If you leave a small child to do what comes naturally to her, you will see her play, pretend, explore through her own imagination, and be curious and inquisitive with just about everything she touches. If there’s a button, she pushes it. If there is a door to open, she opens it. If there is a space to fill, she fills it in the wildest and most imaginative way possible.
Then something happens. We draw the box. We show her limits. We show her conformity.
She may struggle. But eventually she learns to fit in. Even when we tell her to color outside of the box, she knows action speaks louder than words. She knows by the way we approach life that there is rule and order to everything. And the only way to fit in is if she does what is expected.
We’re taught from childhood about the right path to be on. Go to school, get the job, buy lots of things, “look” like a million bucks, spend the rest of a lifetime paying for your things, die an early death from all the stress. Okay, maybe those last couple of phrases are things I’ve added to stir up the pot a little, but hopefully you see the point in what I’ve said.
William McNamara wrote, “Possibly the greatest malaise in our country is our neurotic compulsion to work.”
Tim Hansel wrote, “When work becomes a person’s all consuming interest, even if the work is good and necessary, it is idolatry.”
What’s missing? Play.
I’ve been following Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s meditation program for many months now, and the current 21 day program is all about expanding your happiness. In one of the meditations, Deepak spoke of play. The universe is recreational; it has a sense of playfulness to it from the beginning of time. Yet our everyday lives are anything but playful. We work, we’re stressed, we’re always behind.
By living that way, we take the fun out of life. Being too serious takes away from our playful self. It squashes our creativity and takes us away from discovering what we’re truly all about. We can’t discover whom we really are, what is locked deep inside when we’re always serious about our direction and what we have to accomplish.
And if we’re not careful, the time comes and it’s too late to discover what we’re truly here for. We work harder and harder trying to walk down this preconceived path that was built by the system, and yet when its time to look back on our lives, we can clearly see what was missing all along.
What Is Success?
How would you define success? Would it include a certain dollar amount? Would it be a selection of personal assets? Would it include your health? Or how about family and friends? Would it be what you do with your life? Or maybe the experiences you have had?
Or maybe all of the above?
Success by definition can and should include all of the above. Yet it rarely does when it comes time to fill our days with what we enjoy or want (choose) to do.
What if a friend called you up right now and said, “stop, hold everything, lets go out and play this afternoon”, what would you do?
“Sorry, I have a meeting with the boss at 3.”
“I have a proposal that has to get out this week.”
“I have a business trip that I’m leaving in the morning for – I have to get everything complete before the trip.”
“I have to get the kids from school to the dentist, and then to a meeting at school by 6. Somehow I have to squeeze dinner in, pick up supplies at the store, and … “
You see, success isn’t all about the final tally at the end of your life; instead it’s about the way the game is played along the way. You can’t store up each individual piece and cram it all in at one particular time hoping to compensate for missing pieces.
Think of it in this manner.
If you have a child, you can’t parent her one-day a year. It takes a little bit of action every single day to have a nurturing relationship, one that is mutually respectful throughout your lifetime. You can’t ignore the relationship for weeks, even months, only to hope you can gain it all back during a one-week vacation. It can’t and it won’t work that way.
Changing Your Path
The path to success isn’t something designed by society, its based on your internal desires, wants and needs. Yet how you view it is based on how you interpret life around you. Typically success encompasses four things:
And if you think about it from these four areas, you’ll probably find yourself leaning heavily towards one over another.
If success is all about money in the bank, you’ll put everything else aside to save money, make more of it, or be able to invest in something that will put more money into your hands.
If success is all about your career, status is everything. You’ll find ways to work longer hours, receive more promotions, do whatever the job requires, no matter what it costs you in other areas of your life.
If success is about relationships, you’ll find time to invest in spending time with those closest to you. This can and should include a personal relationship with yourself as well.
If success is all about experiences, you’ll be open to trying new things at any time. From starting up a new business, to taking a yoga class to reduce stress, to signing up for a cruise around the world, success means enjoying and reaping the rewards based on what you can do during your daily life.
Do you see yourself falling heavier into one category than the other? Do you forgo relationships in order to spend more time in your career? Do you miss out on experiences so you can put more money into the bank?
Recognizing your behavior is the first step; the next step is to move into other areas, other opportunities, and give yourself room to grow, play and expand.
1. Choose an area to grow.
What was your first thought when you read through the above examples? Did you think of a non-existent savings account that you’ve depleted long ago? Did you have trouble recalling the last time you took a vacation? That’s where you should start. This is your growth area in the coming weeks and months.
2. Do something to expand your mind.
You can’t take this journey alone. So find someone to show you the way, or go along with you. Spend time developing that portion of your path that has been missing or weak up until this point. You can read a book, sign up for a class, or put in your request for vacation time. You can open up a savings account, or buy an airline ticket to a place you’ve always wanted to visit.
3. Put it into play.
Action is the key to success. You can think about it 24 hours of the day, but until you actually move forward and do something with it, it will remain an idle part of your life. Experiences give us pleasure, they allow us to grow. And while play is different at 50 then it was when you were 10, just getting out and doing something new open up your mind to an unlimited amount of possibility.
4. Do it again and again.
I have found that growth and change is addictive. The more I change, the more I grow, the more I learn, the more I want.
There is no right or wrong path to success. What it looks like is entirely up to you. But once you see it from different angles, with different characteristics making up the way you approach it, the more you will want to bring in new facets to who you are and what you do.
How do you look at the path to success?