In today’s world, it seems that so many people are trying to fit into a certain mold instead of truly exploring their own path to happiness. When we set out on our journey, we do it because of how we think it will make us feel when we get to the finish line. But chasing someone else’s version of success is a bumpy, unfulfilling road.
Just having all the boxes neatly checked doesn’t mean the end result feels good or fulfilling in any way. Have we truly arrived if we’re focused on what we want success to look like from the outside, instead of what we want it to feel like when we get there?
You might be saying to yourself that this is not the time to be thinking about changing course; but the truth is no matter how uncertain and challenging this pandemic has been, now is the exact right time to rebuild your practice. You can build a business that is fulfilling for you and not continue feeding your current one that has you constantly hustling and tirelessly on the treadmill.
By getting crystal clear on how you want success to feel at the finish line, it can serve as a compass to let you know you’re on the right track to creating a life that will actually make you happy.
As a business owner, I learned this the hard way.
I built my consulting business up to even beyond what I thought I had wanted. I was traveling weekly, speaking, had a full client load and was making a great income. That was the moment I was waiting for all of the hard work and long hours to pay off. I had made a lot of sacrifices along the way and had missed precious time with my kids; and, in reality, I was feeling more depleted and exhausted than ever. I had created what I set out to, but then I realized what I created was the dental industry’s version of a successful consulting business.
It was at that moment my blinders came off. I was no longer on auto-pilot or willing to settle for any version of success but my own. Once I had this realization in my own business, it was so clear to me that a lot of my clients, and business owners in general, were chasing a false, fit-into-the-mold version of success, not one that would align them with just as much abundance but also the joy that had been lacking in their business and life.
So, how can you determine what you want your own version of success to feel like?
Go inward, and get ready to do the work of honest self-reflection. You have to be crystal clear and commit, even if it means tearing something down that looks successful on paper.
In my own journey, I found myself in a relentless cycle. I had recognized I wanted a change and thought I had committed to building toward something new, but then I would find myself right back where I was. Bringing on a large, multi-doctor practice when I was already stretched thin might look like a win on paper; but if it leaves you looking at what you had to give up to get there, is it really a win?
Two places at once
My rock bottom happened when I had been invited to be a speaker at a dental event where I live in Oklahoma; and, at the time it was scheduled, I didn’t know it would be the same day my two boys were graduating from elementary and junior high school. As soon as I found this out, I contacted the meeting planner and asked to see if any changes could be made to allow me to still see my boys graduate but also fulfill my commitment to the event. The meeting planner explained that was not an option. My heart fell, but I knew I had to follow through on my commitment.
The day of the event came, and I had a very heavy heart, which became even heavier when I arrived at the venue only to see it was directly across from the graduation site. I could see all the memories being made across the street and couldn’t make my own with my family. I felt I was trapped but smiled my way through the day while knowing there was a very special graduation going on a very short distance away. That was where my heart was.
The trap is this:
When you have success on paper, you end up running faster and working harder to keep accumulating more and more of what you don’t even want. For me, it wasn’t worth the 60 hours a week or losing the ability to be present outside of the moments working on my business; and it definitely wasn’t worth my kids getting the worn-out, worst version of me and my clients getting the best version of me.
That was a defining moment.
I had to come up with my non-negotiables of what success felt like to me, and all of my decisions had to be based on that going forward. What I determined was that success for me felt like: Spaciousness, fulfillment, joy and abundance.
I needed spaciousness to create, grow and be present with my kids. And, I needed fulfillment knowing I was using my gifts and leading my clients toward their version of success. I welcomed abundance to give me the security I needed to continue my work, and I wanted a heart filled with joy, not resentment and a business that was so far out of alignment with my truth.
Those four words became my new business plan. They gave me exactly what I needed to create a vision that would give me not only abundance but also fill my heart.
Creating your own version of success doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice abundance.
I didn’t become less ambitious. I was just ambitious toward what would bring me spaciousness, fulfillment, joy and abundance. As entrepreneurs, we want to create and grow, and that’s so important. However, we just need to be tuned into growing our businesses in ways that leave us feeling energized, not exhausted and depleted.
This is the work. There’s nothing more critical or more important for entrepreneurs right now than being clear on what success feels like to them. It’s more important than vision or mission or getting the right investors; otherwise, you could take a lot of detours trying to find the feeling you’re seeking.
Finding your own success words will help you build your foundation and put you on the path to consciously creating a life that brings fulfillment and happiness.
So, what does success feel like to you?
Come up with your 3-5 words.
These are words that if you felt this way, it would be like hitting the jackpot in every area of your life and business.
I suggest setting aside a block of time to work through this exercise fully. Get out in nature, and get grounded to do the work. Being away from the busyness will allow you to put the right thought into this important foundational piece.
If you’re having a difficult time coming up with what success feels like for you, think about what you’re unhappy with in your business. Identify the opposite of that as a possible way you want success to feel.
Once you finalize your 3-5 words, try on this new way of being, and see how it feels. Close your eyes, put your hand on your heart and envision your words. What new possibilities would open up and be available for you if you were to fully embody all of them? These words will be your roadmap for every decision going forward. Ask yourself, “Will it bring me closer to how I want success to feel?” By figuring out first what you want it to feel like when you get there, you suddenly meet the path with a whole new sense of excitement and energy.
A pandemic does not have to derail your longing to have a business that feeds your soul and brings you joy. Instead, it creates a perfect opportunity. I love this quote from Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new.”
This is the first step to being truly intentional about the life you’re creating. It’s your roadmap for creating your vision of success for the future.