Years ago (when I was 26-lol), I worked at a movie trailer company as an editor. This, I thought, was the epitome of success in my field (save for maybe editing actual movies). But I lasted six months before packing up my stuff and moving back to Seattle.
One of the biggest factors for calling it quits was because of a producer I worked for named Jack*, who was the Amanda Priestly to my Andy Sachs, if you read or have seen The Devil Wears Prada.
He was/is that quintessential producer-type who drove a fancy car and lived in a fancy house, and in general was just a huge du…unlikable person.
One day while he was sitting behind me while I was editing, he put his feet up on the desk right next to me and told me that one day I could be successful like him, and have a big house and a maid. I’ll seriously never forget that, because my thought was, “well then may I never have a maid if being successful means being like you.”
Obviously this is an extreme example of how one person defines success. In between jerky Hollywood producer and living out of your car (either by choice or not), is a gigantic success sea to explore.
Begin With the End in Mind/Have a Clear Vision of What You Want
The first technique comes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but it wasn’t until I listened to the audio book, Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, that I began to combine these two tools into my own “success plan.”
I think to find your own version or definition of success, you have to look both forward (exercises from Tony’s book) and be extremely clear about what you want out of life, AND be able to project in the future to your funeral, about what kind of person you want to be remembered as, and reverse engineer your life to fit that description.
How I Define Success
So I’ve been doing both exercises. And here are some things I’ve come up with on how I define success in my own life.
Looking back: At the end of my life I want to be remembered as someone who was kind. Not necessarily nice all the time, but kind. Someone who was there for her friends and family and listened to them, and was open-minded, caring, patient, and had lots of love to give to the people she cared about.
Looking forward: My goal is to spend more time with friends and family in high-quality settings, and cultivate my listening skills more (aka stop my own yapping). Also to constantly work on accepting people who are different from me or who have different points of view (like people who voted for Trump :)).
Looking back: I want to be remembered as that 97-year-old woman who could still play beach volleyball (hey, it’s my fantasy!), and was very vibrant, active, and took care of her mind and body.
Looking forward: To maintain this level of wellness, I need to eat as healthfully as possible. I need to exercise to maintain a healthy body weight and muscle mass, and incorporate more flexibility training. I also need adequate amounts of water, sleep, rest, and sunshine, and I need to practice stress management (um, daily!).
Looking back: I want to be remembered as someone who was financially savvy. Who had enough money for the years she was “retired,” to enjoy travel, leisure activities, good food, etc., but was also well-off enough to donate her money to causes she cared about, and who could help people freely without jeopardizing her own finances.
Looking forward: I want to be super conscious of the spending choices I make and that they only fit into needs, or things I really, really want that are aligned with my values and what I want to get out of life. This requires that I make sure I always save as much as I can (50% would be ideal) and that I’m always challenging myself to see how I can either cut back on spending and/or earn more.
I should say that there is a lot more to say about the categories I have written about, but they are for my eyes only. And there are other categories to do this exercise with including: travel, romantic relationships, spirituality, work, home, leisure, children, etc.
Because it’s your life and your definition, you can categorize it however you like.
Going back to the d-bag producer I worked with years ago. I knew back then that my definition of success was not “having a maid.” Nor is it necessarily a fancy car, gigantic house where the square footage is barely utilized, or on the flip side of that, it’s not necessarily giving away everything but 30 items, or never going to see a movie (even though I love films) just because “you shouldn’t ever pay for entertainment.”
Life becomes more freeing when you eliminate “should,” especially someone else’s “should” from your life.
Have you ever done any kind of looking forward or looking back exercises?
*not his real name