It can be hard feeling successful when life is determined by so many factors. When we begin comparing ourselves with others, there are so many ways we can fall short.
The fact is, though, that success looks different for each of us. Success in every area looks different. So, even though so many “gurus” out there would have us believe they have all the secrets and know exactly how you have to structure your day, do business like them, etc, to be happy and successful, their ways just aren’t it.
Let’s break some of them down:
1) Morning routine. If you have kids, or chronic illness, or a job, it’s likely you already have some kind of morning routine. One that revolves around the kids, the illness, or the job duties. The idea that we have to have this lavish 2-3 hour morning routine in order to be successful just isn’t accurate. While studies may show that we can be more productive in the morning, the other side of that is we are an adaptable species – and for some of us, we are at our illest/weakest in the morning. So, a lavish morning routine simply won’t work for us.
2) Evening routine. Much like this idea of morning ritual, the same is true of the evening time. While, yes, relaxing at the end of the day can ease us into better sleep, we don’t have to have a lavish evening routine to lull us off. In fact, if we’re parents or dealing with illness, we often have a naturally occurring evening routine revolving around our illness and/or our kids.
Here’s the truth about routine before we go on with the list: Routine only works as well as it works for family. What I mean by that is that in order to have working routines and harmony in our lives, we have to establish the rhythm that works for us – not someone else. I do most of my self reflection, journaling, spiritual disciplines, and things like that in the evening, after the kids have gone to bed. It works best for us. My mornings are usually reserved for resting to better take care of my kids when my husband leaves for work. We have found the rhythm of the days that work for our family, and that’s one of the keys to a working routine we’ll stick with.
3) Law of Attraction/Manifestation do nothing for you. If you believe in these things, I’m sorry that this may be offensive. The fact is, though, these ideas don’t actually do much for most people – whether we use them correctly or not.
So, why do they appear to work for so many? I’d attribute it to self-fulfilling prophecy. They think about it, so they ACT on it. Action is what is the cause, not simply the desire or claiming it out loud.
When we desire something, and we have the mind that we can get it, we do actions that support that. Those actions often cause others to react to us in kind. This is what often produces the desired result. It comes down to action and the CBT thought chain (circumstances produce thoughts which produce feelings which cause us to act which affect the outcome). The ACTION affects the outcome, not the thought/feeling, but how we actually act in response to the thought/feeling.
You cannot make something happen merely by thinking about it. There must be action. A person who is manifesting is only able to do so as far as they are willing to take action to produce outcome.
4) Toxic positivity is exactly that – toxic. No one can be happy at all times. No one can deny that bad things happen. How we respond to those bad things can have a great impact on moving us forward or keeping us stuck, but refusal to acknowledge something negative is going on will only serve to keep us in denial.
For example: I have chronic illnesses. On the bad days, I can barely even get out of bed. I am usually not on social media on the worst days, and I usually don’t do much work. I complain to my husband how crappy I feel. I wish for something different – a different body, more energy, etc. I sit in my feels. And through all that, I still recognize things in my life I’m thankful for. That’s where my gratitude stops those days. On the good days, I recognize how fulfilling my life is and take steps to keep me on a forward trajectory.
At no point to I deny or try to hide the bad days. At no point to I ever believe in a perfect life or a happiness all the time. Sometimes, even joy feels like it’s left me behind. I own that, and then eventually move on.
Toxic positivity doesn’t allow for that. A toxicly positive culture doesn’t allow for questions, bad days, negative feelings, or experiences that differ from the main narrative. It’s what is portrayed by business gurus and life coach gurus the world over – and it has got to stop. You don’t need it to be successful. You don’t have to have a good day every day to be successful.
5) “Passive Income” is king – but is it though? Can you live a good life working? Of course you can. And also, they never tell you the reality: passive income is never really passive. Even if I get money off ads, I still created content. Even when I get a couple bucks from my book, I spent A LOT of time creating that book. Even as people come into and leave the membership, that requires monthly upkeep as well. No income is ever truly passive, not even residual income. It’s a trap that get’s people to buy into this hamster wheel that if we aren’t making money without working then somehow we’re not among the elite. Don’t buy into it. Passive income isn’t actually passive.
6) Curated perfection and the self-improvement rabbit hole. I’m combining these two because they go hand in hand. From extravagant life styles to fad diets to complicated exercise routines, we feel like we have to be in each of these to be successful. These tie deeply to the morning and evening routines. Read 5 books a day, don’t eat any carbs, and run 12 miles every day…these are the kinds of ridiculous claims these gurus make. Taking things that are good for us, and twisting them beyond recognition.
Sure, reading everyday is actually very beneficial, as fiction cultivates empathy, compassion, and socials skills, while non-fiction expands our level of knowledge and helps us learn new skills. But, by no means do you need to be reading 5 books – or even one book – a day. Even reading for a short period every day/every other day can be beneficial.
The same can be said for our food and exercise choices. No one would deny that our bodies need healthy foods and movement to survive – but now this balance plays out in our lives will be affected by our roles as: employees/business owners, responsibilities, parenthood, marriage, chronic illness, and desire. Your level of success will not be made or broken by your choice to do yoga every day or not.
These habits have to be different for those of us who are moms or those of us with chronic illness. Our needs, our bodies, our families work a little different. We have a certain level of chaos and uncertainty we live with each day and adapt our lives to, especially with new diagnoses or young children.
These ideologies also change based on how we will choose to define success. What I find as success and fulfillment may not look the same for you. That’s important here.
I have no desire to live a life that looks like Mel Robbins or Tony Robbins…I think it’s good for them, but their ways don’t work for everyone and may cause some harm. So, I know I can’t be living my habits the way they do, and even if I did, I couldn’t be guaranteed results. I have to define success in my own way and adapt my habits around that.
So, if we don’t need these things to be successful, and we define success for ourselves, what are some habits we can adapt to help us move closer to that picture, especially as moms, or as those with chronic illness (or both)?
- Goal setting: one way we can move towards our own success is to set achievable goals. Achievable is based on our needs, abilities, and the needs of those who rely on us. These kinds of goals also need to be actionable and able to be measured. Goals create the picture of success we’re looking for. However, they aren’t the end all-be all, and they are allowed to adapt as we go.
- Don’t internalize failure: if we get in the habit of sitting with our failure, and then moving past it, we don’t internalize it. This doesn’t mean you have to find a lesson in everything (though you’re certainly welcome to). It means you recognize what the failure brings up for you, and then you go a different way. Set a new goal or try a new way. Just don’t let the failure eat you alive or become your identity.
- Innovate/avoid conformity: many successful people tend to do their own thing their way. This is something we can learn from them. If you are limited in ability or time, and you have something you really want to accomplish – figure out if there’s a new way. Innovate. Create change. Help others see that thing differently. That said, you’re not obligated to prove anything to anyone. Others aren’t owed your success just to “see someone like them” do the thing. Remember, failure doesn’t define us and goals can be fluid.
- Read – a lot: I know above I said you don’t have to read 5 books a day, and you don’t. Reading everyday can be beneficial to us, though, so I wanted to include it as a habit we can develop, Even 5-10 minutes a day of something can propel us forward without us even knowing, as our brain gets working. Reading a wide variety of genres and subjects can make us more rounded, and open different pathways in the brain.
- Journal: having a fairly decent self-image can be crucial to keep us going. By this, just recognizing you have value and there are things to be thankful for work in our favor. Journaling is a way we can begin to see the value in ourselves, and the things we have to be thankful for. Journaling also has the benefits of relaxation, mood improvement, and immunity boosting. So, maybe give it a try.
- Spiritual engagement: for me, this is expressions of my Christian faith – prayer, Bible reading, worship, journaling. I recognize this may be different for others. That said, an active spiritual faith practice has been shown to be a motivation and a mood enhancer. An enhanced mood often means we will turn our thoughts into action.
- Connecting with the external world (nature and others): there is so much going on outside of ourselves, when we connect to the external, we aren’t dwelling on the internal. This means, we are appreciating the world for what it is and serving others, loving them for who they are. If we are going to begin to feel successful and fulfilled in our lives, connecting with the external world helps us know where our passions and the worlds needs co-mingle, which is often where we find the most fulfillment when we act. Being in nature has the benefits of fresh air, sunlight, and movement, and serving others has the benefit of, well, serving others. Seeing them get one step closer to needs met, success, or fulfillment.
When we stop trying to do things exactly like the gurus, and we build up some or all of these habits, we may start to recognize more of our own success or fulfillment. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. You are allowed to find the rhythm and harmony that works best for you and your family, and find the habits that build you up daily.
There’s no magic formula, no prayer, no genie there to grant you what you want. It’s a combination of your situation, your outlook on the situation, and the actions you choose. Even then, sometimes, you don’t have full control of the outcome. So, we all just do the best we can.
What are some things you feel we don’t need for success? Is there anything you think is absolutely necessary for success?