What is Success?

This is a post I began a long time ago.  I’m just posting it now.  It’s from before Sam, which is why he’s not mentioned.

Recently, I had a good talk with a friend on the bus about what we wanted in our careers and lives. He and I are pretty much on the same page and this helped me think about where I am and how I feel about it. I sometimes feel that odd pang of regret when I look at my Linked-in account and see people I knew years ago who have much nicer titles that I do. Sometimes I look at Facebook with the same feeling as I see high school and university friends with kids older than Maya. And I get over it and then move on. My definition of success has changed over the years. I’ve come to accept that there are two kinds of successes: one personal and one for everyone else, with the latter being as relative as the former.

When I was a teenager (and less sure about what I wanted to be), I had dreams of being a black belt. When I graduated with my MFA, I was 26 and had visions of publishing many books and being a creative writing professor. And so on. Like a lot of people, life didn’t happen quite the way I planned. How I view success will affect how I feel about my life as it is, and I feel pretty good.

One of the things that my friend and I talked about was the diversification of goals, and what we considered success. Over the years, I’ve learned about my capabilities and limitations. I’ve set hard, but not impossible, goals for myself. This all became easier as I came to accept diversification–a lesson well taken when thinking about financess as well as life.

I realized that my writing wasn’t so important that I never wanted to return to martial arts or have it cut into the hours I wanted to spend with my family. The three were all top priorities. Writing had two years where it was the only thing I did. Aikido had a period where it had me all to itself.

Right now, I do only minimal writing and martial arts (aikido and tai chi chuan splitting time) in order for me to spend time with Maya’s Mom and Maya. But this last period is beginning to morph where the three are finding a happy balance. I don’t progress quickly in any of the areas, but I enjoy all three, continue all three, as well as holding down a full-time job. My self identity isn’t attached to any one of the areas. Sure, I don’t have as much money, status, or rank as others, but I have the life I want, including the freedom in each area to pursue the goals that I want. I’ve had to work hard for that. Some of those costs are higher than I thought, but in the end, they were worth it.

That is my definition of success–to pursue what’s important to you while staying healthy and happy.

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