“The past is a foreign country,” author L.P. Hartley famously wrote in his book The Go-Between. Perhaps that’s why we hold on to the postcards…
Our definitions of success are changing. Check out this funny dialogue between two people who have very different definitions of what it means to be successful in life.
Person 1 is rooted in old, traditional behavior patterns.
Person 2 has very different values.
PERSON 1: How are you?
PERSON 2: I’m so wonderful!
PERSON 1: Oh, great! Tell me what’s so wonderful.
PERSON 2: Well, I’ve been really working on myself and feel like I’m at a place where I really love the person I am.
I feel healthy, and happy. Oh, and I’ve been really creative! I think I finally moved through all those years of blocks around not being good enough to call myself an artist and not being ashamed of the things I would create. It feels like such a HUGE accomplishment to me! I feel a freedom that I haven’t felt since I was a kid – the freedom to be myself! I don’t think there’s anything as magical and important as that. How many people actually really know their true selves?! I think I’m honestly getting there.
Oh, and I’ve been changing my diet and really paying attention to what I’m putting in my body because I finally realized how important it is to worship the temple I reside in.
Speaking of worship, I have a strong, daily devotional practice dedicated to the honoring the divine within me. Every single morning, I wake up before the sun rises and I do yoga and meditate. Did you know yoga means ‘union’? I finally had the awareness that the Love I’ve always been seeking is not about getting married, but instead the union between myself and the universe. I connect with that infinite source every single day and I feel so incredibly fulfilled by a Love so epic, so big, so all-encompassing that most people miss it because they’re looking for it in another person (which I now know will never work).
The fact that I do my best not to look for my happiness in external sources has actually improved my relationships; they are so much more lovely and meaningful and I love the people in my life.
The work I do to be of service to others provides me with such a sense of true, heartfelt purpose.
My presence and awareness are the highest they’ve ever been and I experience every single moment of my life to the fullest. I have such a deep appreciation for life and all that comes with it. Although I have much more to learn, I can confidently say I’ve reached a certain level of mastery of how to move through challenges with more grace, compassion, and love for myself and others.
PERSON 1: Hmm. Okkkkay. So, are you ever going to get a real job, get married, and do something with yourself??
PERSON 2: (Quietly to self:) Hmm. I don’t think they understood anything I just said. #misunderstood
Many are feeling misunderstood in this way right now as humanity experiences a major shift from a more traditional way of living to a new way of being. In my work as a coach, I often notice people feeling really unhappy because they are attempting to force themselves into social accepted categories of what they ‘should’ be doing. Many, many people end up in my office because they deeply desire to be themselves but feel like the world won’t accept them or their choices.
The definitions of success and value are changing dramatically these days, and with good reason – people are finally realizing the need to be true to themselves. The truer you are to yourself, the more happiness you’ll naturally experience.
As personal development moves more and more to the forefront of people’s lives, it’s very apparent that people are starting to value feelings of genuine peace over the stress of the rat race, and feelings of deep love for themselves and their community over the need to get married – “because that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
The words “supposed to” are keys here.
Many of these traditional ways of defining success and happiness simply perpetuate because humans are creatures of habit. There are so many stories that sound like “Your great-grandad, grandad, and father were all doctors so you should be a doctor too.” This is absolutely soul-crushing to the youth who loves to paint or wants to be a skydiving expert. Or, “You need to get married, honey; you’re not getting any younger.” To a young woman whose passion is to travel or to become a famous rocket scientist, marriage may not be a priority.
Traditions aren’t bad. They can be wonderful rituals and guidance systems. And they can also feel restrictive at times. As the world changes and people start tuning in to their own higher consciousness, and getting clear on what feels like true value and success to them as unique individuals, we can expect a lot more folks to follow their own path.
Whenever you find yourself beginning a sentence with the words, “I’m supposed to do…” check in with yourself about whether you actually want/need to do the thing or if you’re simply following a pattern of societal conditioning.