by Lori Milner
“All overnight success takes about 10 years.” — Jeff Bezos
When you think about success, often it feels like it will come from one game changing decision or one significant event. Someone is finally going discover your talents or give you your big break. The problem with this way of thinking is that you are putting your happiness in the control of someone else’s hands, you are leaving your life up to external factors. When you keep waiting for things outside your influence to drive your sense of accomplishment, it tends to leave you despondent and feeling out of control. You are always future focused and this is where anxiety breeds so it’s definitely not a good strategy.
The path to success
“The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.” — Colin R. Davis
Success happens incrementally through the choices you make on a daily basis. It’s the practice of making good decisions moment to moment because each choice ultimately defines how you spend the next chunk of time. When you begin to take control of your decisions and not leave them to something or someone external, you begin to trust yourself and the more you trust yourself, the greater your self-confidence becomes. You cannot link your self-worth to someone else choosing you in order for you to believe in yourself or give you permission to pursue your dreams.
I am involved in a project for a client where they are providing one on one coaching to their entire team. The group is being split between myself and two other coaches. We had to do a session to introduce ourselves to the team and then they would select their preferred coach based on who they thought resonated most with their objectives. Let me tell you – I felt like I was back at a school in P.E (physical education) class where the team captain had to select people for their team. Do you remember that feeling of ‘please choose me so I’m not the last kid standing?’ Then you had to do the dreaded walk of shame on the way to join not because they chose you but because they never had a choice. I went right back there but with a difference.
I never tied my self-worth to how many people listed me as their first preference. I have an inherent confidence in myself and I know that the people who need me are going to be the ones who select me. It wasn’t about ego; it was about being of service. I never let the choice selection validate my worth as a coach and a human being.
I share this story because it took me a journey to get to this point. How many times do you put your happiness, self-worth and true ambitions in the hands of someone or something else?
The one decision that will define your success
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”- Roy T. Bennett
If you want to be successful, you have one decision to make that will impact the trajectory of your day and ultimately your life. It is the decision to choose yourself. It is about making choices in your own best interest because you are worth it. Perhaps in the past you made certain choices because you felt you needed to do it for your partner or a parent but it probably didn’t turn out too well or you lacked the inherent internal motivation to persevere.
What does choosing yourself practically look like:
When your alarm goes off, do you hit snooze or get up and do that run you promised you would do?
When it’s 2PM and you still haven’t left your chair all day, are you going to give yourself a break or power through despite your fatigue?
Are you pushing through an extra episode of Netflix versus trying to get in an extra hour of sleep?
These choices don’t sound too drastic but consistency compounds. Through your daily choices, you are either consistently building up to a better version of yourself or steadily creating a more exhausted and stressed version of yourself. It’s the simple decisions that seem insignificant in the moment that can yield the largest impact. Taking that break after a good working session, even if 15 minutes will dramatically change how you spend the next hour. In that hour, you have given yourself the gift of a clear mind and focused attention. This gives you the platform to make progress on something. This is your micro win. The micro win gives you an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge yourself. This floods you with dopamine which enables your brain to lock in the habit. The catalyst for this positive trajectory is you decided to choose you.
Here’s a really big question, at the end of the day I want you to ask yourself: Did I spend the majority of the day doing what I’m best at? I’ll let that one sink in. Either you spent the day on work that enables you to be your best self and contribute the most value. Essentially your life’s work. Or did you spend the majority of the day on busy work and other people’s urgencies? I know it may feel like you never had an option in the matter but you really do. Choose yourself and put your priorities first and when you have completed the task in question, then open the inbox and see what’s waiting. Think about it, if you consistently spend the day on busy work, you will consistently begin to resent the work you do. When you create meaning and derive joy from your work, you will change how you experience it. These choices are linked to actions but there is another set of choices you make daily – what to think.
Thoughts are things
“Choose your thoughts carefully. Keep what brings you peace and let go of what doesn’t. Happiness is only one thought away.” – Nishan Panwar
Research says we have between 12000 and 60000 thoughts per day and 80% are considered to be negative. Battling with guilt, shame, the inner critic and negative thoughts. But what is more disturbing is that these thoughts are repetitive. What thoughts are you conditioning into your mind on a daily basis? These thoughts become the story you tell yourself. Is your story about how you can’t do something, you’ll never get there, you’re an introvert, bad with numbers? Jim Kwik reminds us that if you fight for your limitations, you get to keep them.
Is your current story about how stressed you there are and there is no other way to work or experience your day? This is a big one because the story begins to affect your health in a serious way. This is when anxiety, burnout and even depression can begin to creep in. The problem with these kinds of thoughts is that again, you have the choice to either consistently grow you into the person you aspire to become or keep you at a limited version of yourself. Become aware of your labels, the words you use like I’m an anxious person, I’m going to hurry or quickly get something done’. On that note, become aware of the words you use to other people because you could innocently be placing huge pressure on them. In an interview I did with Bruce Daisley, author of The Joy of Work, he said avoid the word ASAP. It’s toxic and can really derail someone else’s day. You know what it does to you when that word appears in all caps and often in red – I need this done ASAP!
How exactly do you choose yourself?
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”- J.K. Rowling
The way to choose yourself is by cultivating an attitude of an unconditional friendliness towards yourself. Think about your best friend or partner or that person in your life who is your absolute rock. What is it about them you love? It’s probably traits such as unconditional love, no judgement, kindness, empathy and compassion. So the question I pose to you is can you flip that? Can you demonstrate these qualities towards yourself? It requires you giving yourself permission to be nice to yourself and actually ensure you are allowing daily acts of kindness. It also entails that you begin a process of self-praise and acknowledgment of progress no matter how minor it may appear. If you chose a glass of water over the cool drink, celebrate that. If you made progress on a presentation you’ve been avoiding for some time – recognize it.
Choosing yourself means giving yourself space for self-care and committing to that time. It is treating the appointments with yourself with the same honour and respect you would anybody else. Not an attitude of ‘oh it’s just time for me’ so I’ll cancel it and do it another time’. This is about having a hard conversation with yourself and confronting how you are treating yourself currently.
“In the end that was the choice you made, and it doesn’t matter how hard it was to make it. It matters that you did.”- Cassandra Clare
The journey of personal growth isn’t an easy one but the most rewarding one. It’s called a practice for a reason. By choosing yourself, you are automatically upgraded to first class on the path to success. The great news is that it doesn’t have to take you 10 years to get there. It begins with one decision and it’s never too late to start.
Here’s to consistently choosing you,