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Redefining Success

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

Love and creativity are renewable resources. Other resources are more scarce, and fear or ignorance create systems of injustice and devastation. These can make us feel alone, angry, bewildered, or like failures. There is enough success to go around, just not the sort of success we may have been taught to value. In redefining success, we begin to redefine our relationship to the overculture, to sustainability – our new watchword – and to the ideas of scarcity and abundance.

An internal feeling of scarcity and panic constricts the flow of life and limits our relationship to the processes of the cosmos. Yes, there is external scarcity. Yes, some resources are finite. Yes, sometimes we feel so beaten down or overwhelmed that even access to creativity and love feel limited. I feel compassion for this. I also know we have to find a way, somehow, to try. If those of us who live in relative privilege act as though love and creativity are scarce, how much more so does a person living in grinding poverty, or a war zone, some other place where systems of fear and ignorance hold sway? Fear and ignorance are everywhere. They do not have to define how we live or who we are. They certainly do not have to define what we place value upon.

I value your desire for love, beauty, engagement, and success. Here’s one working definition of that last: Success is the sense that one contributes to the world and in turn, receives love and satisfaction. Nice equation, isn’t it? It’s only one definition, but it works for me for now. Some of you fighting against it, I know. You say, “I work so hard and don’t feel love!” Can you breathe with me? Can you find the ways that fear and a sense of love as a scarce resource have closed you down? Are you harboring anger and resentment? The more we expand, open, and loosen our grip on these feelings, the less control they will take of the flow of love. With the flow of love, the simplest things can make us feel as though we are rich: Sunlight on leaves. Clean water. Kindness.

Some of my friends struggle hard, scarcity dogging at their heels, with a constant sense of messages shouting in their eyes and ears, “Just do it! There is nothing you can’t do! Everything is possible if you just try hard enough! What are you waiting for? The time is now! Here are my five simple steps to success!” On and on. Partial truths. Sometimes inspiration. Sometimes traps of ego fighting against the other voice that says, “But what if there really isn’t enough to go around?” And that voice is partially true as well. There isn’t enough money, or gold, or oil, or food, or clean water, at least not at the rates we are using them, not with our current relationship to the earth and each other. But we have the ability to change this around: not to increase the resources themselves, but to shift our relationship to them in such a way that we can share better. So here we are, back to a redefinition of success, and a return to our stores of creativity and love.

What does your soul desire? Where do you feel constricted? How can changing your definition of success help bring you ease? What changes in the values of the overculture might become possible if you believed in yourself enough to follow your desire to fruition? A sense of scarcity and constriction inside does not help to alleviate any real patterns of scarcity outside. Take a breath. Relax. Expand. Regroup around your center, and listen to your soul.

I would love it if we all take some time today to think on this and brainstorm together: What is your definition of success? And how can I better open up to love and creativity, setting free the flow, creating a world I feel proud to live in, and sharing it with those whom I am proud to call my friends?

I look forward to reading your comments.

As an aside: when looking for a picture to illustrate this, when I typed “success” into the search, all I got back were pictures of money, tall business district buildings and the occasional suburban house. Mostly it was money, money, and more money. Then I typed in “joy” and found some pictures that looked more like success to me, including the one I used here. It’s a tough thing, to shift the overculture, but we have the creativity to make it happen.

(Thanks to Danielle LaPorte for the Angelou quote, and to Scott Liddell for the pic.)

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