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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Success: A Reflection

Last week, I met someone who graduated from College fairly recently. He asked me my dream, so I told him, and when I asked him the same, his answer was very simple. Successful.
We shared a laugh, because I believe that is what we all wish and dream. To be successful. But what does that mean? What is success? Is there a definition for people, in certain ages and stages of their life? 
I used to believe that, so I set standards for myself, and I told myself I wasn't sucessful until I achieved them. I was convinced that I had to pass the levels of life, like a video game. I had to level up for that boss fight and earn the reward, the gold medal. 
But then, I realized that time had passed, and I was still a beginner in the areas of life that I had expected to achieve by this age, and by this time. I began to tell myself that I had failed, and that I was a failure as a result. 
I looked at my choices, my reactions and repeated those negative thoughts day after day. This was very unhealthy, and as a result, I became very depressed, worried and just a mess. 
Well, life happened, and I found myself standing by my uncle's hospital bed. I felt so sad and angry at his situation. I wanted him to get better. But all I could do was ask what he wanted, if he needed anything, and what he would like to talk about. All I could do was be there for him, and hopefully it helped.  
What broke my heart was when he asked me what was going on in my life, something positive. I had nothing to say, but he brought up South Korea, and he asked me if I'll go back. I told him yes, probably and then I was able to talk about some of my adventures and experiences, but inside I was ashamed. I felt like had not achieved that desired goal, that level. I wasn't successful. 
It was after he died, talking with his friends and family that I discovered my uncle was very proud of me. 
"You're the one he wouldn't stop talking about!" one of my uncle's friends told me, "He was so proud of you!".
I began to cry, right then and there, and that's when I realized, no one else thought I had failed. Only I did, and it meant the world to me that my uncle was proud of me. 
I learned something very important: Success is not a report card.
Only we can decide what means the most to us and what matters in our lives. And to be considered successful is a great honor, but it matters more to feel successful 
I was being ridiculously hard on myself, and I had built a pedestal that limited my appreciation of the world around me, and the people around me. 
I wasn't focused on what I had accomplished. I was too focused on what I hadn't done yet. That way of thinking got in the way of my productivity. 
My family and friends are amazing! They helped me get through this stage, and I am grateful for everything they have done and still do for me. 
It really is important to be grateful, and to remember what you have accomplished. 
It's okay to dream, wish and want, but it's not okay to set a limit for yourself. Life is unpredictable. Things happen in their own time. That may be before or after you expect them to. The best thing to do is recognize when you've accomplished something that you have cared about, and to appreciate the journey along the path toward your goal. 
So what is success? Success is whatever you want it to be. No one has the same idea of being successful, and who are we to judge what kind of life a person lives? As long as you are happy, content and appreciate the world around you that's plenty to be proud of. 

So, what's my plan now? I have some idea, but it requires patience, work and time. It includes Disney, a company I love and miss working for.  I no longer tell myself that I haven't leveled up. Instead I look for what the day will bring, and I do what I can, while encouraging myself to keep going.

This reflection on success was inspired by a Ted Talk from Madu Nataraj Kiran: 

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