Sunday, 24 January 2016

Redefining Success

How do you measure or define success? 

I measure it in units of freedom. 

Freedom to do what I want, when I want, with the people I want? 

I consider myself highly successful because I have greatly gained in freedom over the past few years. 

Not in money, not yet. I admit that hasn’t been as abundant as I’d have liked but my life is becoming more and more something that is fun, interesting, stimulating and exciting.

Generating extra money is taking a bit more time but it, too, is coming. When you are making a new trail that you have not gone down before, it may take a while to figure out which direction you want to go and to cut down the trees blocking your way.

Certainly, money can have an effect on our freedom (below certain levels, choices can be extremely limited) but for most of us in western cultures, money is not the issue we believe it to be. Understand that I am not independently wealthy. I am simply able to live the way I enjoy with a salary that is on the lowest end of the lower middle class income scale.

I've made many choices in my life that others might not have made and the quality of my life has gone up, by MY standards and my measurements. Mainstream society might not agree with me.

My unusual choices:
  • I have never wanted nor had any children
  • I have an old car
  • I live in a very small apartment
  • I do not have a romantic partner at the moment
  • I work only 3 days a week at a "normal" job
  • I do not have a TV, I have a computer with internet
  • I do not have cable or Netflix
  • I do not have a landline, I have a cell phone

My unusual results:
  • I work two days a week at a job I adore
  • I volunteer two hours a week at a holistic cancer wellness centre
  • I occasionally give evening or weekend classes on subjects that I'm passionate about
  • I can have breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea with friends, colleagues and family members pretty much when I want
  • My colleagues in my beloved work are also often my good friends
  • I'm mostly on the road at non-traffic times
  • I get massages in the middle of the day in the middle of the week
  • To create long weekends, I can switch around my days off when I need to
  • Four out of seven days a week, I can pretty much go to bed and get up at any time I choose
  • I attend conferences, talks and trainings that interest me a few times a year, both near home and further afield

These choices may seem unappealing to some of you and impractical for others. I only illustrate my life and my interpretation of success as freedom so that you understand that we can deviate from the TV stereotype of a "good life" and we can be happy, satisfied and live wonderful lives anyway. Probably, in many cases, BETTER lives.

We can question cultural norms about the expected size of our home, the quality of our car, what is "acceptable" work and what is not. We can question these social ideals and decide that we don't share them and that we don't need to do things the way everyone else does. In doing this, we can choose differently and create lives for ourselves that WE prefer, that make us more happy than the big house, fancy car or high paying job ever could.

I've never had a family who tried to make me conform so it has been easier for me to be different and choose differently. I encourage you to begin to consider what your own idea of success might be if not for these social pressures.

If you decide that just maybe you would like to be successful in another way, start small. Make little changes at first, if you need to, but figure out what you want more of and what you want less of in your life and multiply the more and subtract from the less.

One tiny change at a time, we can carve out lives that are fulfilling for us and model that freedom of choice for our children and all those around us. If we value joy and satisfaction above money and perceived prestige, we can change our personal worlds to ones that we appreciate more.

For a fulfilling life, please consider all your options, not just the typical ones.

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