What does success look like?

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“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill

I was travelling around Northern Ireland this week attending multiple work-related meetings which were of a diverse nature and covered a wide spectrum of services and projects happening here. I sometimes feel frustrated by the need to travel about to these and occasionally end my day with a sense of not having achieved much other than arranging the date of the next meeting. That honestly wasn’t the case this week as I had the good fortune to hear about, and contribute to, positive things happening in healthcare. I also met some very inspirational people whom I can envisage working with extensively in the future.

In one such meeting we were having a discussion about ‘what success would look like.’ I won’t go into the context of that discussion but it prompted me to think about my own life and how I perceive success. I have a habit of acknowledging and holding onto any failures much more than giving myself credit for success, but the outcome of this behaviour is only to prevent future ‘wins’ in life and enjoyment of them when they occur.

My last blog spoke about stepping out of my comfort zone and accepting more speaking engagements and I described an event in London where the feedback from the attendees and organisers was overwhelmingly positive. Over the days following this however I really started to question what I said, and how I had said it, and really unravelling something that had gone well into something more negative within my mindset. Thankfully I am now more self-aware through my personal development efforts and I caught this bad behaviour early and started listing the positives again. I’ve been contacted since by other expert panel members and event attendees keen to learn more and explore ways of working together – so the negative thinking was possibly just my ‘ego’ trying to beat me right back into my comfort box!

When my life was really imploding in every way imaginable almost a decade ago (where do the years go?), I just kept going. I moved back home (with not much choice admittedly), got a new job, re-established old friendships (thank you to all those who were there for me even when we hadn’t been in touch for years), made new friendships and worked through the ‘to-do’ list of aiming to put my life back together. The mistakes of the past have however really blocked me at times from moving forward and chasing my dreams and goals; they have resulted in mental blocks surrounded by guilt and lack of forgiveness for myself for being….well, just human. We all make mistakes and often we make decisions based on what we believe is the best thing to do at the time.  To err is human….

I’ve come to realise over recent weeks that I need to acknowledge these blocks but also to finally release them. I also need to acknowledge any success I have obtained in the context of what we all personally perceive or define as ‘success.’ I’m an academic, an ‘over-achiever’ (according to one of my university lecturers back in the day!), a perfectionist and a ‘people-pleaser’. That probably means I judge myself by ridiculously high standards. I am also someone who loves to help others, enjoys solving a problem, thrives on making a difference and relishes in the warmth of the company of my friends and family. Success to me is not just reflected by the awards on my office window sill or the certificates on the wall. It is the ability to relax and enjoy time with those I love and also to have the ability to make a difference in the world however small or large scale that may be.

I have had to release the past which cannot be reclaimed so I can appreciate these things much more than I maybe did before and that release probably means I can achieve much more through platforms such as The Swan Doctor.

My curiosity about success – how to define it and how others perceive it – kept with me this week so I posted on social media and asked the question:

“For you, what does success look like?”

It was a question which seemed to really challenge people, caused some debate and elicited

Word Cloud of Facebook Comments about Success

more comments than I have ever had before. Clearly this is something we all struggle with describing or capturing, but the responses were overall so incredibly heartening and inspiring. ‘Striving’ to achieve contentment and happiness was key with success embedded within the joy of seeing family thrive and also achieve their own happiness. The setting of goals, no matter how small, and the achievement of them emerged. One respondent queried how age affected the comments and response. The assumption would be that our idea of success would look vastly different as we move from our twenties through to middle age and our final years. Admittedly most people reacting to my question were of a similar age to myself (proud to say I am in my forties), but one final comment really captured how this can change throughout our life journey.

‘To me success is happiness. How at ease and at peace I feel in my life. Therefore success to me is a moving feast because different things bring me happiness at different stages in my life.’

I seem to be going through a personal period of growth and change. Within this I am working on my new goals to ultimately achieve my own sense of true success with the associated contentment, freedom and happiness. I know as I do this I will keep questioning what success looks like and therefore I welcome the debate to continue.

Please tell me……For you, what does success look like?

Ruth

The Swan Doctor

Ruth