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More Success Or More Meaning?

This is a guest post by Dr. Shawn Haywood

There is an almost mechanical drive to attain more success in today’s culture.  We are taught messages from a very young age about what it means to be a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’, or a ‘success or a failure’. 

And certainly, no one wants to be a loser or a failure.

But what defines win, lose, success, fail?  Have you taken the time to examine your current belief system around these terms?  And do your current definitions serve your best efforts, allow to feel alive and live life as an adventure, provide you with mental and emotional freedom, and to be completely authentic?

I learned the lessons of win, lose, success, fail very well from my family, school system and athletics growing up.  Though I found later in life that they needed a serious upgrade!  As a result of the messages I interpreted, I became an extremely poor and angry loser (even with things as trivial as board games.  This caused tremendous sport related anxiety and myriad types of fear, including test anxiety and fear of taking risks for fear of failing.

Living life on a model set to an either or system like, ‘winner’ or a ‘loser’, or a ‘success or a failure’, is a poor and fruitless one indeed.  Life is lived in the grey area.  And life is lived fully when it is filled with meaning and purpose.

In our quest for attainment, achievement, success, or winning, (as these ideas are interchangeable), we must seek to understand what lies deep beneath the surface or our striving if we plan to live more freely and joyfully.

I used to believe with a full heart (unconsciously of course) that I was only good enough, lovable enough, worthy enough and valuable enough … when I was successful enough.  The sad and frustrating thing about this quest?  What is enough?  This undefined measure is crippling for you, as it was for me.  There was never enough winning for me to feel complete in my old life, whatever winning / succeeding meant at any given time.

How about you?  What are your measures of enoughness?  Success?  Achievement?  Are they defined specifically and strategically to bring your life great joy and fulfillment?  Or is an empty sort of blind, striving the name of your current game, like it was for me years ago?  Chasing a mythical unicorn is anything but fulfilling.

Just like the ridiculous character Ricky Bobby, in Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!” was truth in my mind!  During my long gymnastics career (equal parts passion and pain), I always felt that standing anywhere besides the first place podium spot was shameful and humiliating.  

Of course, as an adult women, who has had the very good fortune of experiencing a great deal of healing and conscious belief shifting, I know that version of me was a confused little girl who just wanted to be and feel like enough.  

Unfortunately, it took many years into my late twenties to begin ‘unlearning’ the lessons of what attainment, achievement, success, and winning meant to me, and then shift into what I wanted them to mean to me and how I wanted them to define my daily living.

This was no lack-luster transformation!

My inner shift went from a demanding, critical, tyrannical voice that echoed, ‘win and succeed at all costs’, ‘you’ll never be enough’, and ‘perfection is the only way to be loved’, with fear in the driver’s seat far too often; to a kind, gentle, deliberate, compassionate voice who championed deliberate life re-design (body, mind, emotions, thoughts, and spirit).  The transformation was toward deep meaningful and purpose-filled thriving…

What does your icky voice echo?  Have you slowed down or stopped long enough to hear it?  Whatever your icky voice echoes about needing to be ‘more, better, higher achieving, faster, thinner, smarter, and so’ is slowly killing you, your dreams, your sense of freedom, your spirit - and it is most definitely begging to be replaced with a voice that chants and champions deep meaning, adventure, playfulness, softness and purpose-filled living.

Who gives a rip if you make 200K or 1M each year, have a hot spouse, or a super pimp car / house / bike / body, if you feel alone or sad?  If you fight with or feel disconnected from your partner?  If your sport drives you to constant pain and injury?  Or if your business owns your entire life?  

‘What is the point of conquering the world, but having nothing?’

I advocate for freedom and meaning in all areas of life, and defining success specifically.  Learning to live a life steeped in deep meaning, joy, play and adventure is a life worth more than all the gold on the planet.

Live Free Actions!

Take a few minutes to journal / write / type about how the following ideas do or could apply to your life.

1. Have you clearly defined success for all facets of your life? 

When success is defined, you can live a success-filled, meaningful journey every day.  Instead of depending upon certain brief moments that occur off in the distant future to bring you peaks at joy, and only last but a moment!  If you’re chasing illusive ghosts, you will suffer more than necessary.  If you are living inside of meaning, purpose and adventure, you will flourish.

2. Does your life / relationship / training, function on a deliberate, value-driven plan?  Similar to that of a strategic or marketing plan for a business.  This kind of plan will guide your life, provide focus, and remove mounds of stress.

3. What would your life look like and feel like if it were deeply rooted in meaning, purpose, play and adventure?  What would change?  How would your relationships shift?  How would your mood and attitude change?  What would occur or change in your career or business?

Making changes is really not all that difficult.  Sometimes changing the ‘tune’ of our life can seem frightening or emotional, but most shifts and changes are not difficult, the merely require focus and dedication.

Take time to consider how striving for success or living with deep meaning show up in your life currently, and how would you like to see each idea change?

If you’d like support along your life’s journey, creating a life plan, defining success, or checking out my ‘Core Values’, program, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Cheers, Shawn


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