We all want to be successful.
Many of us work hard for more money, status, and/or visibility assuming it will lead to the good life. While more of this stuff might mean more “success,” it can come at a great cost. Without checking in with ourselves, we can forget that more success doesn’t always mean more happiness and end up feeling anxious, disillusioned, or burned out. Add to this all the uncertainty we’re navigating and we end up grasping for things to control and freaking out about the things we can’t.
So, what does it mean to be successful these days? Especially when success means different things to different people?
When it comes down to it, we want to be successful because we think it’s going to make us feel better than we do. We think it’s going to make us happy.
So really, we all just want to be happy.
You don’t have to be successful to be happy, but if you’re happy then I’d consider that successful. So, what are successful and happy people not doing that set them apart from the rest of us? After lots of conversations, research, and reflection it seems to come down to these 5 simple things.
Successful (and happy) people don’t:
Suppress or ignore emotion.
As a conditioned left-brained thinker this was a hard one for me to get. I’ve always assumed emotion was a product of thinking. But I now get that emotion is energy in motion that’s natural, necessary, and not always logical. Emotions arise and dissipate in the same way clouds form and vanish. The problem is, most of us ignore, control or sedate it away. When we sweep emotions, like anxiety, under the rug we jam up our attentional bandwidth.
In her book, My Stroke of Insight, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor – a neuroanatomist – details a first-hand account of a debilitating stroke, along with resulting insights about the mind and emotions. According to Taylor, we only need about 90 seconds to be with emotion without an overlay of thought to let it integrate and pass. At that point, you have access to more presence, clarity and power. But only if you choose to exercise it. Which leads me to this next point. Successful and happy people don’t…
Feed obsessive thought loops.
Happiness isn’t mental preoccupation. I don’t care if your thought loop is about your next performance review, your last job interview, or how you could have done better during yesterday’s presentation. It’s a repeating inner dialogue – that feels like the song you can’t get out of your head – and it consumes valuable cognitive capacity. Thought loops feed off stagnant emotional energy and keep you from right-here-right-now – where life actually happens. If you can mindfully allow emotion to move and integrate in just 90 seconds, then you can stop the thought loop cycle and refuse to…
Make up “crappy” stories.
Here’s what’s up: life is a seemingly continuous flow of “stuff” happening. We perceive the stuff with our senses and our brain weaves in interpretations so that our experience is coherent and congruent with the underlying beliefs we hold. Sadly, our interpretations are often skewed to the negative because we’re hardwired to survive. Well, fortunately we have the incredible gift of choice. We have the ability to notice when we’re telling crappy stories and choose otherwise. Successful and happy people are good at doing this. They can separate facts from unhelpful interpretations and instead use descriptions and meanings that are solution-oriented, optimistic and generative. That’s generally easy to do because successful and happy people don’t…
Think poorly of themselves.
The truth is, everyone harbors a few self-limiting beliefs they’ve taken on over the years. Usually beliefs like: “I’m not good enough,” “I’m selfish,” “I’m lazy,” “I’m not really that smart,” “I’m not worthy.” A truly happy and successful person doesn’t let these limiting beliefs run the show. Seeing the good in people and in situations requires a foundation of knowing one’s ultimate goodness. You can’t see good if you don’t know good. If we don’t see our own being as ultimately good, worthy, and enough then we can’t really look out in the world and see it there. Successful and happy people choose to know their completeness and wholeness. From this foundation then, it’s hard to…
Focus on anything that doesn’t make them feel good.
Focus is everything. Whatever we focus on forms the content of our thoughts. Our thoughts then determine our words and actions, ultimately creating our reality. Successful and happy people focus on things that feel good and take boldaction on them. They surround themselves with other encouraging and supportive people and avoid news or drama that brings them down. They’re discerning about their inputs and don’t have a hard time saying no to anything or anyone that doesn’t make them a better person.
Success isn’t anything unless it makes you happy.
And, happiness isn’t an effect, it’s a life practice. It takes intention, focus, and a choice to know our ultimate worthiness. And yeah, a little bit of chocolate helps too. 🙂
If you found this helpful, I’d love to hear from you! If you know someone who could use a boost, please send this article their way. Grateful we’re all in this together.