I’ve noticed something as a young adult. Peers around me seem to talk a lot about being successful and how they are going to be successful. It’s very possible if not certain that I am in the minority in not fully understanding where they are coming from. I’m not really one to stress about much, and I’ve pinpointed the period of my life where I honed this demeanor.
In the middle of my high school experience, I was cut from the volleyball team. Coming from a family of athletes and being a 6′ tall female I felt my heart shrivel in my chest when I got to the last name that was not my own. I moved through the rest of the day on the verge of tears, being the emotional human that I am. Something I had worked so hard for and wanted so much had been ripped away from me.
That night our parents took us to a minor league baseball game. “How about you try tennis,” my mom suggested from the seat next to me. The season had already started, but my mom assured me that would be fine. Despite feeling extremely uncomfortable I agreed to attend practice the next day. They say baseball games are long, that one really was.
My mom knew I was stronger than I was aware, so she drove me shaking in my sneakers to the court. I stepped out and she drove away.
I swore I was walking into a different universe. The coaches and girls were kind and welcoming. The world I was from was driven by an emotionally abusive and broken woman. She fostered an environment of insecurity, fear, and competition… even within what was meant to be a team. At the end of the day, however the thing that hit me harder than anything else was that I had fun.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had fun playing volleyball. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the sport, I love most sports in fact. The thing was no amount of love for the sport was going to overcome an adult being put in a position of power over children, that she had no place being put in.
A few weeks later one of my friends who played volleyball started talking to me about practice. White washed over her face as it hit her that I no longer played. She started apologizing immensely for forgetting. I stopped her as soon as she started, “don’t worry about it. I’m happy, tennis is great.”
I could feel the energy of her feeling sorry for me shift to me feeling sorry for her. I could see it in her eyes, she hated her volleyball experience too. No worries though she quit and switched to track the next year. In fact, Shannon quit that year and the volleyball girls transitioning to tennis increased the following year for reasons we will never fully know.
Tennis and the men who coached us taught me not how to be happy, but how to identify that I was. They taught me that it’s okay to demand to feel that way. At the end of the day my parents weren’t disappointed, my old coach and teammates barely noticed I was gone, and I was a better person to myself and others for being what I considered selfish at the time. So I’m glad I didn’t make the cut because if I had I maybe never would have learned how to quit.
I can sum up how I have used what I learned from this into one statement: Your true happiness will never exceed the happiness you think you deserve.
Ultimately I believe that finding personal success is finding what makes you as an individual happy. This manifests differently in every aspect of life:
Understanding what you need to be happy in a relationship is the first step in having a happy one. This is different for everyone, but here are my pretty basic rules:
- He/She wants the same things from the relationship as me and his/her ideal future is compatible with my own.
- He/She makes me happy, and when he/she doesn’t I tell him/her.
- He/She’s willing to hear me in those moments because he/she respects my happiness just as I respect his/hers.
- I respect that investing time and energy in my own happiness is important in order to bring my best self to the table for him/her.
- If I can’t accomplish one of the above it’s only fair for both of us to let each other go.
The meaning of these become very different depending on what creates the most joy and sucks the most joy from an individual. Understanding what those things are can be hard, but once someone figures them out what they should demand from a relationship becomes pretty clear.
It is really easy to feel the pressure to be constantly clawing for more success in a job. Money and power are addicting and it’s easy to constantly strive for more of them. It’s possible that having a secure income could be the thing someone’s life is missing, but money can only get someone so far. Measuring how happy I am in a job usually boils down to a few things:
- My boss respects me and my goals
- I am respected by my fellow coworkers
- I feel peace, acceptance, and belonging in my team
- Dreading getting out of bed in the morning is a rare occurrence
- I have a work-life balance that lets me get lost in the things that I truly love in life
If the point of having money is to give us the opportunity to be comfortable and happy, there is no point in having a job that makes us uncomfortable and sad.
Living an optimal life outside of work and relationships is simple. Whatever you need to be happy, focus on that. Here are a few examples:
- Prioritize your desires. If staying home and reading a book is the recharge needed it’s okay to decline going out.
- Give into the direction your motivation is pulling you. If you are fed up with the mess around the house, start decluttering. Trying to put your energy into what you “should be doing” will never be as productive.
- If you are stuck in a cycle of anxiety take the time to pause and learn how to break out of it.
- You deserve to be happy and you deserve love… including from yourself.
- Allow yourself to appreciate your life and be happy and spread happiness.
Not gonna lie this mentality might not work for everyone. All I know is it sure as heck works for me and makes me happy, which I consider success, and I will continue to let these words guide my life.
So that’s my current life motto, what’s yours?