Redefining Success

I am working through a lot of personal growth right now. I talked last week about Keep Calm and Carry On and how that was applying to me personally. I’m not saying that every day is perfect. Sometimes it’s hard to continue on. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed.

I strive for success. I want to do all things in my life well. I want to be the best I can be, and sometimes, if I’m completely honest, I want to be better than other people too. Now, I know that’s not the right mindset, and I’m working on shifting that mindset to a much more reasonable one. In addition, I am working towards understanding and recognizing my limits.

The word success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” That’s it. That’s the whole definition. It doesn’t say you have to complete every task you set out to do. You don’t have to be superhuman. Completing an aim or purpose is all that success really is. Get out of bed? Success. Crossing one thing off your list? Success.

I’m a perfectionist. I want to do everything, and I want to do it well. I’m very difficult at delegating because I just want to shoulder all the responsibilities myself. It’s a major struggle for me, and it sets me up for failure rather than success. I put such high expectations on myself that sometimes I don’t even know where to start. I’ve mentioned on here that there have been some weeks where I have 20 or more things to get done in a week’s time. That’s a lot of things to do. So on busy weeks, I like to organize the tasks to a day by day occurrence. This way, I can get things crossed off my to-do list and feel more organized.

Part of the fact of being a perfectionist is wanting to have everything done at once. I’m not good at slowing things down and letting them take time. I want to be operating at full power at all times. But that wears me out and wears me down.

This is a lot of hard work and a lot of mental processing, but I’m trying to work on redefining success for myself. I know I don’t have to have everything done at once. Sometimes just getting through a day is enough.

I’ve also talked on here about spoons and what that means to me. Some days the spoons just aren’t there. As much as I want to do the things on my agenda, it will physically and mentally exhaust me. And then it takes me longer to recharge my batteries.

I picked up a few of great tips recently to help me redefine my definition of success. The first one I’ve already mentioned. When I have a big to-do list (like I do this week), then I break it down into day by day tasks. So for example, I wrote everything down on a notepad for myself. Then I took the 4-5 things I wanted to do TODAY specifically so I could just focus on that. That way, it was both a lot less daunting and easier to manage. I crossed off everything on my list for today, and that’s a success. I didn’t cross off everything on the larger list, but I have time and I’m okay with that.

If even that seems daunting, then I have another tip! Take that to-do list of just the day stuff and break it down into smaller sections. Make the pieces as small as you need them too. It literally can be “sit down” “open computer” “turn on computer” “open email app” “read unread messages”. Guess what? If you do all those things, you just crossed off 6 things to do! I had to apply this last week. I was trying to get all my grades turned in and submitted for the quarter end. I was down to two things left to grade per class– an essay and a test. But I was struggling to get it done. It just seemed like such a mountain, and I had no idea how to climb it. So after reading about this tip, I put it into action. I put a section titled Essay and a section titled Test. Under each section, I wrote down each class I teach. Using that and the next tip, I was able to get them all done in time. I felt more accomplished and successful because I broke down two to-dos into 12 (I teach 6 classes).

A third tip I found to be extremely helpful in redefining success is to use the Pomodor method. If you’re not familiar with this, the Pomodoro method is where you set a timer for 25 minutes and just work nonstop. Then once that timer is done, you take a 5 minute break. It’s recommended that after the break you go back to work, but understand that you may still not have it. That’s okay. In addition to breaking down the grading task into bite-sized chunks, by setting the timer, I was able to get the work done. A task may take hours upon hours. But if you chunk it out into sections, it feels a lot more manageable. It’s easy to work for 25 minutes. I use the Forest app so that it bugs me if I get on my phone, and I plant a little virtual tree while I work. It helps.

This is a constant progress. I don’t have all the answers because I’m still trying to figure things out. And what works for me may not work for you. But I’m trying to redefine success in a way that’s manageable for me. I see these unreasonably high standards placed on me, and I’m trying to find ways to lessen that stress. And if these thoughts and lessons help someone else, then I’ll sleep just a tad easier.

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