How I define success is crucial to my growth. When I broaden my notion of success I am more likely to learn and grow. It’s harder to do this when I think I am failing. I can sometimes feel like I am failing those I care about most, or that I am failing God. How I view myself plays into my notions of success.
When my self-worth is caught up in the opinion of others it can become more about me in self-centered ways. My perspective narrows and the way I engage with those I care about most, God, and even myself, changes. Success is actually about me not getting stuck in following rules or standards. When I define success in terms of rules it only leads me to grasp for control to make sense of things that are hard, complicated or just gray by nature (not black and white). Rules can give me a false sense of comfort when God is calling me to be uncomfortable in order to grow. Control is just an illusion.
Recently, in a new job, I have felt the pressure to succeed, to add value and not let those around me down as a leader. An example of me having to shift my notion of success was my delivery of training. My team came to me a few days in and gave me some hard feedback. In my efforts to make the material more concise and stick to time people did not feel heard, or that they could ask questions. At one point I cut a colleague off in front of the participants just to keep things on course. I didn’t even realize I had done it. For me to be truly successful I had to let go of controlling the outcome and getting through the material (following the rules and sticking to a plan) and change the definition of success to how I could listen and respond to participants. My focus had to shift from me to them and what I could do to set the tone for them to feel safe to ask questions. I was able to go back, acknowledge and appreciate the feedback and change. I apologized to the class for rushing and my colleague for cutting him off. The rest of the training was a lot more effective and the tone was completely different. In the end I saw that although I may want to get through all the material and present it ‘just right’, my focus needs to shift from my performance- trying to be perfect, to looking to see and hear their needs. When I shifted my focus, success become about aspiring to learn and grow instead of perfection.
When I think about success as something to be attained together; with others, and most importantly with God, it becomes less burdensome. I shift from thinking about the ‘standards’ I can never fully attain, to my aspirations. Aspirations move me away from thoughts of success or failure towards just trying to do better each day.
Aspirations move me away from what I have no control over, the outcomes, to what I do have control over, committing to doing my best. When I am rooted in God I am just who I am. I can own my failures and shortcomings. I can hear feedback. I fail and fall short, but I move forward and don’t let it paralyze me. Fear of failure stifles my growth. It can prevent me from giving to others if I think I will fail them, or lead me down the rigid road of trying to follow standards that no one, not even God, expects me to attain. Aspiration leaves room for ambiguity and stepping out on faith.
John 15:15 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
God never wavers in His valuing of me and of His commitment to my well-being. His forgiveness and empowerment is completely reliable. When I take care of my relationship with God at all costs I focus on what He thinks more than what others think of me. As a result, I can move forward even when I am afraid or when I fail. I can still aspire to do my best by him and others, one day at a time.
Rm15: “Through whom (Jesus) we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name.”
I have trouble handing things over to God, pursuing success on his terms. The more I learn about who God is, the more he exposes my rebellious nature. I have to flood my mind with godly thoughts and the truth about His character as written in His word in order to combat my deep rooted pride. I am in a season where God is teaching me how to relinquish in order to truly succeed, learn and grow. Instead of calling me to action, He is calling me to stillness.
When I relinquish, I let go of false attempts and character flaws preventing me from loving Him and others with His love.
Rom6:8 “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
The purpose of me redefining success is not my own self-improvement but rather repentance and grace. It’s about changing the rules of engagement from my own to His. I understand Christ’s love for me when I experience him through my obedience than following my emotions.
I can be my own worst idol. In my feeble attempt to pursue my own happiness I lose sight of God’s goal for me – my holiness. I know I will still fail. I will still hurt those I care for the most when I hold on so tight to what I want. I will fail to lead well at work, or cut off a colleague. However, when I define success in His terms, I fight to repent and do better when I engage in the fight. When I redefine success I don’t engage in the fight by myself or on my own strength but with God and others alongside me. The very things I desire most, are the things God wants to bless me with, if I would only relinquish control. I am the only one standing in the way of what I truly want if I would only change the rules of engagement. So as hard as it is has been, that is what I am doing. Because when I do, by faith, I know success will come. That is when I love those around me better and to His glory, no matter the outcome.
2Cor 10:3-4 (NCV) “We do live in the world, but we do not fight in the same way the world fights. We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”