More Successful Than We Know..

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right (drawing by Diane Mottl)Isn’t it interesting, how easy it is to get caught up in what society deems as successful? Markers of success are everywhere. Earn this amount. Reach this high in your career. Have this level of responsibility. Inspire this many people. Make sure you accomplish at least this much each day. Raise children who achieve this level.

We often associate success with an outcome: I have successfully accomplished X when I have achieved Y. Even if we are careful to make sure the “Y” is our best (not someone else’s), success still becomes about reaching a certain standard. We may celebrate the milestones along the way but success is still about getting to “Y”.

Think for a moment about this quote from motivational speaker Zig Zigler:

Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”

Even when the first message is about doing/trying, there is still the persistent second voice that talks about outcomes: reaching for the highest/becoming all that we can be. Which message have we internalized? That success is about the trying or that it is about reaching a personal standard? And if we lean more towards the latter, do we always know when we have reached it?

Here’s an example. When I was researching how to market a blog for wider viewership, the concept of writing articles for other websites kept coming up. I am not a 5-steps-to-happiness type writer, but I decided to see if I could stretch how I wrote. The end result was two articles that I submitted to Psych Central. Since they stated in their submission criteria that they did not have the resources to follow-up with a yeigh or a neigh, I checked online after the allotted time. Not seeing either published, I assumed the answer was neigh.

It’s not the end of the world, right? I tried. It didn’t get published. Try again. Try something else. Focus on what you learned from the experience. Not every attempt is going to be a success. Yada, yada, yada.

I told myself all of that and moved on. But did I feel a sense of success? I might have given myself a pat on the back for the “personal success” of trying, but I did not get the confidence boost of an “I did it!”

But here is where it gets interesting: both articles were published, I just did not know it. A year later, when I was Googling my name for kicks, up pops two articles referencing one of the articles I submitted (). Huh? Curious, I dug a little deeper and sure enough, not only was that article published on Psych Central, the other one was too ().

For months, I had classified the venture as unsuccessful. Yet to anyone who found my articles, I had been successfully published. They saw the concrete results that demonstrated success. I did not see those results, so I classified it differently.

This got me thinking: without seeing the effect of something we have done, are we too quick to dismiss it? Do we move on to the lesson we learned from the doing/trying, but still file it away as an “I tried but” rather than a success?

But what if it had more of an effect then we are aware of? What if by simply trying, we inspired someone else? What if it trickled down and became something more? Are we so used to looking in one direction for a concrete marker of success, that we miss all the other ways our actions may have achieved something else?

We may think we have not succeeded, but maybe — just maybe — we have missed how our doing/trying has blossomed into something more. Maybe we are living a life that is far more successful than we know.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”– Robert Louis Stevenson

“Every piece of the universe, even the tiniest little snow crystal, matters somehow. I have a place in the pattern, and so do you.” — T. A. Barron

“I want to define success by redefining it. For me it isn’t that solely mythical definition – glamour, allure, power of wealth, and the privilege from care. Any definition of success should be personal because it’s so transitory. It’s about shaping my own destiny.” — Anita Roddick

“Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people – your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.” — Barbara Bush

“Success:  To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” — William James

12 Responses to “More Successful Than We Know..”

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  1. Annemarie says:

    Loved this post. It’s so classic, we discount our efforts all the time and this is such a good example of how unfair we can be to ourselves. What a great reminder to be fully in the effort and not so quick to judge the outcome. Thanks!

  2. Ana Pouzada says:

    I know it’s a bit redundant but WHAT A GREAT POST! Thank you so much Diane for inspiring me/us with you “attempts” that are, in fact, always successful.
    Big transatlantic hug!

  3. says:

    Last night I found a note I had scribbled to myself years ago after a corporate meeting with a communications executive I thought I wanted to work for. In my note I was debating if I really wanted career success if it meant working for this woman. The note comically captured the permanent crease in the executive’s forehead and the brusqueness with which she spoke to everyone. I would have been a writer for this executive. So glad that instead I’m a writer for me! To others, I’m a quitter (I resigned) but in mind I’m a courageous woman who followed her heart.

    • I have read many of your blog posts, Sheila, and have seen the reviews on your books. You write with such depth and passion that I can’t imagine you writing for an executive who lived by those values (or lack of values). Good for you following your heart to find a more soul-fulfilling way of writing. And for what it’s worth, in my mind you are a courageous woman, definitely not a quitter…

  4. says:

    “But what if it had more of an effect then we are aware of? What if by simply trying, we inspired someone else?” Yes, THIS, yes! I said something similar to this recently in a discussion with environmentally-minded friends about whether our efforts to “reduce, reuse, recycle” really matter. It’s so easy to get discouraged. But I pointed out that, even beyond keeping trash out of landfills, we’re setting an example for other people, who may be inspired to increase their own efforts to recycle. That’s success in my book.

    And that Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about Success? It touched me so deeply that, many years ago, I typed it up on pretty paper and put it in a nice frame and placed it on my desk. Coincidentally, I also used it when I wrote about success on my blog — great minds think alike! :)

    I’m really enjoying your blog, Diane. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the comment, Kim. I just read your blog post “My Definition of Success” where you used the Emerson quote — “great minds think alike” indeed (smile). Here’s to more people re-defining success by following the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. PS: Loved the line in your post where you said, “…those of us who truly understand and connect with the gifts of this planet are the ones who are really succeeding at life.”

  5. says:

    We remember the struggles climbing the mountain, the slippery rock face, the tricky ledges, the view from the top is soon forgotten. Another really nice post Diane.

    • Thanks James. Isn’t it interesting what we chose to focus on? I, for one, am going to keep reminding myself to enjoy the view all along the way (slippery rock faces and all).

  6. says:

    You write a lovely blog every week which many people enjoy and look forward to so you are definitely a success with a capital S! We all have successes and failures and you’re right. We can’t define ourselves by either. Take care, Jan (lovely drawing too!)