"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome."
- Booker T. Washington
Last month I celebrated a birthday. I have created an annual ritual of taking the day off (birthdays really need to be personal holidays, don't you think?), to allow some time for reflection in addition to celebration. This year the process has continued for a full 4 weeks.
I thought about how much I have accomplished so far in my lifetime. And although I've achieved many milestones, what I'm most amazed by is the woman I've become in the process.
It is the variety of experiences I've had, the wins and the losses, that have shaped who I am today. As I thought about the past year and prepared for this new year of life, I discovered themes that have helped me get to where I am today.
Here is the list of life lessons I've learned that have been key to my success:
1. Practice reframing. It is easy to get discouraged when life is throwing challenges your way. I am a firm believer that there are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. One of my strengths is an ability to see the positive in negative situations. This has served me well; it allows me to find those aha moments that lead to wisdom. And, it greatly reduces my stress. The best part is it is a skill that anyone can learn. I teach my clients to recognize when they are looking through a negative lens and how to replace it with a positive filter.
2. Making mistakes are part of life. This is par for the course. As long as you are breathing, you will experience errors in judgment. It's not a matter of if, but when and how often. Accepting this truth can save you from endless hours of beating up on yourself after the fact. It is empowering to know that one mis-step doesn't define who you are or determine the end of your story. What helps you to move forward is a willingness to begin again.
3. Change happens, adapt. We are creatures of habit, and change whether felt to be positive or negative can be stressful. We get stuck when we resist change. It is inevitable that change will come, sooner or later. Find ways to increase your capacity for being flexible. It will serve you well when the unexpected occurs and the best laid plans fall apart.
4. Inner wisdom trumps rational thinking. Listening to my inner wisdom has never steered me wrong. The top five best decisions I've ever made were due to following my heart and a sense of knowing. And when I haven't listened, the consequences taught me the importance of letting my head be guided by heart instead of the other way around.
5. Receiving help is as important as giving help. I was born a caretaker. There is this natural tendency to want to offer help. I value this quality and yet recognize that it's become so familiar that it is uncomfortable asking for help. In the medical world, there is an unspoken rule that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I've spent the past few years unlearning this myth and taking action to get support by hiring a coach and joining a mastermind group. In this new year of life I plan to practice accepting help when it is offered, and asking for help when it is needed.
Okay, I promised five life lessons and yet I can't end this piece without mentioning one of the most important lessons (consider it a bonus): you get to define success on your own terms.
This one has been huge for me. These days success is more about how I feel and how aligned my life is with what is most important to me. My focus is shifting from what I am doing to who I am becoming.
I think David Frost says it best, "Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally."
I hope this list gives you a starting place to consider your own life lessons for success.
Leave a comment below and share what one life lesson have you learned that helps support your success?
Uplifting Women in Medicine