Does any of this seem familiar?
- “Success for me is a $100k job”
- “Success for me is a $300k business”
- “Success for me is 3 million subscribers”
And then when you reach those goals, the euphoria lasts only a short while, and you’re chasing again.
“Our brains’ reward system drives us to achieve goals and rewards us with a great sense of pleasure when we do. But that pleasure is short-lived, as our brains are hardwired to also seek balance from extreme emotional states. That leaves us with an empty longing to repeat whatever experience brought us that pleasure in the first place. This ostensibly addictive cycle throws our “enoughness” barometers completely out of whack, preventing us from being able to objectively gauge if what we’ve achieved is, in fact, satisfying. That’s why, although most of us intuitively know that happiness isn’t realized from the pursuit of money, status, or fame, we can’t stop ourselves from trying. If you really want lasting satisfaction in life, you’ll need to relearn your approach to finding it.”– Ron Carucci, Harvard Business Review
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For years, we’ve measured ourselves as if we were bags of rice, cups of tea, and gallons of gas. ‘Objectify’ is the word.
But I am tired. You are too, and that’s why you’re here.
We’re all tired of chasing a goalpost that never stops running.
What if, instead of giving into the push and pull of societal expectations — the constant noise about what success “should” look like…
What if, instead, we focused on having a beautiful journey, instead of reaching a beautiful destination?
Here’s how I stopped chasing and found true happiness:
Step 1: Unplug from Social Media and External Influences
Highlight reels, comparisons, and the relentless pursuit of validation can cloud our judgment and distance us from our authentic selves.
I used to start my day by scrolling through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Every morning, I’d see some new announcement about a new job, a sold-out product launch, or a family channel blowing up with views. And I’d feel the pressure to find a full-time job, create a product, or start a family channel.
As if that wasn’t enough, I’d check in tens of times per day, refreshing my notifications and observing which jokes or photos got the most comments.
External factors like that distracted me from my unique strengths and real values, and I found myself starting to shape up to those definitions of success.
I still have social media for work (I’m a Content Marketer), and news, so to reset myself in order to find my values again, I’ve:
- Disabled non-essential notifications. Without constant pings drawing you in, you’ll find it easier to control your social media usage.
- Dedicated specific times in the day for social media and stuck to them. For instance, I avoid checking social media first thing in the morning or right before bed.
- Designated one day a week (Sundays and Saturdays) to stay off social media platforms entirely. This can help reset and refocus your mind.
- Unfollowed negative accounts and curated my feeds. Curate your feed to reflect positivity, genuine connections, and content that aligns with your values.
Some tools I’ve used to achieve this include:
Instead of spending an extra half hour on social media, I’ve started to read a book, take a walk, meditate, or play with my kids again. And these activities are helping me rediscover myself.
Step 2: Identify and Embrace Your Values
When you identify what truly matters to you, it becomes easier to align your actions and decisions with your core values. It eliminates unnecessary pressures and allows the pursuit of what brings genuine contentment and fulfillment.
I value time freedom and control, for example, if I take up a full-time role, there’s a high chance that I’d be overwhelmed and exhausted, risking my well-being.
When I understood this, it finally made sense why working full-time and even working for some clients didn’t satisfy me.
To identify your values:
- Reflect and write down what is truly important to you: like family, career growth, self-care, or personal development.
- Prioritize Your Values: Once listed, arrange them in order of importance to understand where you want to focus your energy and time.
- Align Your Actions: Evaluate your daily activities and routines to see if they align with your prioritized values. If they don’t, consider how you can realign them.
I’ve found that describing what a happy day would look like, and noting activities that make me most happy are some of the best ways to pinpoint my values.
Step 3: Set Personal Goal Caps (Not Goals)
Goals often lead to a sense of failure and dissatisfaction because you set new ones once you reach them, or feel sad if you don’t meet them.
Instead, set caps. Goal caps prevent overcommitment and overextension, fostering a healthier, more sustainable relationship with your ambitions. For example, instead of ‘I want to make $10k per month’, say ‘I won’t take more than $10k worth of work per month’.
This subtle yet transformative shift from aspiration to limitation resets your expectations and recenters your priorities.
It’s like having a container with a specific capacity; when you know the limit, you’re more mindful of what you choose to fill it with.
- Define Your Caps Clearly: Clearly identify the upper limits for your goals. Be it income, work hours, or any other parameter, know your maximum threshold.
- Align Caps with Values: Ensure your goal caps are in harmony with your core values and priorities, promoting balance and contentment.
- Monitor Your Progress: Regularly assess your adherence to your caps, making adjustments as needed to maintain alignment with your overall life vision.
- Embrace Flexibility: Understand that circumstances change, and be willing to modify your caps accordingly, ensuring they serve your current needs and aspirations. I’ve had a $30k income cap before when I was saving aggressively for a home, and a $3k cap when I needed more time with my daughter who has hearing loss.
- Celebrate Balance: Acknowledge and appreciate the equilibrium and personal fulfillment achieved through adhering to your goal caps, reinforcing their value in your life journey.
Step 4: Establish Boundaries
Boundaries act as protective fences around your valued priorities and mental health. There’s no point cutting back on career goals only to find yourself overwhelmed by favors and requests from friends you don’t care for.
It’s OK if you want to volunteer at your child’s school, or donate time to a local non-profit. But if your activities are not the core things you care about and end up draining your energy establishing clear boundaries allows you to maintain commitments without feeling stretched thin.
- Communicate Your Limits: Clearly tell family, friends, colleagues, church, and school what you can and cannot commit to.
- Learn to Say No: Ruthless prioritization will be your friend on this journey. Politely decline tasks and responsibilities that do not align with your values and goals.
- Prioritize Self-care: Regularly allocate time for rest and activities you enjoy to stay attuned to your values.
Step 5: Practice Gratitude and Mindfulness
Appreciating what you have and being present in each moment fosters contentment, reduces stress, and enhances overall well-being.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”—Melody Beattie
- Maintain a Gratitude Journal: Regularly jot down things you are thankful for.
- Reflect: Regularly contemplate on your journey, learnings, and achievements.
For example, you could start or end each day by listing three things you are grateful for, such as a loving family, good health, or a fulfilling job.
“If dissatisfaction can be learned, so can satisfaction”
Redefining personal success is not about fitting into societal molds, but about creating a life that resonates with your core values and desires. By identifying your values, setting goal caps, establishing boundaries, and practicing gratitude, you craft your unique path to “having it all.”
The goalpost will keep shifting and if you make the end-goal your measure of success, you’ll never find true success. Because humans never stop chasing (hello dopamine transmitter).
Don’t reach for success, turn your life into a journey through success.