Success is an Inside Job
Have you ever heard thoughts rattling around in your head such as these?
- “I’m not good enough to ____”
- “They don’t really care about me”
- “I just don’t have what it takes.”
This kind of thinking feeds on the belief that success in the world is measured by who’s doing what or getting what, and how we’re not measuring up. This thinking vibrates with an underlying sense of fear and unworthiness.
What if, every time you heard yourself thinking something like this, you asked yourself a question that radiated joy? Benjamin Zander describes these kinds of questions in his book, The Art of Possibility. They include questions like: “How can I contribute today?” and “What can I do in this situation to make a difference?”
Would You like to Make a Difference?
Try this on for a day. Instead of judging yourself by what you believe to be other people’s standards, start your day believing that you are a gift just the way you are.
Now you might be asking yourself, “How could I make a difference? What could I do to contribute?”
If you find yourself entertaining these doubts, this story–also from The Art of Possibility–may speak well to them.
Strolling along the edge of the sea, a man catches sight of a young woman who appears to be engaged in a ritual dance. Drawing closer, he sees that the beach around her is littered with starfish cast up by a storm from the previous night. She is throwing them one by one back into the sea.
He lightly mocks her: “There are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see. What difference can saving a few of them possibly make?”
Smiling, she bends down and once again picks up another starfish to toss back into the surf, saying serenely, “It certainly makes a difference to this one.”
Seeing the World through Contribution-Colored Glasses
In a world seen through the lens of lack, limitation and fear, thoughts might easily focus on, “too many starfish, not good enough, not enough time, what did they ever do for me?” etc.
But as the story reveals, it’s not a matter of the “success or failure” of the rescue mission, or what proportion of the starfish survived or perished. Absent also are the familiar concerns with fairness, progress, or ability.
Instead, life is revealed as a place where you have something to contribute. Where there is always some small good you have to offer.
Listed under the category of Contribution on our Core Values List we include: Assist. Facilitate, Serve, Provide, Strengthen, and Improve.
Impossible to I’m Possible
Your Mission Possible, if you choose to accept it, is to define your success in terms of contribution, and to use that same lens to witness the actions of others, looking also for the contribution they are attempting to make through their actions. By doing so you redefine the meaning of success, and with this change will come a renewed sense of personal power.
This week start each day with the following questions:
How will I contribute today?
What form will my contribution take?
How can I recognize the contribution other people in my life make to me?
And remember, the shortest path to a happy life is found through conscious choice.