There’s an advert on television at the moment that says something about the fact that the woman’s ‘overnight success’ did not happen overnight. I like that advert because it spejas true to many of the things I will be exploring in this post.
I’ve been thinking about success a lot of late and even went as far as asking whether I consider myself to be a success. I’ve been successful at many individual things in my life and those successes have definitely contributed to my growth but I wonder if they, collectively, amount to me being considered a success. I think the answer would differ depending on who you asked. For example, if you asked someone who has gone on to achieve some of the things I am still working towards, he/she might consider me to be on the path of/ to success while another individual, aspiring to goals that I have already achieved, may view the achievement in itself as a success and me as successful. I think it’s okay to measure ourselves against others if it serves to motivate us; I think it is dangerous to do so when it amounts to negative self-speak.
I asked the question on my Instagram account, what success means to my followers, and many women responded saying that they used to view an achievement of a big goal or dream as success but that they have learnt to value the little achievements along the way as success, too. Social media, for me, has a really big impact on how individuals might view themselves; we, unfortunately, cannot escape the inevitable comparison that takes place when we are in the habit of viewing other people’s lives. It has happened to me on many occasions, where I feel really good about something I have produced online, only to see a similar post to mine and see how short mine falls when compared to one that I consider to be better. That’s just one example, and I am a content creator, but if we take away the ideal of curated posts we may even see that we have always been comparing ourselves to people: perhaps he drives the car that you want, perhaps their children go to the ‘better’ school; maybe he did not deserve that promotion over you and maybe, if you sacrificed a little more, you’d finally be as good as she is at her job/mothering/ doing her makeup/ existing. Today, I would like to explore some of these narratives and encourage a conversation that celebrates who we are as individuals and challenges some of the success narratives that flood our ears and screens. I would like to consider a view of success that encourages one to be healthy, whole and happy.
Hard work breeds success.
I truly believe in the above statement. I’ve always worked hard, even at the things I’m good at. I think it is important to encourage consistency, good habits and dedication. What I think is harmful is encouraging the narrative that you should work hard no matter the consequences. We’ve all pulled an all-nighter before and we’ve all had our lives thrown out of balance to meet a deadline or achieve a particular goal. (Can I please say that I am very conscious and considerate of the many men and women who have no choice but to slave away at their jobs to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table, so I am not addressing those individuals here, in fact I have a great deal of admiration and respect for them).
There are consequences to never having a break, to ‘doing it all’ and to pushing ourselves to do more than we are able to. This narrative encourages hard work but it does not take rest, self care and leisure time into consideration, which I believe are really important parts of success. What’s the point of having it all if there’s no time to enjoy it?
We underestimate the role that luck (or grace) plays in our success.
Opportunity. I love that word because it says that you have been given the chance to do what you are great at/ are passionate about. You may be highly skilled and amongst the best at something but without the opportunity, a chance, you may end up in the same club as those who share stories of what could have been. We’ve all been told the story about the uncle who used to be brilliant at rugby in his day, about the child who was brilliant at Maths and Science, the woman who should have gone on to be a really successful business owner because of her brilliant idea, etc. but who went on to live ordinary, sometimes difficult lives because of missed/ a lack of opportunities. Yes, some may be bold and resourceful enough to create their own success but even that says that someone bought into their dreams, someone (or something) gave them a chance – they had the opportunity.
Sometimes you really just need to be at the right place at the right time for that thing to happen – and then you’ve got to make a go of it but the opportunity to do so matters.
I say Grace because God, for me, plays a major role in the doors that have opened or stayed closed in my life.
If you were a little more like…
I think it’s easy to see admirable traits in a successful individual; I believe seeing those things can serve as encouragement and motivation to drive your own goals. The important thing is to learn from others but to bring your energy and ideas to the table. When we try to imitate others we often forget our purpose and our strengths. Confidence and self awareness are two key elements that drive success, that and a clear, determined goal. When we waffle, dabble and doubt we let some of our dreams disintegrate. And when we spend time wishing we were a little less of ourselves we’ve already sold ourselves short of what we are capable of.
There is someone you should be a little more like and that’s you.
I value time and patience. It’s something that I have had to learn to appreciate but understanding and experiencing that everything does not always happen when you want it to builds character.
Time also allows for growth and maturity.
The rewards of something hard-earned are often sweeter.
You need to start.
This year I achieved a goal that I’d been talking to Wesley about for more than a year. I’ve been putting in the work, doing short courses, exploring possibilities and speaking to (the right) people about my intentions. The right opportunity came along when I least expected it (and shortly after I’d suffered a disappointment) but when it was offered to me I was able to accept it with confidence because I’d been preparing for it all along. I spoke life into my vision (and I prayed damn hard about it!) and it reminded me that when you want something you need to prepare your life to receive it.
Failure is a part of success.
You are not always going to succeed at everything. Failing is difficult, sometimes humiliating and not easy to overcome. But if you have the courage to chase something that you want you also need to have enough grit so that you can rise above your failures. You have to be willing to learn from them, too, and be able to admit when it is you who falls short.
Self-reflection, honesty, constructive criticism, wisely sought advice and the willingness to try again are key parts to overcoming failure; only when you are able to move forward can you give yourself another chance at success.
These are some of my ideas around success. I’m sure that many of you will have your own, different ideas about success because your experiences are different to mine. I titled this post ‘Not an overnight success’ not because I do not believe that I am successful at this point in time but because I feel that I am always working towards a new type of success because, as a life-long-learner, I feel that I am always ready to discover more. My experiences keep shaping me and I would hate to think that my success would be capped at any stage in my life. I am a successful academic (in some respects), a successful mom (on most days), an aspiring writer, a warrior at facing mental health challenges and a fighter who tries really hard to just be a nice person – and this is the short list of who I know I am and what I am capable of doing. Some of my successes are intangible but they are as important as the ones that we are able to see. Can I encourage you to measure yourself only against the journey that you have traveled. Let’s listen to motivational speakers and stories of success so that they serve to encourage us but let us step into who we are as individuals and remember that it’s not always about what others can see but about recognising how far you have come.
What are your ideas around success?
Please leave a comment and share where you believe you are on your journey of success.
Until my next post,