It’s a bold statement. I know. It is especially bold coming from someone who has never felt particularly successful.
That someone being me, of course. And success is something I’ve struggled with for a long time.
Do I have a full time job that pays the bills? Yes.
Do I own a house? Yes.
Do I have a master’s degree? Yes.
Do I have a wiener dog? Yes. (Ok. That is maybe no one else’s measure of success but mine. But I mean, I do keep him in kibble & sparkly bandanas. )
Now some other questions.
Am I married? No. I’m divorced.
Do I work full time as a writer? No.
Do I work full time as a vintage shop owner? No.
Have you had any of your fiction published lately? No.
What about your nonfiction stories? No.
Maybe some poetry? Nope. Not that either.
What about dusting? When was the last time you dusted the living room, Pam? Uhhhh…
My list of failures is always much longer than my list of successes. There is ALWAYS something that I am failing at. Usually there are many things I am failing at, all at the same time.
So I get discouraged. I convince myself I am a terrible writer. A terrible housekeeper. Just a terrible person in general that will never succeed at anything she wants ever again in her life.
But I’m sure none of you can relate to that, right? You are all wonderfully, happy people who get the raise, do the laundry, walk the dog and cook dinner from scratch EVERY NIGHT.
I mean, that is what the rest of the population does, I just know it. Or maybe not. Maybe there’s another possibility.
A friend recently told me maybe I am too hard on myself. It wasn’t necessarily a revolutionary thing to say, and yet, WOW, did I need to hear it.
I spend an enormous amount of time worrying about the things I don’t do well, or the things I don’t do at all (like maybe dusting the living room on a regular basis).
When you spend all your time worrying about ways you haven’t succeeded, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to acknowledge the things you have accomplished. And you have accomplished things obviously. And we can see from the first round of questions, I have too.
And also maybe more importantly, you and I should realize that success doesn’t always look like what we thought it would.
Am I Toni Morrison? No.
Will I ever be Toni Morrison? Well for obvious reasons, no.
The bigger point is, even if I don’t publish multiple, award-winning novels, I can still be a success.
So you really want to know the #1 secret to success?
Defining it for yourself and acknowledging it when it occurs in your life.
My success doesn’t have to look like Toni Morrison’s success. Your success doesn’t have to look like your next door neighbor’s success. Or your sister’s. Or your best friend’s.
And maybe that doesn’t mean writing a novel. Or having a perfectly mowed and landscaped yard. Or becoming a lawyer.
And you get to decide when you have achieved it.
It could be getting a raise, or it could be finally asking your boss for a raise (even if you don’t get it).
It could be cooking a fantastic meal from scratch, or it could be deciding you’d rather order pizza and spend more time playing with your kids (or your cat).
The important thing is to not be so hard on yourself all the time. It is great to set goals and work toward these things, but you should also give yourself credit for that— working hard. Putting in the effort is worth something too.
So I am going to give it a try…
Have I had my writing published? Yes.
Am I being paid to write? Yes.
Do I own a vintage store? Yes.
Ok! Now who’s buying the pizza?