You’ve finally hit that magic point. You’ve crossed over that imaginary line that says this is it! Success! Hell yeah! About bloody time too! Everything is going to plan. Finally, you feel like you’ve found that sweet spot. You’ve ridden the wave, and now you’re standing on top, watching the fruits of your labours roll on in.
But then, the quiet comes, and you find yourself wondering. Is this success? Is this it? Maybe you’ve seen a drop or plateau in your sales.
Or maybe the referrals have gone quiet, and you’re left refreshing your email for something, anything to drop in. Or you’ve just taken your first deep breath in months and one of your social media posts goes viral, as in stupidly viral, and the phone is ringing off the hook.
Whatever it is, it never feels like there’s a balance, but instead feels like a rollercoaster of feast or famine and you’re wondering where all your dreams of success have gone.
So much for work/ life balance, sipping mai tais and relaxing with your fambam.
It doesn’t matter which side of the scale you find yourself on as we can all experience significant doubts and fears that we can’t achieve our dreams after all, and this often happens, regardless of being in what seems to be a successful turnaround. An empty bank balance can send you spiralling into an emotional black hole, convincing yourself that your measure of success isn’t real or attainable, and yet a stable and growing bank balance comes with further responsibilities and consequences for poor decision making, increasing your stress levels and anxiety.
Or you can easily feel like the last kid picked for the soccer team and wonder where all the support and work has gone or be bombarded by opportunities that feel unmissable with people you’ve never heard of knocking on your door to see if they can take a piece of your coveted success.
Regardless of the season, success is going to look different in each person’s eyes, and the outcomes you hope to achieve are also going to be unique. Therefore, when we base our vision of success on the results someone else has achieved, we set up a false measure. When left unchecked, this becomes a paradigm – we believe that this level of success, whatever that may look like, is the only accurate measure and falling short of it means we haven’t succeeded after all.
So then, what does success look like for you? Is it the number of likes on Facebook, the devoted Instagram followers or the sales generated by the end of each month? Is it about how many hours you don’t work, and how many you spend with your family and friends? Does it look like a success when you’ve scratched out every task on your to-do list or when your business activity has been picked up by the media? Regardless of how you answer these questions, success will look different for every woman and so we should encourage and celebrate each person’s measure rather than covet it.
Because we all have uniquely wired thinking (nature, nurture and life experiences that develop our unique world view). We conceptualise what we believe to be the ultimate measure of success. We throw money at people who promise us an egg from this Golden Goose, and we slave away at our desktops/ mobiles/ networking events and webinars to catch sight of its elusive form.
Sometimes we catch a glimpse of it but mostly, if we’re honest, we live our lives tread-milling; always working toward it, not always seeing the fruit of it.
Because if you think about it, success isn’t a thing. It’s an idea. It’s a concept that becomes a paradigm; perhaps even a theory. Do we pursue these ideas – success, happiness, wellbeing, work/ life balance – without understanding them? Or are we just connecting with the notion with reality?
For the past two years, I have worked with authors, small businesses, designers, registered training organisations and entrepreneurs, just to mention a few. Work has ranged from overhauling website and training document content, ghostwriting, blog writing, project management and building social media accounts and it’s been a ton of fun for the most part.
I’ve seen two books land on the shelves of Dymocks and Collins (and other Aussie retailers), watched clients public profiles grow and sales of services blossom. The only thing I knew how to do before I opened my virtual doors was write from my heart. But thanks to these varied projects, I’ve even learned how to typeset professionally and added website design to my list of skills. It’s genuinely been an incredible ride.
But here’s the rub. As things stand today, my businesses have not succeeded as I had hoped. After the first year earning more money in that time than I had in the previous four years working as a music tutor, my second year was good, but it went downhill pretty quickly as my personal life took a bit of a beating. This has had a big impact, not only on who I am as a human being but on how I view my level of success and what I want to achieve for my future.
I have had to reassess, recalibrate and reinvent whom I am as a service provider. I have had to cut away the dross to find the real work that represents the best of who I am, not just the most of who I am.
However, this hasn’t come easy. Ever since I can recall I have had a paradigm: If I work hard, have a lot to show for every day and maintain a high level of personal discipline, I will be successful. In real terms, this meant having a clean house (yes, I know, so 50’s), finances managed correctly, happy and healthy hubby and kids and the ability to pursue my creative works, maintain healthy friendships and loving family relationships and support my local community. In fact, you could just boil it down to this: I believed that I needed to be a Stepford Wife.
But life isn’t that simple. For the past 21 years, I have been married to my best friend and have had the incredible privilege of raising two amazing boys who are now 19 and 17. Life has been hectic; you could say. We’ve moved over 18 times in 21 years, owned a house, rented for most, made friends, lost friends, dealt with family deaths, supported friends and families as they’ve worked through mental illness, dementia, divorce and abuse – and tried to be good Christian parents who don’t lack the faith to keep going on.
However, since my mid teens, I have also fought a personal battle with anxiety and depression. For three years I was medicated for having BiPolar Disorder and when finally cleared of this diagnosis, was taken off medication. For the past twelve years, I have lived medication free, but it’s been a battle by no exaggeration. To top it all off my 17-year-old son has recently been diagnosed with the same issues as well as Inattentive ADHD. His and my journeys are so intertwined and despite his age and independence, I am still needed significantly as he traverses this new and sometimes frightening territory.
What these experiences has taught me over time is that my Stepford Wife ideal is unattainable for me. It might be attainable for you, and I will glare at you from the sidelines with mock envy at your incredible fortitude to juggle multiple balls in the air. But I am not like that. I have a uniquely wired neurology that makes me see the world through a different lens, and it’s taken a long time for me to shed my Stepford Wife skin and let the authentic, quirky and somewhat eccentric reality of me be seen.
My paradigm of success not only had to be assessed. It had to be removed. Entirely. For if I didn’t shed this fake skin, I would remain cloaked by a false reality that bears no resemblance to the truth of who I am and I would die unknown, even to myself.
This is a tragedy I could not bare and one I hope you have the strength to face as well.
My experience in trying to be an entrepreneur, and frankly, failing at that to a large extent so far (never say never, right?), has taught me one key thing: success comes, and we enjoy the dance for a while, but it doesn’t always come to us when we want it, or how we think we want it. Often, it shows up in the day to day management of our businesses, family and personal lives as a consequence of our realistic choices, rather than a set of formulae that guarantees something that can never actually be ensured.
So, as we go into the next few weeks, months and years of growing our business dreams and reaching for our version of success, let’s ensure one thing:
Make sure what you are reaching for is your version of achievement and not someone else’s and determine if that measure stands up to the reality of your current season in your life. Work-life balance isn’t about how many hours in the week you focus on your business. It’s about understanding your needs, limitations and desires and merging those with a vocation or career that fits in with them, and not the other way around.
As our culture seems hell-bent on making progress at any cost (aka, being successful), I have learned that this is going to look very different to each person and that we need to begin to reach into the core values we hold. The identity that is in there (but often hidden for fear of being judged), needs to be revealed and the true blessings we all have in us need to be shared.
Women, I encourage you. Take some time out to dive into that treasure trove inside your heart. Write down the very core things you see in there that encapsulate who you are, what you need to feel and how you need to live. Throw away the paradigms of the past and shut your ears off (just for a while) from what everyone else says is the way to catch the Golden Goose. Be successful and reach for your dreams unashamedly but don’t let the promises beguile you and lead you down someone else’s path.
Be a blessing,
Miriam E. Miles
p.s. This article was inspired by a wonderful and empowering group of women and the founder of Motivated Mummy Entrepreneur Hub, Claire Mansell. Take a peek and consider joining this merry band of inspiring gals.
Miriam E. Miles takes a dogmatic approach to boycotting niche, writing about life through the lens of family, reconciliation, creativity and mental health. Her words aren’t fluffy ‘buy me’ copy, but pull-you-out-of-your-comfort -zone centric, revealing the thoughts we all have and questioning the status quo.
On the side, she gives emerging authors a helping hand to push through the hurdles they are facing in finishing and shipping their work. Would you like to hire a writer? Click below to learn more.
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