A very solid portion of our collective anxiety and self-dislike comes from the impossible standards we try to meet. These are different — very different — from the standards and goals we hold ourselves to, in that we unconsciously adopted them as necessary, as opposed to products of our own aspirations. We were the generation that was told "You can be anything," and somehow heard "You can succeed at everything, and, in fact, you must."
The reality is that the happiest people don't accomplish the most; they consider every little accomplishment a feat. They are grateful for everything. They let go of what would be ideal and perfect, and in place of that, find what they were actually looking for was surrounding them all along: good enough. They understand that life is defined by the mundane, the day-to-day, not the milestones. Those milestones fade to the background eventually anyway. Happily successful people enjoy the journey, though it's corny to say. The problem isn't that you aren't successful. It's that you have a warped idea of what "success" is, or what it should be, so you aren't letting yourself feel grateful for what you have. It all comes down to needing to shift the way we think, not how endlessly we work. Here, a few new, better ways to gauge how successful you are:
How Effortless You Allow Your Day To Be
You can choose to be grateful for the work you have and what it affords you, and if you're taking care of yourself well enough/doing something you're even remotely competent in, you should not need to use stress, self-hate or anxiety to motivate yourself to get things done.
How Far You've Evolved From The Person You Once Were
We're a culture of forward-thinking people. This isn't political, it's social: we sense a lack of meaning, and so to cope, we imagine a better future. This was our Founding Fathers' MO, and while it's very helpful for, you know, creating systemic change and advancing the human race, it has to be balanced with grounded-ness and presence, which we severely lack.
All of this to say that we're always focusing on the people we should be, that we need to become. We measure our worth by how far we are from an ideal, not how far we've come from the past. Being grateful and acknowledging how far you've come won't inhibit you from becoming more — it will empower you. Most people don't want to be grateful for what they have because they think it will prevent them from wanting more, but the opposite is true. If a lack of gratitude is what motivates you, you'll never have much of anything regardless.
Celebrate the person you are in light of the person you were. Doing so does not mean you have to forego the person you're going to be.
How Much Positive Meaning You've Assigned To Different Aspects Of Your Life
Meaning is not something that happens, it's something you choose. You choose how much you care about your work, and your physical space, and your body, and your relationships. Meaning is not inherent; it's realized. And it's realized by taking note of what you appreciate, and what makes you feel good, and what you don't think you could live without. Whether it be your family, or your job, or your health — it's in appreciating these things for what they do for you that you want to do them better, and take care of them. That's meaning. You decide what constructs the purpose of your life.
Not How Much You Get, But How Little You Need
I have something that may come as a shock, I hope you're all ready: more "things" will not make you more "happy." (Wild idea, right?) Here's the thing: there's nothing wrong with money. Or physical belongings. But there's nothing loving about them, either. You cannot love things; you can only love deflections and distractions that keep you from facing yourself. It's very easy to believe that more money will facilitate a better life, but beyond taking care of your day-to-day necessities, that isn't true. People will argue that making enough money to keep you out of poverty will make you happy, but they fail to acknowledge that the most iconically happy people (think Gandhi, Mother Teresa) were impoverished. The point is, if you need very little, everything will be enough. If you need more and more, nothing will. And the truth is that you don't need most of the crap you think you do.
How Much Love You Feel, No Matter The Circumstances
You cannot always choose how you feel, but you can choose what you think. You can choose what you focus on, and a lot of unhappiness comes from assuming otherwise. You may not always be happy, you may not always have everything you want (or need, really), but there is always, no matter what, in any given moment of the day, love. It is always present, it is just a matter of whether or not you choose to see it.
Gauge your success not on how much you objectively have, but how much you choose to see, no matter how little seems to exist to anybody else.
Images: Pexels; Giphy(5)