Life comes with a multitude of definitions of success
In my years as a corporate workaholic, my success was defined by a whole lot of external measures. The number of hours I worked, the company I worked at, the hierarchical level of my position, the targets I hit, the corporate values I displayed, the qualifications I held, the people I could influence, the speed of my progression, and so on. These measures were usually pretty clear, and I diligently worked towards them.
I’m not one to do things that I don’t believe in, so I wouldn’t say I was coerced into these things. Rather I was a willing participant in measuring my success this way. But with age, has come more determination to live life my way and create my own definition of success.
Which is fortunate, because…
Motherhood comes with a multitude of definitions of success
The difference is, that success in motherhood is definitely not as clear cut as success in my corporate job.
The definitions of success in motherhood are not only wildly varied, but often contradictory. Some are evidence based, others opinion based and some are just clever marketing tactics to get us to buy the latest products in a lucrative market.
We find these definitions at the doctor’s clinic, the sleep specialist’s office, the child and maternal health service, mother’s group, in our family, at our workplace, at the gym, in magazines, books, on TV and on the internet. They are everywhere!
You may not think of them as definitions of success, but you may feel them as “shoulds”. For example:
- I should be breastfeeding until my child is 2 years old
- I should be getting them to sleep through the night
- I should be going back to work full time
- I should be staying at home with my children
- I should be cooking all my kids’ food from scratch
- I should be fitting into my pre-baby clothes…
You get the point.
You may also be trying to live up to your pre-motherhood definitions of success. Such as keeping the house spotless, dressing up and putting on a full face of makeup every day, hitting the gym 6 times per week or answering every email and message within the day.
But things are NOT the same anymore.
Other people’s definitions vs our own
Success is confusing and overwhelming when we try to meet all the definitions out there. Mothers push themselves beyond their limits and end up feeling resentful and like they’re constantly failing.
And well, there’s a little truth to that, because while you’re definitely not failing (as a person or mother), you aren’t going to achieve all those versions of success. It is impossible to achieve all those standards. They can be conflicting, unrealistic, only focus on 1 part of your life, don’t take into account your personal situation, and they aren’t right for every mother or child.
Perhaps, deep down, we don’t even want to achieve success in this way.
I mean, how is it making you feel? Is it how you want to be feeling?
What’s more important than every one else’s definitions of success, is what success is to YOU.
Your own definition of success is the right fit for you, takes into account your holistic situation and it can light you up, rather than bring you down.
Defining a successful day
Something I find really helpful is defining a successful day.
You can have longer term success goals as well, but thinking about success based on your day to day, makes it less about a final destination and allows you to be successful right now! It also helps to reinforce that success doesn’t have to be a huge goal that takes a lifetime to achieve, it can be small repeatable things that bring us joy and fulfilment.
How would you define success for a day in your life?
Maya Angelou says “success is liking who you are, liking what you do and liking how you do it”.
I love this, because it challenges the way that we usually think about success, making it much more of an internal measure.
On the front cover of her book “The Desire Map”, Danielle LaPorte, says that
“Knowing how you want to feel is the most potent clarity you can have. Generating those feelings is the most powerful thing you can do with your life”.
She suggests that you identify how you want to feel and then do easy things to help you feel that way every day.
How do you want to feel each day?
Some feelings that come to mind for me are joyful, calm, loved, inspired, purposeful, connected and healthy.
Based on this, I would consider it a successful day, if I had:
• Spent some quality time with my son and husband. Hugged and kissed them. Showed them they are loved.
• Laughed and played
• Looked after my son’s safety
• Connected with a friend or family member (even just via text message)
• Tuned into what I needed and did something for myself
• Had a positive impact on someone’s life, even with something as simple as a smile
• Returned our house to relative order before I go to bed (doesn’t have to be perfect, but physical order and space helps my sanity!)
• Nourished my body with healthy food and drinks
• Moved my body
• Did some work that inspired me and was aligned with my purpose
• Allowed myself to be led by love not fear
• Been my authentic self
• Been present.
Even if things didn’t go to plan for the entire day, if I managed to do most of these things, I would consider that a successful day. I would go to bed able to take the learning, let go of the day and be ready to start anew in the morning.
Sure, there’s laundry, kids’ activities, emails, meetings and all the other responsibilities of life. But my daily success is not dependant on those things. Even if I don’t get everything done.
Things to let go of
In defining your version of a successful day, you’ll need to let go of a few things:
1. The worth we attribute to certain types of success
For example, a working mum is not better or more worthy than a stay at home mum. An empty laundry basket does not make you a better mum than an overflowing one.
2. The things we cannot control
You can’t define success as your child having no meltdowns or sleeping through the night. Success needs to be something we can create, regardless of the situation around us.
3. The need to have every day be successful
We all have bad days. Even those mums with perfect social media feeds. Tomorrow is a new day. A new opportunity to live your version of success. And remember that everything is learning and everything is part of the journey.
Finally, know that you can redefine success at any stage! Because nothing is forever and you are learning more about yourself and life every single day.
So, lovely, how do you want to feel?
What really matters to you?
What brings you joy, feel fulfilled, makes you feel centred and vibrant and most like you?
What do you want to achieve most for yourself and your family?
Create your own definition of success and back yourself to achieve it!
I’d love to know what your definition of success is, so comment below and I’ll be virtually cheering you on!