How does one measure success?
That’s the beauty of such a word with so many meanings. It can be measured in a million different ways.
For me, success is managing to get up early and get in a full yoga session before the working day begins, or being offered that amazing new job that has been a goal since career day at school. It’s making it through the day without bursting into tears, or realizing a happiness that was never even dreamed possible.
It is that overwhelming sense of accomplishment when I’ve done something to make those who love me inexplicably proud. The adrenaline that sends a rush through each limb, leaving my head light and exhausted with happiness that screams from the corners of my mouth and it’s a feeling that, when it hits me, I never want it to stop.
Like drugs to the addicted, it leaves me hungry for more. This sadly is its downfall, as with every success comes the heartbreaking realization that once one goal is completed I then have to think of another rung in my ladder, something else to focus on to achieve that feeling again.
So much of today’s societal constructs are measured on each individual’s “success.” From being socially accepted with how many friends we seem to have on social media, to the number of worthy achievements we’re able to share from the short time we’ve been on this earth—truthfully, only we can really measure the success in our own minds.
With this in mind, if I ask myself, “Do I feel successful right now?” I would say no. But every time I say this, a pang of guilt flicks me on the chest because there’s no reason why I shouldn’t.
I’ve graduated from a good University, I have a good job, a family I’m close to, a lovely house to live in and great friends, yet I’m still unsatisfied. I complain in my head daily that I need to be doing more, I need to achieve my dreams and I need to do it now.
I see people every day doing what I want to do but don’t yet have the knowledge or confidence to accomplish. So many different ambitions and careers are all staring at me through a screen, all pulling me in different directions that I’m unsure which to start first. I dip my toes in and out of them at random, not putting my heart into each one, unable to decide and just focus—the curse of an over-ambitious Libra.
While agonizing over those in success realms I can only imagine, I turn my attention to their age to see where my life is in comparison. Many are younger, or on par, and I curse myself for not having completed everything they have in the same amount of time.
This obsession with age then makes me focus on time, and lack of it, each day one more closer to a year older, equaling another batch of aspiring competitors. This time constraint then leads to pressure, pushing down my thoughts, making any other conceivable energy impossible to enter my brain. Yet to some, I have accomplished so much already, they would criticize me for pushing myself to do so much more.
There are two ways to look at pressure: positively or negatively. Being the pessimist that I am, it is negative for me, a ticking time bomb of emotion. Panic, fumbling and perplexity, invoking pure terror, unwarranted and all too often, suffocating me in an all-consuming way without just letting me be.
So naturally, to alleviate this pressure I thought of a phrase just as destructive in its meaning but somewhat calming in its result. Upon searching this quote I couldn’t see that it was intrinsically linked with anyone, no famous face to match the motto, and for good reason—it’s negative:
“If I don’t do anything, nothing will happen.”
Once I said it out loud, I really thought about it and broke it down into chunks.
“If I don’t do anything
Nothing will happen.”
I pictured it, in its tiny eight-word form, telling me it’s 100 percent okay to reduce, lessen and unwind. Just breathe. Relax. I don’t have to be constantly working, creating and doing everything in my power to be as successful as possible. If I don’t do all of these things, the world will keep spinning, I will keep living and no one will know any different.
But then the pressure crept back in because it’s absolutely right. If I am not constantly working, creating and doing everything in my power then nothing will happen in my life that I wanted to achieve. It’s not going to just magically all fall into my lap. I have to do something. After all, we are all just clumps of cells, moving amongst each other. We offer ourselves “somethings” to give our lives meaning, to make sure we don’t seem like nothing, but truthfully, unavoidably, that’s exactly what we are.
Evidently back to square one I calmed myself down and looked at it how a positive person would, like I often train my brain to do. By swapping a word and flipping it round, the new phrase made an anxious worrier into a motivated dreamer:
“If I do something, anything can happen.”
We all want to be something, have everything, do anything and that’s ultimately up to us as individuals. We can either run from it, or embrace it as best we can.
We all may be nothing, in the great scheme of things, and that’s scary, but to each other we are all something, and each one of us can do anything if we want to.
Put together, both phrases oppositely attract to make a harmonious statement working in tandem, with just the right amount of pressure to motivate instead of scare. Pinpointing that it’s okay to have some downtime and stop stressing out, the world will still be here tomorrow, and when the time comes to do that something, the possibilities are unbound.
We’re all on a different path, so for now, it’s okay if I fancy lying down for a nap, or reading a book, because I know in time, I will do something worthwhile, in my own time—anything I’ve got my heart set on.
If I don’t do anything, nothing will happen but if I do something, anything can happen.
Author: Emily Rodgers
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Syed Ali Wasif/Flickr