How To Measure Your Success In Life On Your Own Terms

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How do you measure success?

From the time you were a young child, you have been receiving messages of what success looks like from your family and society, as a whole. You were indoctrinated with how you should be, what you should do, and how this created society’s version of success.

This may mean riches, a high-profile job, a big house, a fancy car, a successful marriage with X number of children, or something else entirely.

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If you’ve lived your life following the "should's" of others, you may find that you're unhappy, unsatisfied, miserable, and anxious now.

Living life according to external measures and expectations can often leave you feeling rootless and unfulfilled.

What if you could tap into your inner truth and measure your success and your life by what feels right to you and what fulfills you as the unique and amazing individual that you are?

This isn’t as hard as you might think.

So, how do you measure success? Here are 3 things you need to get started.

1. Values.

Begin with assessing your core values — this is an important step.

Do you have an idea of what your core values are? These are things not based on what you do, the roles you play in your life, or the way others think you should be.

Core values are things that are vitally important to you to be who you are. For example, my core values are authenticity, care, acceptance, love, and connection.

As I live my life, I ask myself if I'm staying in alignment with these things. They are the core things that are vital to me staying true to my authentic self.

Look inside yourself, maybe do some journal writing, and see what core values drive you and feel most like you. What is important to you?

2. "Should-ing."

Notice when you are "should-ing" on yourself or letting others should on you. Should's are obligations and expectations that don’t necessarily align with your core values or inner truth.

A "should" automatically makes you feel less than, not enough, and like a failure. If it hasn’t happened yet, then it lands on your shoulders like a mountain, making it even harder to succeed.

When you can, change a "should" to a "would like to" — "I should make partner by age 30" could be, "I would like to make partner by age 30."

This creates space for it to not happen without making you wrong or a failure. It also creates space for what is real and true, rather than arguing with reality. It allows you to move forward.

Additionally, you may find that the "would like to" statement is untrue and doesn’t align with your desires or your truth. Then, you can find a statement that does align with your inner truth.

You now have space for your idea of success to emerge from the darkness where it was buried under other people’s "should" mountains.

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3. A sense of doing things out of obligation versus inner truth.

You have the foundation now of having looked at your core values. You're beginning to understand other people’s obligations and should-ing.

Now, it's time to bring in your body and the feeling inside when you do something in alignment with your truth, versus acting out of fear or obligation or shoulds — your own or others'.

Drop your awareness into your body. Take a few breaths first and then drop the elevator from your thinking brain down into your torso.

From this place of attention and awareness, think of a time that you agreed to do something that you felt was right for you. Something that your entire body responded, "Heck, yes!" to. Got it?

OK, fully lean into that feeling. Notice all of its aspects. How does that feel in your body?

For me, it usually feels rooted, grounded, like my entire body is alive and I'm ready and settled. Really bask in this feeling and get to know it.

When you really feel like you're connected to it, turn your attention to something that is a "should," an expectation, something you said "yes" to, or engaged in when you really didn’t want to.

And now put your awareness with that feeling and get to know it. Be curious about it. Feel into it in the same way that you did with the "Heck, yes!" feeling.

For me, this usually feels slimy, closed off, constricted, unpleasant, and small. This difference between moving in alignment with your inner truth and moving in response to fear, shoulds, and obligations.

As you move through your day-to-day life, practice feeling into your body to see when you are moving in alignment with your truth.

Finally, define success based on your core values, your inner truth, what feels right to you, in your body, in your soul. This is the only success that truly matters. This is the success that fulfills you, refreshes you, and promotes your own wholeness and wellness.

By beginning to understand your own core values, recognize shoulds and shift to "would like to" statements, and connect with your felt sense of moving in alignment with your inner truth rather than out of fear or obligation, you have the tools to redesign success to fit who you truly are, rather than what society says you should be.

I can’t wait to see what you'll do!

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Emy Tafelski, MA, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and founder of ME-Therapy, a therapy practice helping people rediscover their authenticity, brilliance, and wholeness after the world knocks them around. They are also passionate about helping you have your most loving, authentic, connected relationships.