The definition of success is in need of a radical makeover. Our beliefs create an environment where stress reigns and attacks our hearts, immune systems, bowels, and minds while keeping us awake most nights. Traditionally success is measured by external validation such as awards, money, "likes", property, relationship, title, and God’s favor. Whether it is Mom or Dad or some renowned institution, we are unconsciously seeking the definition of success modeled by our parents and society. And it's all good. It is a part of growing up. "Likes" are nice. I had a blast for most of my 20s while on a mission to make movies that change the world. It was thrilling and my collection of external validation (Oscar-Nomination, Emmy, TED Fellowship, etc.) fit the contemporary definition of success. As I entered my third generation on Earth, I started to look around at the most “successful” people I knew in the media business and no one had a life I wanted. No one seemed fully alive. It was then that I realized “success”, as we know it, is a trap.
It is as though the glory and immortality, aka real estate in collective memory and the parental approval from God, sought by great warriors like Achilles and Agamemnon has still remained our primary motivation centuries later. We all still seek glory and immortality but from behind a computer screen with faux urgency. Now when we “hunt” for love, a home, and a job, and it is all automated. “There is an app for that!” We watch movies of alien invasions and the post-apocalypse to live vicariously through the hero we long to be. If only the monotony of my day would be interrupted by a giant alien spaceship calling me to duty outside this cubicle studded high-rise.
Well consider this moment your alien invasion.
For most of us, in the privileged west, our narratives are filled with epic subtleties. We spend the early parts of our lives living out our childhood conditioning, seeking approval, and hustling after external validation. Then there comes a time when a very subtle intuition sneaks up on us and we are driven to Google something random, try something, make something, or return to a childhood passion. Or we are forced to look within when life forces us to our knees via illness or loss. In these moments you are being called to battle the aliens or dragons that appear as obstacles on your path. You are being called to something just beyond your fear. A small voice within is asking you to risk everything you think you are to experiment with this precious life, discover the truth of who you are, and play all in.
The incredible thing is that once you stop living the life you planned for just a few moments and sit silently, the path will make itself known to you. It usually shows up as all the things you have been running from. Healing is a part of every path. All the things you have built armor to protect yourself against you will start to feel. Being a hero in your own story is no joke.
In order to experience the life of connection that was waiting for me I had to first learn the language of vulnerability. In my 20s I wouldn’t have been caught dead in the self-help section of the bookstore. Um, I didn’t need “help”. I was a bad-ass film producer who could multi-task and suppress emotion like a superhero. Vulnerability was not a word in my vocabulary. Eventually, of course, I got depressed and learned that emotions aren’t negotiable or suppressible forever. Emotion will be felt. Brene Brown’s TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, has over 22 million views for a reason. We all know vulnerability is our way out of the feeling of separation but are terrified to feel too much. “What if I lose my mind?” says, the Mind. In my experience, vulnerability was the cure for my loneliness. Vulnerability is the language of the soul. The armor we build up inside ourselves serves as a tourniquet to the connection we seek. If we learn how to speak the language of vulnerability and really listen, our minds can become servants to our hearts. We have all the wisdom inside of us already; we just rarely slow down enough to hear it.
What if success meant playing your best life game with an open heart and without any misunderstanding that what you do is who you are? What if success is letting your heart break open again and again to love? What if success is letting all of life touch you, the dark and the light? What if we all believed that our worth was inherent and consistent regardless of anything external? If we all created from our wholeness, I believe the world would look very different. The only way to do this is to inquire within, to surrender your armor, and practice vulnerability in every moment. No one wants to watch a movie where everyone is "happy" and “successful” all the time. EVERY Disney movie starts with a parent dying for a reason. If we are to accept the privilege of this lifetime and become the hero of our own adventure we must let our pain deepen us. Whether we like it or not our lives include every genre, from drama to romantic comedy to horror. Once we stop fighting with reality and let ourselves feel all of it we may start playing an entirely new game where "likes" are for humans 1.0.
p.s. Don’t miss “Light Your Fire (& Keep it Lit) New Year Retreat with Bristol Baughan & Rebecca Rogers at Ratna Ling Retreat Sanctuary (Jan 15 – 17, 2016). Develop a clear vision and set your path to live the life you want. Daily yoga, meditation & more. Learn more.