Could You Be Blind To Your Own Success?
Unraveling your own definition of success.
Intrinsic motivation is an enviable trait.
Most of us know at least one person with an internal furnace that keeps them burning with ambition; with an insatiable appetite for attaining goals, however wild or alternative they may be.
Intrinsically motivated people aren’t afraid to work in the dark.
They don’t need anyone to tell them they are doing a good job, they know it.
They don’t need anyone to tell them to get up early in the morning and get stuff done, they do it.
They don’t need anyone to encourage them through hard times, they embolden themselves.
While the term intrinsic motivation is a relatively common concept, intrinsic success is a little less mainstream.
I had an idea about this today.
Intrinsic success is the silent acknowledgment of achievement in an area that aligns with someone’s personal values or goals. It is meaningful improvement or change and is felt as a wave of intense pride / euphoria.
After a little bit of brain dumping and a pinch of internal reflection, I’ve concluded that intrinsic satisfaction comes down to three main points:
Intrinsic success is:
- Knowing that what you are doing means something, even if no one can see it
- Moving forward in a personally meaningful way
- Seeking internal approval
1) Knowing what you are doing means something, even if no one can see it
Intrinsic success is basically like having a mental medal ceremony for yourself.
After years of competitive sport, hundreds of certificates, ribbons and medals, different trophies and awards events, taking a break was harder in ways I never expected.
Much, much harder.
Success in swimming or surf lifesaving is simple to define.
You either win or lose.
You get the time or you don’t.
Sitting in an office with a computer and a swelling list of to-dos’, success became a lot harder to define. My accomplishments were no longer measured by figures on a scoreboard and I couldn’t push harder, kick faster or make one final lunge to achieve triumph. It became harder to genuinely believe that what I was doing meant something.
My success became difficult to calculate.
I began drowning in meaninglessness. My growth, my work, my worth all changed.
And it was pretty bloody jarring.
It took a very long time to fight my way out of the mental sinkhole that encased me. What I slowly came to realise was that seeking internal approval, internal validation, internal success was essential to re-assembling my mental self.
I started to chip away at the most menial things. I pushed and squirmed and dragged myself against the allure of complacency.
I raged against inaction.
I battled a mental medusa that tried turning me to stone, an inactive and immovable statue of grey.
Everything changed when I took the time to design my own definition of success. At that point I began to move forward in a way that was personally meaningful, which brings me to point number two…
2) Moving forward in a personally meaningful way
Here’s what helped me crawl out of an emotional s&%t storm of meaninglessness more than anything else; knowing, wholeheartedly, that what I was dong meant something special to me, regardless of whether anyone else saw it or understood it.
When you’re intrinsically successful, no one can touch it. They can’t question it and they can neither give it to you, nor take it away.
And intrinsic success can be for anything, literally.
Yesterday I touched a cockroach.
This is a big deal for me.
In the past I would unleash an entire can of spray on one of those creepy little critters; but I felt bad about abusing the environment with so much pesticide. I was sick of suffering from mini-heart attacks at the mere sight of a roach, so I made a resolution to get over my fear.
The day I took a cockroach outside with my hand was a massive success for me. It’s not newsworthy. it’s not ground-breaking. it’s not even that impressive really.
But for me it was a quantum leap forward.
Despite the fact that a post about me carrying a cockroach outside is hardly going to help me buy a house, earn me bundles of cash, score me 1,000 likes on Instagram or generate Facebook reactions; getting over my fear of cockroaches signified progress in my life.
Which kind of brings me to number three…
3) Seeking internal approval
In today’s society the pressure to be successful is ubiquitous.
From parents and lovers, friends and colleagues to the mass media and advertising. From movies and TV shows to music and self-help books. From Instagram and Facebook to Twitter and Snapchat, we are unceasingly exposed to images, symbols, ideas, people and items that personify success.
Money, fancy things, lots of friends, labels are all external quantifiers of success.
From the latest IPhone or car, to the size of your pay check and the hobbies you peruse, there’s an unwritten but widely recognised formula to generic success.
But what if we could be intrinsically successful?
The ability to be intrinsically successful comes back to knowing how you define success.
If success is loving yourself enough to take a break and be outside for 30 minutes a day, then you know how to quantify it.
If success means staying in contact with your family every day, you know how to quantify it.
If success means having compassion for yourself and taking the time to direct your thoughts positively and purposefully, you know how success feels.
When I left swimming I struggled with a wave of emotional worthlessness.
It was a combination of losing my symbols of success, the times, the medals, the feeling of touching the wall first, and it was a loss of internal success, where I lacked follow through with my new goals;
I said I would work out six times a week but only managed three.
I said I would bike to work and I did it once.
I wrote down 12 things to finish and work and completed three.
When I slowly started to marry my internal goals with my actions and sought out internal success, my productivity, confidence and mood started to climb.
When you are intrinsically successful, no one can touch it. It won’t be effected by fewer likes, less engagement or a lackluster reaction.
Posting online to accrue success ticks in the form of likes, reactions or comments means success is quantified outside ourselves, we are constantly looking for success reassurance from others.
Externally successful people look outside themselves for measures of success.
Intrinsically successful people reflect inwardly and host a badass mental ceremony for themselves.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t post successful things- I think that’s epic and important for keeping your loved ones in the loop. But that post and the reactions to it should never define your success or your value.
I think it’s important to understand what drives us to a specific success and equally important that the success aligns with what’s important to us.
‘For the Gram’, should become ‘For me, because this is what I love’.
Do you know how you define success?