A Good, Honest Look at what “Winning at Life” really Means.

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Unsplash/Alexander Solodukhin

This idea of success.

I am on the verge of having my first novel published, have been with my partner for almost 20 years, have purchased my dream home, and have great relationships in my life.

People have approached me lately with a pat on the back and the word “success” not far behind, thinking I accomplished this (whatever it is, my novel or marriage) on my own. Their idea of success is inaccurate because people only see the end goal. If they looked closely and truly analyzed my life, they would see the hundreds of writing rejections I’ve received, the failed relationships in my personal and professional life, and the days I don’t want to get out of bed because I feel the opposite of the word successful.

First of all, it takes two people (whether friends or lovers) and constant (I mean, all the time) checking in with each other and changing together to have a strong and loving relationship. As for going after my dreams, it has taken a tribe rallying around me and constantly lifting me up to remind me of my goodness anytime I may have forgotten.

Second of all, I find that my idea of success is far more fluid with many moving parts to it, rather than a noun, or a goal to be reached. It’s been (and continues to be) an awesome life journey only made more awesome by the people I’ve met.

So then, how do I define success?

It is not the material items I’ve accumulated over 37 years or even experiences I’ve had. Success to me means having authentic relationships, which I’ve found and formed over the years and that have helped to support me, whether it be finding a partner in the truest sense of the word or chasing after my dreams of being a writer. I truly believe the secret to any type of success can be found in relationships.

1. You Can’t Do It Alone

In my teens and 20s I was often criticized for being emotionally dependent on others, always seeking out other peoples’ opinions. Though I’ve learned to be more decisive, I think people do need to lean on others, ask for help and seek out perspectives different from their own. We, especially women, are increasingly taking on too much, attempting to do it all ourselves. Successful people are open to asking for help, delegating tasks and trusting people will carry out those tasks.

2. Competing Against Others is a Waste of Time and Energy

A lot of people were raised with this notion that success looks like a lone winner standing at the top of a pyramid, that only one person can reap the benefits of a limited universe. This is false. Because I am a writer, I will use the example of novels. Think of how many novels have a similar theme of love, and are all equally successful. If I am to compete for a position that has only one spot and I don’t get the job, I’ve always realized afterward that it was not the perfect position for me. Instead and always, I focus on what’s in front of me. Successful people have an inner drive that pushes them to be better than they were yesterday, not better than someone else.

3. Gratitude

Every person I have ever looked up to, or perceived to be successful has always been grateful—grateful to those around them, whether under or above them in the social hierarchy of the workplace. These role models of success show genuine gratitude for the workers they employ or colleagues they work with, through a listening ear, consideration, kind words and gestures. Because people feel valued, they are motivated to reciprocate, thus making everyone successful. The gratitude of successful people is felt by others.

4. Work Hard

Successful people have a strong work ethic. To get the job done efficiently, a successful person can be a leader or a worker bee and can often switch in and out of these roles whenever needed because they are not attached to a role or status; they simply want to do the best job they can. When others see this, they become inspired to work with you or are inspired by you.

5. Successful People Often Do Not See Themselves as Successful

People I have always looked up to, or perceived to be successful often do not focus on their successes. They are simply living their lives, being thankful for those around them and moving onto the next project. They have a certain humility, as they often question themselves and are keen to learn the next new thing from those around them. They never seem to see themselves as “experts,” only that of “student,” always learning from others.

I realize this idea of success, my idea of success, includes my failures because without the rejection letters, I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to write better. Without strained relationships, I wouldn’t have learned which types of people who don’t fit me quite right. Without sadness, I wouldn’t have been able to feel and experience true joy.

People will challenge us. Reject us. Exile us.

But people will also listen to us. Lift us, and love us.

Success is made by people, between people, for people.

For me, the secret to success is found in relationships with others. We need each other in this world, to help, support, to build each other up.

Success is not a solitary, stagnant idea.

This idea of success includes all of us, evolving, together.

 

Author: Aileen Santos

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Alexander Solodukhin/Unsplash

 

 

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Aileen Santos

Aileen Santos has published short stories, poetry and creative non-fiction in literary journals and zines in Canada, the US and the UK. Her debut novel, Someone Like You, is forthcoming May 2016 by Two Wolves Press. She can be found on twitter @msaidsantos on Instagram @AileenWrites and online at her website. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her partner of the last 19 years, two children and two cats.

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