Success is a personal experience. It is subjective.
For some people, it means building an empire worth billions of dollars.
While for some, it simply means being content with where you are and what you have.
So there’s no common metric that can calculate how successful a person is.
And yet, how we define the path to “success” can propel us to our next level or it get us into serious trouble.
It can build us up, keep us stuck, or even break us down.
Let’s take a minute and look at the things that we’ve been taught on how to be successful:
Work really hard
Always give your best
Say the right things
Go the extra mile
Strive for greatness
No pain, no gain
And the most important of all - Never Give Up!
Over time, those success tips have become rules. They’ve become requirements that we have to meet in order to “feel” successful.
But when we try to look at the big picture, we realize that these requirements don’t necessarily bring us the elusive success that we seek.
In fact, there are people who clearly don’t follow these rules and yet they are happy, thriving and successful in life.
What’s disheartening is that when we reflect on the topic of “success” closely, we realize that we are doing a lot of things not for the purpose of succeeding but for the purpose of satisfying the people who’ve laid out the rules.
Our parents. The teachers. Religious authorities. Mentors. Employers. And sometimes even our friends also have a say in our success.
So now we don’t just feel unsuccessful - we also feel resentful and exhausted.
As we work harder and try harder to meet the requirements for success, we don’t notice that we are already overextending ourselves to the point of exhaustion… and without really achieving anything concrete.
We overextend ourselves diligently because this is “how” they say we can succeed.
These things don’t make us successful, they actually make us over-extenders:
Glorifying busyness, over-scheduling
Saying “YES” to everything
Excessive self-reliance, not asking for help
Equating value to productivity, output
Ignoring basic signals from the body (rest, hunger, pain)
Having no time for close, intimate relationships
Never-ending to-do lists
Powering through burnout
Sticking to rationality without emotionality
On a personal note, it took me two weeks to respond to my friend’s voice note.
My excuse, as always, “I’m so busy, I’ve got so much going on.”
Have I been busy? Yes. So much so that I don’t have time to connect with a friend through a quick note? No.
I did have time...to say “yes” to another request. I did have time to add more things to my to-do list. I did have time to pile on more productivity, busyness, skip through lunch and equate it to my… success… to my value and worth.
This is not success. This is overextending.
In my case, I know it’s related to something I’m avoiding. Some decisions I’m trying to put off. It’s also tied to my perfectionism and need for external validation.
The moment I start making zero time for my relationships, that’s when I know… it’s time to rest, recalibrate and remove things from my to-do list. Check-in with my avoidance behaviors and get to the core.
What do I feel I have to prove? Where did this come from?
So how do we stop overextending in the name of success?
I personally follow these 3 steps -
Step 1 Give yourself permission to rest.
Listen to your body and don’t ignore signs like pain, hunger, or stress.
In order to do this, you have to make peace with where you are at.
Comparing yourself to what this or that person has achieved, built, earned, created, is not going to help you.
Instead, celebrate whatever you’ve already achieved and know that this is enough.
Step 2 Aim for the things that bring you joy.
A lot of people are not successful because they have no idea what will make them happy.
So they borrow other people’s definition of success and work really hard to achieve it.
And once they’ve succeeded, they start to wonder why they’re still unhappy.
You see, that’s not how it works.
Ask yourself what will make YOU fulfilled on a long-term basis.
To come up with a reliable answer, remove other people out of the equation.
If you must overextend, be in pain, and twist yourself into a pretzel to become successful, it could be a sign that you’re just trying to prove something or convince people of your worth.
Step 3 Heal anything that isn't rooted in compassion.
Whatever kind of success you are trying to achieve, it should inspire kindness towards yourself.
It shouldn’t push you to abandon your well-being. It shouldn’t force you to neglect your personal relationships.
Overextending is not an act of self-love. If anything, it is an act of self-betrayal.
When you catch yourself overextending, take a few moments to reflect. You might want to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? What am I trying to prove? Why is this thing more important than my well-being and happiness?”
I hope these 3 steps help you redefine success without having to overextend yourself.
My course, Breaking the Cycle of Self-Betrayal, is open for enrollment!
This is intensive training for people who are ready to heal their self-betraying habits and shift them into self-loving, self-respecting, and self-honoring behaviors.
Check out the full curriculum here
We start on March 7th!