I was recently interviewed for a book and this was on the list of questions. I had been given the list in advance, so I had some time to prepare my answers. I made a few notes that were probably pretty unremarkable: happy healthy family, the ability to travel, knowing I’ve helped others, etc. But then during the actual interview, she changed the question somewhat. She asked me, ‘What does success feel like; as in how does it literally feel in your body?’ And with that slight change in the question, the answer changes entirely. It goes from a question that can be answered easily into a moment that actually requires a little reflection.
I don’t think it was something I had ever thought of before.
And why would I? We are used to measuring success through tangible quantities of things: the money in the bank account, the number of vacations, the beauty of the things we own. Even slightly more subtle measures of success like quality of relationships and health are sort of external. They do not require reflection. This question stopped me in my tracks as I had to think about what it really meant to look internally for a feeling of success being expressed somewhere hidden (not to mention the fact that on many days I don’t feel successful in any way at all!).
A few answers I have come up with:
- Success feels like waking up in the morning excited about what is going to happen that day, even on days when nothing ‘important’ is scheduled
- Like a clear sense of purpose deep within my bones
- Like a heart that is grateful, expansive and at peace at the same time
- Exhaustion at the end of the day, but in a good way. The tiredness that comes from expending energy productively and crashing into bed needing a recharge
- Like laughter that bubbles up easily, a smile for a stranger, a face that has no need to hide what you are thinking
By focusing for a moment on how success feels within my body, rather than looking at a metric imposed form the outside, it allows me to define things for myself. It removes any concern that you might look at me and think ‘how dare she?’ Because it feels a little presumptuous to call oneself successful. Like calling yourself beautiful, it’s one of those things that self-help books have told us that we should do, but that still feel kind of wrong (to me at least); and my weird little life, from the outside, does not always look successful. When we chose to move to Costa Rica, we left behind many of the things that would flag our success for others: the big house, profitable business, nice clothes, etc. These things were exchanged for a life that is sometimes hard, dirty and squalid, where I often feel stupid because I can’t get a point across in Spanish or inept because I have a farm situation on my hands and don’t know what to do. But in my body, on the most visceral of levels, I have never felt better. That’s got to count for something.
Let’s call it success.
How does success literally feel in your body? Even if you don’t feel that way everyday?