don’t look around and try to be like the crowd.
Run your own race.
I knew what my pace should’ve been, I knew what I could do, but I wanted to be like the faster ones, the ones who looked so graceful and successful. My own ability suddenly seemed small in the light of what they were capable of doing and I felt I needed to keep up, to do what they were doing. In the end, none of it felt very outstanding as I staggered across the finish line.
There is nothing wrong with challenging yourself and being competitive, but whether or not you feel successful should not hinge on how your outcome compares to those around you.
Success comes in the effort.
I heard this quote not long ago and it continues to echo in my heart, it applies so much to what I am attempting to say…
THE MAN IN THE ARENA
by: Theodore Roosevelt
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So that helps me to wrap some words around what successful living means. It’s not in the failing or the achieving, but in the trying.
I looked up the definition of success in Webster’s dictionary and according to him it is “the correct or desired result of an attempt.” I need to ask myself as I am attempting to do something hard or out of my comfort zone, for what result am I looking? And is the result going to be for my betterment or for the betterment of those around me? And am I doing my best to reach my desired result? I don’t need to ask myself, “How did I fare compared to those around me?” “Did anyone compliment me or notice my effort?” Those types of questions are speculative at best, and subject to public opinion.
There has to be a place in your heart and mind where you set your goal, and no matter what happens or how anyone else performs around you, you see the success in your attempt.
Success or failure is found in the effort.
I’ve been leading a Bible study at my local church. Actually I’m a facilitator as the study is discussion driven. I’m attempting something out of my comfort zone. I’ve facilitated studies in the past, but it has been years ago before my mom passed, my children moved out, and life seemed so much simpler. It was back when my kids were little and I felt as if I had a message to bring to the table. A lot has happened since I led the last study and I have learned how little I really know.
Loss has taught me many lessons.
As a result of my sorrow I found myself hiding from any real attempt at teaching anybody anything; what did I know anyway? Well, the Lord never lets us stay in places that are unhealthy for long, He calls us into the light, into a place of healing. Part of my healing is leading this group of dedicated church attenders in a study about prayer. I’m loving it. Whether or not anyone receives a single word of encouragement from this study, I have to remind myself that how the participants feel is not how my success will be determined, it will be my attempt, in the trying.
Are you starting to see the pattern?
Your success is in the attempt. It’s in putting forth your greatest effort and finding joy and fulfilment in the trying not necessarily in the results.
What are you attempting today? What has you outside of your comfort zone, cringing at the effort and fear of failure? Stop and really think and pray about what you would like to see happen and then put your heart into it and celebrate as you accomplish each goal.
Set your goals and run with them. (Pun intended, I couldn’t help myself.)
And then take time to celebrate your success.
Oh, and a happy dance is always in order.