At some point or another, we've all measured our lives against yard sticks we didn't create. We have internalized ideas about what successful relationships, careers, bodies, lifestyles, and families look like, even though they're completely irrelevant to our own lives. Either we've decided to forge our own path but haven't created a yard stick to measure our progress, or we're chasing someone else's definition of success and constantly falling short.
Both are surefire ways to make ourselves miserable. We'll wind up constantly comparing ourselves to other people or feeling confused that we never feel good about getting the things we've been chasing for so long.
Your definition of success will depend on your values, the lifestyle you want, and the goals you set for yourself.
(Shameless plug: the Define Your Dreams workbook will help you get hella clear on those things. I've created an extensive exercise in my upcoming ebook that walks you through creating your own yardstick but getting a clear vision for yourself is the most fundamental step.)
Once you start trying on your own definitions of success, it's a whole lot easier to throw out the ones that don't fit you. Here are a few powerful mindset shifts that will help you start using your own yard stick:
Enjoy the journey. If you've constantly got your nose to the ground chasing the next shiny penny you're missing your entire life. While there are totally times to put your head down and do the work, no dream is worth constant misery. Find ways to make the journey enjoyable and if that's utterly impossible, it might be a good idea to go back to your yardstick and figure out whether this dream is really a good fit.
Accept where you're at. Longing to be somewhere else is pointless. Taking consistent action towards where you want to go is powerful but stop beating yourself up for not being there yet. Remind yourself that the journey is part of your story and it's all shaping who you are. Learning to be okay with where you're at (and even love it!) is what will get you out of the comparison trap and allow you to fully step into your own life.
"Good for her! Not for me" is a real gem from Amy Poheler. We get to want whatever we want but we don't have to want "it all." Sometimes it's easy to get sucked in by the shiny allure of other people's success and this phrase is an easy way to snap us back to looking at our own yard stick, without diminishing how great those things are for someone else.
Next time you find yourself feeling like an utter failure, ask yourself: are you measuring yourself against your yard stick or someone else's? Take a moment to revisit your goals (I like to reread mine every morning) and decide on a small action that will bring you into better alignment with your own definition of success. Everything else is good for her, but not for me.
Love, neon lights, & dandelion wishes.
Photograph by Billy Rood.