Also, successful people are the ones who identify the problem or issue, identify what to do about it, and carry out doing what needs to be done.
Those may seem like two different kinds of definitions of success, but I see a connection. If you aspire to be something that you aren't, then you probably aren't able to see and carry out the steps to getting there.
When I was in college, they told us we were too smart to be homemakers. I knew it was wrong. I knew that my mother was a homemaker, and that that was right for her. My mother is a success. She gardens. She raised six children, and now she babysits grandchildren. These things are exactly what she wants to do.
They told us in college we had to go out and have a career, but my mother would detest having a career. If she had a job, she would hate it, she would be struggling.
My friend is a success because he knows that due to his physical and psychological ailments, he can't drive a car or hold a job. He lives with his mother. He doesn't try to be someone he's not.
Many students drop out of PhD programs. I saw one who realized right away that it wasn't for her, and dropped out right away. She's a success.
Other students don't fit the PhD program, but they keep at it. They are determined to get a PhD because they think it's the badge of intelligence and prestige. But the thing is, the PhD is not an award that says you are smart. The PhD is about doing research. If you don't like to do research, it's not for you. But they grit their teeth, they say I've set this goal for myself, and they keep at it. They take classes. They flounder in research. They blame their advisor, they blame the school.
I'm not saying you shouldn't work hard to achieve your goals. Just be mindful of whether your goals are right for you. It's fine to aspire to something that you don't yet know how to do. It's fine to aspire to something that terrifies you. The problem comes when you aspire to the wrong thing, when you aspire to something that you admire or want to be, but that isn't who you are.
And that's my problem. That's what I've done all my life. I haven't been able to figure out the right aspirations for myself.
According to the alumni magazine of the college I attended, it seems my college classmates are all doctors, lawyers, professors, or businesspeople. That's what it looks like in the alumni magazine. There are classmates I know of who don't get written about, who are living with chronic illness, unemployed, underemployed, in prison. When I read about all those doctors, lawyers, professors, and businesspeople, I feel bad for not being what they are. But I do know that that's not who I am.
I donate money to the College of the Atlantic, because I like what they are doing, so I receive their alumni magazine too. Their stories are a bit different from those at my alma mater:
- Starting a farm and craft program at an elementary school
- Being an administrator for an association of organic farmers
- Teaching yoga
- Designing and building wooden boats
Their stories are more appealing to me, but in a way that's more dangerous. It's easy to get sucked in to wishing I could be like them.
When I make my own list of what I want to do, it's completely unreasonable. Besides the fact that it doesn't really include a way to earn a living, it is also overly ambitious. Here's what I want to do:
Outdoors: cross country skiing, skate skiing, snowshoeing, nature walks, learn about trees, rollerblading, kayaking, rowing, sailing, sit on the shore gazing at the water, sit in the sun, sit under trees and gaze up at leaves, feel breezes on my skin, and go to outdoor fairs and festivals.
Music and dance: learn to play hammered dulcimer, learn to play harp, learn to play bodhran, learn to sing (to participate in folk singalongs), learn Morris dance, learn jazz dance, learn modern dance, learn African dance, learn swing dance, do Nia, choreograph dances.
Community organizing: be involved in Transition movement, be involved in time bank, volunteer at festivals and fairs,and organize outings including nature walks, boat trips, and ski trips.
Compiling: Compile photos, family history stories. Make playlists of songs for different occasions, (for example, one that starts slow and gets livelier in order to cheer me up; one for doing housework to; one for dancing to, lists of songs about themes such as songs about vegetables, or songs about light emerging from darkness). Make a slideshow of photos to accompany a song, using the photos to bring meaning out from the song.
Home and health: keep my home clean and uncluttered so that it serves as a spiritual retreat for me. Cook healthy meals for myself. Exercise daily.
Druidry: For the past year, I have been taking a break from my druid practices, but now I'm trying to get back into it. This means spending time outdoors weekly, meditating daily, practicing rituals, and various reading and reflection.
I aspire to do all of the above, plus I have a full-time job, plus I hate my job so I aspire to spend time trying to find a different job.
I aspire to do all of this, and therefore, I do not succeed. The steps to success are:
- Recognize that I wish to do all of the above.
- Recognize that I can't do it all.
- Make choices about what is most important to me.
- Set reasonable goals.
- Work toward those goals.
But all the things I listed that I want to do, I want to do them. It's hard to let any of them go.