I have an approval addiction. I was raised to never be satisfied and to measure my accomplishments versus others. I love to compete and wired as a Type A, ENTJ (Myers-Briggs) and Enneagram 3/8. While this competitive spirit is a useful tool in business and sport, the danger is falling into the trap that performance is the same as worth.
I have come to learn that there are things better than winning. And its not all about me.
A problem well defined is one half solved. Here is my problem – and things that are not true :
- Performance = worth: the world taught me to equate my performance, in business, sport and even volunteering, as the same as my worth.
- Measuring my accomplishments vs others is winning: while I love that business is one of the best competitive fields, measuring my own accomplishments and grading myself vs others is not healthy, just prideful.
- Trophies and awards are measure of success: I have many deal ‘tombstones’, and plaques on my wall. While the ‘world’ might see these as a measure of success, what really is of value is the impact on people’s lives and livelihood these represent.
- My ego believes my success is self -made: when in reality I stand on the shoulders of my family, friends, teachers and mentors – and circumstances of being born an upper middle-class white male in the US – that have led to much of my worldly success.
- Discipline is about maximized work schedule, efficiency and ‘atta boys‘: when in reality discipline in making time for things important vs urgent, for a conversation, and prioritizing time with family and friends.
- Focus on image: I have worked hard to curate my ‘brand’ as a leader but have learned that being real and vulnerable are much more impactful to others.
- Capitalism has normalized selfishness: the images of climbing the corporate ladder and entertainment icons focus on self and wealth feed the American obsession with me, and individual success, instead of we.
- Be dissatisfied, because ‘enough’ is always out of reach: as personified by the thousands of marketing messages we see daily, and our hurry and striving for more. This is a major issue to my happiness as I have focused on the numerator of the happiness equation (happiness = what I have / what I want) versus fixing the denominator.
While I don’t have all the answers, here are a few things that help focus on significance vs success:
- Be present, don’t grade others: choosing to be with others, not for what they can do for me, but how I can impact them, or what we can do together.
- Define Enough: I have defined how much money is enough, and I am learning to not to yearn for new things – like cars, a bigger house or salary. (I did just buy a car, so have work to do here still).
- Create capacity: I have blocked off a few hours each morning, and on Fridays, to create margin (or capacity) in my life, for time to focus on my non-profit work and life’s mission. One example: I left a non-profit board, so I could create time to focus on my calling.
- Its not about me: I am learning to not take myself so seriously, realizing that I am not irreplaceable at work, and the world doesn’t revolve around my needs.
- Catch myself: with thoughts of pride, envy and replace them with thanks, joy and focus on others.
- Not being afraid: Fear holds us back, and I think one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves is: ‘what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?’
- Finding grace: in clarity of thought about my mission and what God and I are doing together.
I have learned that Success, being what the world says I should be, pales in comparison to a focus on Significance: my mission, leveraging my unique combination of God-given abilities, and dedicating my life to family, sharing life lessons and working for good.
Hope this is helpful to you finding peace and freedom.