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Thursday, May 28, 2009

THE STRESS OF SUCCESS: How Do You Define Success?

The Stress of Success with Cinda Hocking, LMSW

When you think of a successful person, what attributes do they have? If you look at our values as they are reflected and influenced by advertising, our culture seems to define success primarily by the acquisition and retention of money and real estate, youthful good looks, stylish and expensive lifestyle items, and fame. While we all realize that money does not buy happiness, it is also obvious that it sure makes misery more tolerable!

The attributes and material possessions our culture rewards and encourages are very compelling, but what truly constitutes a “successful” human being? I ask clients about what defines “success” and they always list spiritually and personally fulfilling characteristics: good relationships, passion about work, commitment to an environmental or social cause, or dedication to developing something.

Busy, success-driven people are starting to realize that cultivating small but fulfilling daily experiences is just as important as working towards grand lifetime goals. They are exhausted and complain to me that their day-to-day pleasure in life has disappeared because they are too busy working towards acquiring and maintaining “success.” And even when professionals don’t feel successful, they are still running themselves ragged just to give the appearance that they are!

Whenever a client expressed an underlying pervasive feeling of being unsatisfied, I ask them about their vision/idea of a successful life. I ask what are fulfilling characteristics of each day, not just what are their big goals. We focus on whether the ideas and ideals they are trying to manifest are truly what they want or believe in. Is their vision updated to who they are now, or is it frozen in their past ideas of what they “should” do or be? Is the vision really theirs, or is it someone else’s? Are they sacrificing having a successful daily life in order to avoid a fearful future or achieve a future success?

Here is a simple awareness exercise, that if done consistently, will help you to discover (or rediscover) daily fulfillment and success. This practice is also referred to as “mindfulness”.

We all have daily activities, chores and tasks that we find necessary, but not particularly pleasurable. They are often done mindlessly or even with a sense of resentment and boredom. However, even routine activities can become fulfilling when you do them with awareness, noticing how they enrich your life and the lives of others. Every day practice noticing and observing how each action you perform utilizes, reflects or supports your values, interests and abilities. How do your daily actions help the people you care about, your community, the environment? As you build awareness, you will begin to do these activities with more and more attention and positive intention. As you do so, you also cultivate a real appreciation of each moment. Try it, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Cinda Hocking, LMSW

Health and Lifestyle Counselor

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