Our American culture defines success in terms of power, prestige, and money, which deprives the term of its greater meaning. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes this definition of success: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to leave the world a better place; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
We can’t all be poet laureates, or win a Nobel Peace Prize. We may not have invented the technology tool that connects us with people all over the world, but when we do what we can and reach out to each other, we enrich the lives of everyone around us, often more than we know. And if it’s hard for us to notice or acknowledge our own areas of success, let’s use this as a reminder of the difference we can make.
Those of us who have dealt with cancer know there are days that are so difficult that our first thought is to shut down. However, when we choose a treatment plan that is right for us, we are succeeding. When we complete another round of chemo or radiation, laugh at our bald head, get out of bed for a few minutes, or continue drug therapy, we are succeeding. Even when, after careful evaluation, we make the hard choice to stop treatment, we are still working in our best interest and therefore succeeding. When we choose even a minor change towards healthy eating, do our stretching exercises, and create a positive environment around us that nurtures others, we have reason to feel proud. When we practice focused introspection to better know ourselves and make meditation a priority, we reap the benefits of knowing this is happening for us, not to us. Our inner peace makes the world a more peaceful place. These are all steps to creating a peaceful and successful life, even in the middle of cancer.
Everyday success is also found in forgiving others instead of holding a grudge, letting peace of mind ripple back into the world. Forgiving ourselves and letting go of the past can be even harder. If we can love ourselves enough to give ourselves a break, our ability to love others is enhanced and love ripples into the world. When we avoid the urge to dominate a conversation and listen so that someone can find his or her own way, compassion ripples into the world. When we take time to express appreciation for someone’s positive efforts that might go unnoticed, gratitude and confidence ripple into the world. And when we own a mistake and use it as a point of growth, forgiveness and maturity ripple into the world.
Joe Girard wrote, “The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs. . . one step at a time.” That is how everyday success works. Helping someone who you know can’t offer anything in return is a step. Finding pleasure in your work — or, in my case, putting my heart into a blog — is another step. When we enjoy ourselves, even though our to-do lists aren’t finished, we’re still stepping into everyday success because enjoyment is success. Lists are meant to be guidelines, not unbendable rules. Keeping an open mind and learning from someone else creates new possibilities for loving relationships. Other steps use creativity: Any time we create art, music, poetry, storytelling, jewelry or games with heart and positive intention, we release love into the world.
Sometimes everyday success is pulling away from activity and having a quiet, nurturing cup of your favorite beverage in the middle of the day, and sometimes it is walking away from a person or situation that we know is toxic for us. Both are important. If we know what matters to us, and consistently take daily steps to fill our lives with meaning, we will live with the kind of passion and purpose that inspires us, as well as the people around us. This is just a small beginning of what everyday success looks like, but it’s enough to start us thinking. Let’s take a closer look at our days – I think you will find they are full of everyday success that ripples quiet inspiration to those around you.
Until Next Time – Sylvia