Recently I have read a lot of articles about success and the effort that it requires. These articles often boil down to instructions to get up early, be super focussed, work long hours and be willing to sacrifice anything for what you are passionate about.
There’s nothing wrong with that. If you can live that way and get the results that you want, then fair play to you.
However the thing that bothers me in some of these articles is that there is an undercurrent that if you don’t do it this way then you are a loser. If you are not this committed then your venture isn’t worthwhile and you will never get the results that you want.
It’s not that the articles say this explicitly (although some do) it’s that they tap into your own doubts about yourself. Then you end up using those words to cane yourself because you aren’t doing enough or being enough.
For us lesser mortals who aren’t going to leap out of bed at 5am, jump into a cold shower and work relentlessly, are we doomed to a life of failure? Or does it come down to what success means to you?
Traditionally success is about conspicuous external measures like money and material trappings. In the social media age it now comes with a side dollop of likes and followers.
In this article I would like to examine other measures of success, those that focus more on the inconspicuous, but nevertheless essential qualities of a creative life.
1 — Scratching the creative itch
I admit to being seduced by the success articles because I want to achieve my goals. I would like my novel not just to be published but to be a best seller. I would also love more people on my mailing list as this would give me the option of making money from my creative endeavours in the future.
Having not achieved those desires yet I could consider myself a failure. But I’m not.
I have an amazing creative life where I get to write what’s in my heart and have people read it. What could be better than that? Sure, the magnitude of readers could be bigger but the bottom line is I am already successful in how I express myself.
If you get sot scratch your own creative itch then this puts you way ahead of most people who will only ever ‘think about it’ or ‘wish they could have it’. I am sure that there are lots of external pressures obstacles in your life that could easily prevent you being creative.
Creativity also requires you to face your inner demons. It would be so easy to watch more TV, spend more time in bed in the morning, have carefree weekends and listen to that voice in your head which says you’re crap and it’s really not worth it.
Every time you show up for your creative work you have won a battle with your inner gremlin. This makes you hugely successful. Many people don’t get past their internal gatekeeper. Just by doing something towards your creative project you are already well ahead of the game.
2 — Lifestyle
Sometimes success comes down to not how much you have in the bank but if you are getting the right lifestyle. For the past seventeen years I have been fortunate enough to only work a day job three days a week thus giving me more time for my creative pursuits. This is really important to me. I need time and headspace for myself.
If I had continued working full time as an IT consultant I could have earned a lot of money but that wouldn’t have given me the life I wanted.
For some people, lifestyle success might mean never having to catch a commuter train. For others it will be having sufficient time in nature, thankful that they are not always locked away in an office cubicle.
It is also important to give sufficient time to your relationships whether that be your spouse, your your family, your friends or your co-workers. If you are suffering because you don’t have enough time to do this then your lifestyle is off-kilter.
3 — Acceptance
Success is accepting the life you have and the decisions you have made. It can bring enormous peace of mind to acknowledge your life as it is, both the good bits and the bad.
Acceptance lessens emotional pain. We can become very obsessive about what we don’t have, especially if we can’t have our desires fulfilled. Our lack can be a constant source of pain.
For me this is the most important lesson. It is so easy to get caught up comparing yourself to other people. I have to constantly remind myself that I can only create like me. I can only write like me. I can only live like me.
It is not always easy to accept who you are and where you are at. It can be difficult to bear the outcome of the choices you have made.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that you don’t try to steer the outcome of your life to something that you want. However, accepting where you are in any given moment, and accepting what your future might be is liberating. Money can’t buy this type of contentment.
Thank you for reading this article. Recently I have been swayed and fascinated by other people’s routines, their output and their results. To be honest I have needed to write this article as a lesson to myself. In doing so I hope that it is useful food for thought for you too.
We can only be ourselves. To live our own life, fully, day by day, without regret — isn’t that the greatest success of all?
I’d love to know what you think
What does success mean to you? Do you feel that you are successful? If not then what would need to be different in your life to feel that way?