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Defining Success

(Please listen to a podcast I am on with my friend Brandon Schmidt, LMFT on the therapy geeks.com under the "podcast" button or on Apple Podcasts. We expand on this article and discuss one of my other articles, "The Power of Hope.")


I am old enough to watch Michael Jordan in his prime, wondering like everyone else, “How did he do that?” Obviously, he had loads of natural ability, but that isn’t enough to win championships. (The Bulls didn’t win titles until Jordan learned to pass the ball, but I digress.) Even if you don’t follow basketball, hang in there. Jordan motivated himself almost to a fault, finding slights to his performance. He even invited reporters who told him he couldn’t perfect part of his game to the front row of his MVP awards speech, telling each one, “You made me what I am today.”

But why can’t we find even a fraction of that motivation? Sometimes it is depression, which has a side effect of low motivation. Other times, it is past hurts or memories of others telling us we can not do something. In Michael Jordan’s case, he attributed his motivation at its earliest time to his Dad telling him to “Go in the house” when he would complain about his brothers beating him in basketball. He had an extremely strong competitive edge to beat his older brothers.

One thing we all can do is give ourselves credit for even small successes we have achieved, When we do not achieve our goals, maybe we need to reset our standards to make them achievable. If we make the goal realistic and attainable, we set ourselves up for success instead of “failure.” I use the quotes because if we look at failure as not continuing to work on our goals instead of not achieving our goals, it changes our whole outlook of what success is.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I know that there is nothing easy about resilience. But that’s the point! Overcoming adversity is how we build resiliency. We often don’t grow physically, mentally or spiritually during times of success. When success is earned through adversity, it is appreciated. When we don’t earn success, it is harder to appreciate.

Breaking down our goals into smaller, manageable goals is important to making them achievable. When we don’t break our goals down, it can lead to setting up standards that we can not meet. As a recovering perfectionist, I have had to remember that it is unrealistic to think I can meet a perfect standard. It is OK to not be the “best.”

We all have different levels of resiliency. Comparing ourselves to others can be another factor that keeps us from realizing our potential. Since we are all individuals, we do not have the same abilities, so these comparisons are never fair. Realizing no one wins these comparisons leads us to be more content with ourselves. Why would we want to “Be Like Mike,” when we could just be ourselves?


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