As I was reviewing the posts from the week, I started to notice a theme related to success, and it reminded me of the above cartoon. I enjoy most of Andy Singer’s work, for both its style and message, and this message got me thinking about how I define the success of my life. Three key points come to mind, with some thoughts about how they relate to the image:
- I’m able to provide for my family. This doesn’t mean that we need to be rich. It means that we can meet our basic needs. Walking and biking are two perfectly acceptable means of transportation (though we do travel by car).
- I have a positive influence on the lives of others. I realize that this won’t always be the case, but in general, I want to help others reach their potential and live happy and productive lives. Minimizing my impact to the planet and setting a positive example are two ways that I can do this. Not yelling at others and being angry with them is another.
- I keep a positive approach to how I live my life and to recognize the gift of life. Taking the time to walk, smile, and enjoy the company of my family (human and non-human) is a key element in accomplishing this goal.
I’m not always successful in meeting all of these goals, especially the last two, but I give it my best each day. And on the days that I’m not successful, I try to learn and adapt so that tomorrow is better. Sure, I make mistakes and wish that I could take things back, but when I think it through, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.
Every significant mistake or action I’d like to take back has created an important learning opportunity. If I erase the event as if it never happened, I’ll lose the benefit of the lesson learned. No thanks. My mistakes enable my success, so I’d rather keep them with me.
I think that most people within American culture have goals similar to those I’ve outlined above, though I’ve definitely met many that have the materialistic definition of success implied in Singer’s cartoon.
How do you define success in your life? Is it different from, or aligned with, your culture’s definition of success?
In response to the Daily Post writing prompt on March 6, 2013.
Prompt: When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?
Where do we draw the line between youth and grown-up? For me, there have been several moments when I realized that I was getting older: marriage, gray hair, the first college intern I worked with and discovered that I was old enough to be her father…the list goes on. But am I a grown-up? I still feel an awful lot like a kid!
I think that my original understanding of what being grown-up means was flawed. It implied a fixed period where I’d cross a line into a new reality, but nothing is that clean. Our lives evolve based upon a series of activities.
As we grow, we learn several things from family, friends, and our cultural. My childhood taught me that the grown-up always knows the answer, and that there is a right answer. I learned that the grown-ups get to make the rules, and that when they say something you listen and obey. The grown-ups in my life portrayed a sense of knowledge and control, and so I had the idea that at some point life would make sense and I’d understand it. I just needed to be patient, follow the rules, and it would all become clear.
Well, I’m guessing you know how things are turning out. It’s rare that anyone knows the answer, and the idea of only one right answer is laughable. I still don’t get to make the rules, and most of the time I need to do what I’m told. And that’s okay, because I now know that being grown-up really isn’t any different from being young. There is only one difference: being a grown-up is realizing that no one gets it and that we’re all making it up as we live our lives. Some are just better actors than others.
I now have a different understanding of what it means to be a grown-up than I did when I was younger. And, I don’t get it, and I am making it up as I live my life. So by my current working definition, today is the day that I realized I’m a grown-up!
Photo taken from www.healthfiend.com
In response to the Daily Post writing prompt on February 24, 2013.
Prompt: Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?
There are two dates on the coin that I found (pictured above – yay! a quarter!). The first is 1896, the year that Utah became a state. The second is 2007.
Dates serve as markers within the linear conception of time. Seemingly frozen, they serve to remind us of events. However, most change doesn’t occur instantly – it happens over time – and this fixed and static view can conceal the natural flow of events that result in the events that are marked.
As I look back, 2007 was a normal year of work and family, and at first glance there isn’t much exciting to report. There are no significant markers. No births, deaths, adoptions, job changes, or other notes that jump out as significant changes or accomplishments.
If we perform a quick search on Wikipedia, we learn that Utah became a state in 1896, but that the process of becoming a state started much earlier. In a similar way, 2007 can be seen as a year that served as a precursor for changes that are etched in the learnrunwrite timeline. Two items that run almost continuously throughout 2007 are:
- An interest in expanding my career
- An ever-growing midsection
A little more about each:
Career Expansion – in 2007 I became restless in my then-current role and started to explore career possibilities beyond the boundaries of my role within the organization. I started to network, openly exploring career options throughout the company. I took a few classes and explored different possibilities. Ultimately I landed a new job in 2008.
While the job change falls neatly within the 2008 timeline, the work that made it possible began in 2007.
Midsection Growth – I gained a lot of weight in 2007, or maybe from birth until 2007, but it really became noticeable in 2007. And though it took me a long time realize it, in April of 2008 I started running for the first time since high school. I did this because I needed to lose weight and start living a healthier lifestyle.
Some of the actions I took included starting a run-walk-run program, run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes; run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute, etc… until I could run for 30 minutes without walking. I read, The Courage to Start, by John “The Penguin” Bingham, and other running books. And eventually, I joined a local running group that led me to the completion of my first marathon in 2009.
It might sound strange, but I believe that had I not packed on the pounds throughout 2007, I’d bet that I don’t start running in 2008. 2007 set the conditions required to initiate change!
So, even when it seems like nothing cool is happening and you feel like your life is boring, remember that you don’t run a marathon all at once. It happens one step at a time. And sometimes that means we might not have the large, exciting, shiny milestones to etch into our timelines, but if we keep working toward our goals they will come.
What long-term goals are you working toward?
In response to the Daily Post writing prompt on February 18, 2013.
Prompt: Many of us think of our lives as boringly normal, while others live the high life. Take a step back, and take a look at your life as an outsider might. Now, tell us at least six unique, exciting, or just plain odd things about yourself.
We’re all unique, which I suppose makes me unique. Many consider me a little boring, fewer consider me exciting. Taking a step back, some things that help shape the story of me include:
- I love animals, especially dogs. I like to talk to dogs. I like to walk with dogs. And I really like to play with dogs. Many of the happiest moments of my life are shared with dogs.
- I’m curious. There are few things in life in which I’m not interested. Some might consider this a lack of discipline, and they might be correct.
- I like change. I’ve had many jobs over the years, perhaps as a result of my curiosity and lack of discipline. To stop changing is to stop living.
- I recognize the relationship between physical and mental health, and do my best to feed both. I’m not always able to keep them balanced, especially when I’m injured or working too many hours, but I do my best.
- I fight fear. Fear of failure mostly, but failure applies to many facets of life – work and relationships are the big ones for me. Each day I strive to defeat fear. Some days are better than others.
- As much as I like change, I don’t much care for travel. I’m a homebody at heart.
Everyone likely has a different definition of what constitutes the high life. For me it’s a simple life in which I make a difference in the lives of others. I don’t want fame, lot’s of money, or a big house. I want to make a difference, and so I start each day with two goals:
- Treat others with kindness and respect.
- Learn something new and share it with someone.
If I can string enough days together in which I accomplish these goals, I can’t imagine a better way to live.