A month or so ago I had 7hrs of driving for a 90min work meeting. I downloaded an audiobook for the occasion – not realising until too late that it was a novella and would occupy me for less than 2hrs.
Thankfully I had a gazillion podcasts on hand to keep me company. A series I particularly enjoyed was Let It Be, by Kelly Exeter and Brooke McAlary. Their discussions centre around living simply and authentically, and the sessions that resonated focussed on happiness, success and… our legacy.
In particular I could relate to the sense that – what we often think will make us happy – doesn’t. And what we think of as success, doesn’t ultimately feel like it.
And then last week I came across an article by Christie Inge, a life coach whose pragmatic approach appeals (and whose quotes and memes I’m constantly sharing on social media!).
Christie’s post about ‘getting what you want’ reminded me of the Let It Be podcasts and has been marinating in my little mind ever since.
Like Kelly and Brooke, Christie talks about ‘success’ not necessarily bringing us happiness, and that – in fact – the success we may aspire to may not be what we are seeking after all.
When young, success to me would have centred around marrying and having a family. I wasn’t particularly professionally ambitious in my teenage years or early 20s. I’d been the younger less-talented sister of a high-achieving brother and was kinda accustomed to playing that support role. I imagined myself with some high powered / wealthy / sporty type of person and figured I’d have children and live happily ever after.
No romance was forthcoming and by the time I hit my 30s, I started to realise that if I wanted something decent from life, it was up to me to get it. I figured success was about doing well in my career, having interesting and edgy jobs, earning a good salary and – hopefully – enjoying what I did. Or at least not hating it too much.
And of course, I still secretly hoped I’d meet someone, fall in love and have a family.
Fast forward to my early(ish) 40s. I had a nice apartment (and hefty mortgage), a nice car and interesting job. To most, I was doing okay.
However, my father had passed away and the option of children was taken off the table. I had little life outside of work. I guess, in Kelly and Brooke-speak I started thinking about my legacy.
What would I leave behind when I was gone?
Kelly and Brooke talk about success meaning little if you’ve no one to share it with. True. And there was a sense of summit syndrome. Each time a dream of aspiration or goal came to pass, I’d shrug and look to what I’d next need to do. To feel successful. To feel worthy. To feel happy.
I imagined living another 5, 10, 20 years as I was. And was filled with horror.
I didn’t know what I wanted in life. But as Christie discusses in her post. I realised what I DID NOT WANT.
Even if we’re not sure what we want Christie suggests we start to notice. Everything. What we like and what we don’t. What feels good and what doesn’t.
“See, when you feel good, you are in alignment with your needs, your deepest longing, your soul. When you feel like crap, you aren’t.”
What came next is no secret. I made my seachange.
It’s been four years since I took the leap and there’s been a lot of soul searching since. But I’ve been happier than ever.
Success in my new life is about being happy. Or at least contented. Or – at worst – NOT dissatisfied.
Brooke and Kelly suggested that IF we know the kind of life we want to live, we can refer back to it when making decisions. Like a touchstone.
Recently the perfect job popped up locally. It was the exact role I used to do in government. The money was okay. It would have been interesting and challenging. I felt like I SHOULD apply. Like I said, it was perfect. Fate. Kismet. Or similar.
Except… there was a gnawing feeling in my stomach. I didn’t want to work full-time. I wanted time to write. I didn’t want to ‘lose’ myself to someone else’s priorities any more. I didn’t want to do something solely because I felt I SHOULD. And because of how it would be perceived by others.
I sat down to do the application. And paused. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I felt it in my heart and in my head. And then there was that gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach. So I ‘allowed’ myself to push it aside and get on with the life I’m enjoying.
I can’t promise I will never pursue that kind of life again, but instead I’m thinking more about what I really want. I may not entirely know what that is yet, but I certainly know what it is I DON’T want.
Do you believe success and happiness are linked? Have either been what you expected?
I’ve joined Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit and some other bloggers to help promote “ageing positively” and the Lovin’ Life mindset across the interwebs. You can link up via any one of us!