One reason why working hard is not THE recipe to success and fulfillment
Before telling you what the secret ingredient is, we need to define the end results we are working on: success and fulfillment. I don’t perceive success as being rich and famous even though one can aspire to this. I see it more as this simple definition: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Maya Angelou has a definition along those lines too: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” This definition answers the questions who, what and how.
To me fulfillment can be part of success. It is the part that is more internal. Success might be viewed more as what people perceive or see, even though this is not what I see as success. Fulfilment is defined as: “Satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character.”
Have you ever heard people talking about working hard? It seems like this rhetoric is often present when it comes to succeeding. Others says it is not about working hard but rather working smart. And when working smart is mentioned, mostly is it about time management. This is where you learn to create processes so you don’t waste your time being busy on the wrong tasks. I think working smart and hard are both needed to become successful. We won’t argue here.
Other than working hard, and smart, there is one crucial ingredient that needs to be present to make the success and fulfillment recipe taste oh so good. This one is the one that matters to me most. Why? Because I went through the process of working hard, and sometimes smart, and finding neither success nor fulfillment. I cannot stress enough how I love helping others avoid this same life experience which partly cost me my health. I wish I knew now what I had to learn the hard way.
It doesn’t matter how hard and smart you work; you won’t feel successful unless you are working on the right thing. Yes, this may sound simple, but it is not always the case. I consider myself intelligent and I fell into the trap of wanting success at the wrong place and for the wrong reasons.
However we define success, we need not to hide our deepest fear when looking for it. When we are not facing our fears, they become part of the equation. This is when we tend to make decisions that are not in our best interest. We talked about this before; it is either fear or love. So if fear is there, love is not. To truly succeed one must do something well that one loves.
For the longest time, I have known what I want out of my life. I have this calling inside and as I grow more and experience life, it gets clearer and more specific. Even so, I did many different things before really starting to act upon this life purpose of mine. Part of me thinks I wasted precious time and part of me also accepts that everything happens for a reason and without all the other experiences I would not be exactly who I am today. There is a fine line between fatality and acceptance. I choose the latter.
I was born in a middle class family and maybe I should say lower middle class. It never felt we are missing out on anything but but my parents worked hard to put bread and butter on the table. When both of them lost their jobs the same year, at an age where they were closer to retirement than anything else, we had it hard. So I learned all too well not to overspend; this was survival.
Also having a parent who tended to see the glass half empty, I developed an aversion to failure. Because my mother was looking through her lens, she could only doubt I would succeed even though deep down she totally believed in me.
Failure was then defined as letting fear interfere into our dreams or aspirations. Not trying because we might fail was not an option. I developed a lot of character early on. Perseverance too. When someone would think something was impossible for me to accomplish I set my mind to prove them wrong. I also did not want to end up like my parents, struggling financially to make ends meet. Hence, part of me focused a lot on being able to break the mold.
This is why I aspired to a six figure income but always tried making it doing something I did not fully like or embrace. It was as if I had to be on some specific career paths to earn an income; as if living the calling would not be able to get me there. This story repeated itself for almost a decade, and another one went by in between as I stayed at home with my children.
My last attempt occurred when I was finally able to legally work in the States. I went on and invested myself totally into a path that was really promising in terms of income but I did it so I could then use this income in order to build my dream. I also did it in a way that was mimicking what others had done to succeed. This was in complete defiance of my core values. I knew it and tried so many times to change the way I was working my business, in vain.
In retrospect of course it was not meant to succeed. Going back to Maya Angelou’s definition of success, I was all at the wrong place: not liking myself because I was not doing something I loved and not liking how I was doing it either. WRONG RECIPE!!! I have made multiple decisions for the wrong reasons and ended up neglecting my health and my family life in doing so. Needless to say, I did not make the fortune I had envisioned. For me, doing the right thing and doing it the way I feel good about is crucial.
When I realized that I was not fully in integrity at work because I was not aligned with my dreams or values, I started to really get introspective. There was no more joy in my life. Living a false reality lying to myself meant I was lying to others too. From the moment I realised I was not living in Joy, and the moment it all clicked, two years went by.
This is also when I came to this conclusion: All the money invested in business development would have been a really great start up amount to really live my life purpose and build my dream. So yes, I could have started right away with building my dream! “Build it and they will come” is the phrase I remember from the Field of dreams movie. Why didn’t I listen to it for my own life?
I had to go this deep into this lie to become so sure now about what is worth spending my resources on and what is not. The more I know what my path is and how I will set myself to walk on it, the more I set boundaries so nothing nor anyone will get in my way. This is now a matter of health, sanity and mere self realization.
The first and foremost ingredient to success is to know what you are here on this earth, in this life, to accomplish. Then you can work hard, smart and put all your passion in it. But unless you know your calling or purpose, all the effort in the world will not matter as you are walking someone else’s path, not yours.
I am learning a little bit more everyday what my calling is and how I am getting closer to it is by doing one thing, taking at least one action everyday towards it. This is all I know. I do not set goals like I used to. I respect the path itself, not setting too hard of a timeline even though I have deadlines to get some actions items done. I have learned that I now need to experiment letting the calling call me on what matters each and everyday. When I meditate I ask the same question: ‘’What do I need to do to serve today?”
I let inspiration and serendipity be part of my life. Sometimes I get off course with what I had decided to do. I sometimes wonder if this is the right way to do it. This is the experimentation phase. At this moment in my life, I need to learn to let go of a set rules, of achievement, and just live the present moment and be content with it. This is part of my journey.
Living according to our value leads us to better Self-Care. And we need better Self-Care in order to achieve our life’s purpose. This is hard work and we need to refill our cups to give back every single day and serve more. Once we understand success is also defined by living on purpose and that in order to sustain living on purpose, Self-Care is part of the equation as well, we are on the real path to success: liking ourselves, what we do and how we do it.