It's time to change the story we tell ourselves about success
Lately I've been struck by how addicted we are to this one particular story about success.
It's a story about a woman who runs around like crazy.
"How are you?", we ask this woman.
"Oh my god, things are so crazy," she answers, breathlessly.
I've been that woman, and I'm here to tell you: It is nothing to idealize. It is nothing to perpetuate.
In fact: It is nonsense.
If you're a "run around like crazy" woman, know this: It doesn't have to be that way. "Crazy" doesn't have to be your story.
Read on for suggestions on how to design a new story for yourself.
Choose what you want — not what you think you should want
When we run around like crazy, it isn't proof that we're extra-committed, or ambitious. And it is not the inevitable price of wanting a lot out of life. Instead, it is the inevitable result of not being clear on our priorities.
Here, I am talking about our real, actual priorities — the things we actually care about and want most, not the things we tell ourselves we should care about. (Years ago, after her first session with me, my therapist gave me a homework assignment: Write down all of Amanda's Rules, i.e. the "shoulds" I was carrying around with me. If you need to be persuaded to stop choosing "should" in your own life, start here.)
Getting clear on our true priorities is an absolutely essential first step. But it's just that: A first step. Then we need to take inventory of all the ways we spend our time and energy, and we need to make some radical changes — so that our precious time and energy are actually going towards our priorities.
In other words, we need to pair awareness with action.
Be willing to let things go
I'll share a personal example. I recently gave up a position on the board of a nonprofit that helps families living in poverty. This was a heart-wrenching decision, because I believe so strongly that the work this nonprofit does is important. Essential. And I knew that they needed the unique skills that I brought to the table.
But I didn't want to do it anymore.
I wanted to want to do it. I thought, "I should do this. I should want to do this. I am the kind of person who uses her gifts in service of helping other people. Look at the state of our country. What kind of person am I, if I can't make time to help these suffering people?"
But I couldn't kid myself: I didn't derive joy, fulfillment or satisfaction from my work with this organization. I derived... guilt. Guilt, because on top of my family, running my business, going to school... I wasn't actually rising to the occasion of contributing to the organization to the best of my ability. I got to say, "I'm on the board of this nonprofit..." and it made me feel like a good person... sort of. Deep down, I knew the truth, which is that I was using my position on the board to adorn my sense of self, rather than actually committing to doing the work of the organization.
So I gave notice. It was hard. And I'm not saying I'm a hero for doing so. I still wish I did more for people in poverty. But my heart right now is most committed to telling women's stories. I do that through Mighty Forces, and I aspire to do it as a television writer, which is why I'm studying TV writing in school. That is what calls to me — that, and being present and engaged with my family, including a daughter who needs a lot of support.
I let go of something that I was clinging to because of a story I told myself of who I should be — so that I could further embrace the story of who I actually am.
You can do it, too.
Choose a new story
When we choose what we want, instead of what we think we should want — we shift our story. When we commit to our true priorities, aligning our precious time and energy with what we really want — we shift our story. When we let go of the things we don't really want — we shift our story.
And when we realize that doing all this means making time for our own wellness and self-care — then we really help our new story stick. That means getting enough sleep, taking care of our bodies, and feeding ourselves the things that nourish us, from nutritious food to nourishing relationships.
Success doesn't have to hurt. That doesn't mean there won't be hard work along the way. There will certainly be hard work. But there will also be a renewed sense of ease that comes from being who you truly are.
Now go make it happen.
I've got your back.