May 3, 2015

The Problem with Success.


For much of my life, I had an addiction.

It was a subtle addiction, barely perceptible because it was so normalized—validated, even—by everyone around me. I was rewarded for this craving—for this incessant hunger that kept me up at night. And the more I gave into it, the more the society around me celebrated me.

I was addicted to success.

Now, like any good addiction, it wasn’t really about the substance; it was about the hole that it filled—or, at least, covered up. For me, that hole was unworthiness: not being good enough.

At an early age I learned that if I wanted to matter in this world, if I wanted to make any difference at all, I’d have to be impressive. I’d have to accomplish a lot. I’d have to conquer achievement after achievement. And so I did.

By age 22, I had already worked at two of the top PR agencies in the world, filmed a documentary in Rome, been declared an expert in healthcare reform and helped to start a successful PR agency of my own.

With each new triumph, I filled my bucket higher. And maybe one day, if I’d accomplished enough, it’d finally be filled. I’d finally be filled. I’d finally feel successful. And successful people are always good enough.

But no bucket in the world can ever be filled if it has a hole in it—if it’s leaking out self-esteem left and right. And that’s exactly what was happening to me. That’s exactly what was happening to everyone around me. It was the epidemic of our modern culture: fill and watch it leak out, then fill and watch it leak out.

There was always higher to climb, always more to do. I convinced myself that once I reached “there,” that arbitrary milestone in my mind, that I’d finally make it. Maybe a six-figure salary. Maybe a dream apartment. Maybe the right job or the perfect relationship or those impressive friends.

And that’s our culture’s greatest myth—that something, somewhere, outside of us is just going to make us into the people we want to be. That if we own a big screen TV, we’ll finally feel successful. Or if we drive that fancy sports car, we’ll have made it in the world. Or if we hit that dream salary, it will all change for us.

That myth has all us addicted. And striving for more.

But here’s the fatal flaw: we have this widespread misconception that life is lived achievement to achievement. But it’s actually lived moment to moment. And in every single moment, we have the opportunity to feel successful. We have the opportunity to feel that this—this moment right here—is enough.

We can savor the sunset.

We can feel grateful for the love around us.

We can call an old friend.

We can stop and kiss a loved one.

We can remember how far we’ve come.

We can choose to feel proud of ourselves.

And we can decide that we’re enough—we’ve always been enough. And, if we want to accomplish more and share ourselves with the world even deeper, then that’s great. But it’s just the cherry on top. And we never need that cherry; it’s just nice to have once in a while.

Savoring our successes, loving ourselves, feeling grateful, appreciating who we are—these are the antidotes to the addiction. This is how we finally fill the bucket, how we become fulfilled.

Living a life filled with that much love and happiness is nothing short of success.


Author: Mike Iamele

Editor: Caroline Beaton

Photo: Flickr


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