I was driving in my jeep chatting with my daughter on the way home when, on a whim, and inspired by a beautiful tune that was playing, we pulled alongside a riverbed and parked the car. We had places to be but were in no hurry and I was enthralled in the conversation this sweet, brilliant young soul was indulging in with her often-not-cool-mom. I turned off the engine and moved my seat back, and turned to lean on my bent right knee so that I could hold her full attention with mine. It was delicious. She was excited about sharing her new insight and I was loving this precious moment of connection. The roof on my wrangler was down (as is obligatory for every sunny day over 60 in Maine) and the cool breeze was toying with our hair, the only gentle interruption in our conversation.
This was BIG for me and the enormity of my full presence was not lost on me. I felt fully connected, fully present, free of any urgencies or expectations, fully myself, and in deep love with this spectacular being, bubbling with energy and brilliance, in front of me. I felt full. I felt enormously abundant. I felt so much joy. I felt so proud of myself for giving myself the permission to luxuriate in this sumptuous moment. I felt like the richest human that had ever lived.
You see, if you had asked me a few months ago what success looks like for me I would have had some beautiful answers for you. It may surprise you to know that it would not have involved enormous quantities of money, luxurious homes or status. I learned many years ago that chasing external sources of validation or material things left me feeling empty and desperate for more. I had learned my lesson in the metaphor of my running when I thought success meant completing a marathon. I lavished over my “success” at the finish line and even sadistically loved the pain in my hips the following days, a hang over reminder of what I had accomplished. But the goal posts were always moved just beyond my reach and the satisfaction of “success” was never satiated. Half marathons always became full marathons which became ultra-marathons which left me feeling defeated and inadequate when I couldn’t keep pushing myself AND have a family and an orthodontic practice, and a podcast, and date-night, and…and…and…
After years of personal development work I wouldn’t have considered any of those “things” as definition of my possible success. I would have suggested success was a legacy, a level of impact. I would have quoted Maya Angelou with ” People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” My passion for serving others in reaching for happiness and in remembering the empowerment within themselves would be the loudest calling and my definition of success would be the honor and the opportunity to do so. It still sounds fabulous!!! But what I realized that day in the jeep, sitting next to a beautiful flowing river and a beautiful soul in flow, was that I had not included in my dreams how I would FEEL!
Here I was thinking I was so evolved to have dropped the dollar sign, the number of likes, the size of my dental practice, the number of podcast listens in my idea of what of success. I thought it was the release of tangible, human desires that would liberate my limitations and allow me to BE success instead of DOING success (which clearly had never worked). But a key factor was always begging to be seen: “HOW DO I WANT TO FEEL?”
What is the point of success anyway if it won’t impact how you FEEL? And why do so many of our definitions of success hinge on what OTHER people feel about us?
That afternoon in the car with Cass I saw a new definition of success: not just what I want to accomplish, not just how I want to make other people feel, but how I want to live my daily life and in living that life how I want to feel.
The beauty of identifying the FEELING of success is that we can embody it at any moment. The beauty is that it defies restrictive conditions, it releases limitations and restraints and allows us to reach for the FEELING even before the materialistic evidence of it. I don’t think I could have painted the portrait of the river, the jeep, the warm breeze, the glint in her eyes and considered that “success”. My release of urgency and expectations to simply be present and aware for the abundance in that moment – the feeling of it was what I have always been reaching for and in that moment I felt that the most successful woman that ever lived. Once we can identify the feeling we are reaching for and can tap into the feeling on demand, the FEELING of SUCCESS endures because it is no longer attached to things or circumstances or someone else’s validation – it is within us and it is accessible.
My new definition of success includes FEELING present, worthy, free, and at ease- in the flow, and enormous love – for everything and everyone around me – most importantly, enormous love for me.