Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Have you tried it all? All the advice about what to do, how much to do, the brand new thing to try that no one else has ever tried, the age-old wisdom that’s making the rounds again — have you tried it all and still found the success you dream of remains out of reach?
There’s tons of advice out in the world about how to be successful, and I’m not knocking it — really, I’m not. Most of it is great, time-tested advice. But what if your effort isn’t the problem? Have you considered that maybe the reason you’re not ‘successful’ in your own eyes is that your definition is too narrow? The sneaky problem that so often undermines our success isn’t that we’re not doing enough or not doing it right. It’s that we’re looking at it from the wrong perspective.
The problem with our traditional definition of success
We think that when we get what we want then we’re going to feel content. Unfortunately, it’s not true. That doesn’t mean that we won’t appreciate and enjoy what we have, but we think contentment is on the other side of a goal… how many people’s stories do we need to listen to to understand that’s not the case?
– Cathy Cassani Adams, Zen Parenting Radio
Haven’t you seen this, read about this, felt this in your own life? I know I have. I imagine how I’ll feel if I could only reach this place or meet this goal or have that thing. And when I finally do, I absolutely enjoy it, but it doesn’t glow in quite the way it did in my imagination, and without fail there’s always the next thing that pops up on the horizon to strive for. If I’m not careful, I find myself in a constant cycle of striving without being fully present in all the best parts of my day-to-day life.In writing, as in life, success is a matter of perspective. Click To Tweet
Can you relate to this in your search for publishing success? Do you feel that when you just have X number of followers, when you sell Y number of books, when your writing gets noticed by Z you’ll have made it? I’m not saying that’s wrong, because we have to work hard and dream in order to achieve. What I’m asking is, what do you feel in the meantime, while you’re waiting for those things to happen?
An alternative approach to success
In all our striving, it’s so easy to have our eyes on the goal, on that glorious future, that we rarely embrace the now we’re living in. If we know that reaching success won’t fully satisfy us, don’t we have to admit the harsh reality that we could spend our lives looking into a future that will never come? That we’ll miss out on the everyday wonders of our lives? So, here’s the alternative definition of success I want to propose: success is working hard each day to meet your goal, enjoying the journey, and looking forward to the day when you’ll celebrate your hard-earned achievements.
How can we translate this new definition into practical steps? Let’s break it down, part by part:
Work hard each day
This is still part of our old definition, and it’s the part you’re probably already doing really well. Break down your goals into manageable daily tasks. It’s when we don’t have actionable steps to achieve our dreams that we most easily get overwhelmed and burned-out.Taking the writing process step-by-step will stop you losing momentum before you’re done.Click To Tweet
Research. Read. Listen to podcasts and interviews. Learn all you can about the industry, current trends of the market, new avenues and opportunities. Then set achievable daily goals and work hard to meet them. And, most importantly, leave yourself a margin, a little space to breathe, a little room for the inevitable interruptions of life so that you can enjoy the process.
Enjoy the journey
This thing that you’re doing — being a writer, publishing your work, connecting to readers — is magical and amazing. Wouldn’t it be a shame if, in all your striving for success, you lost your love for this work? I know the daily tasks of being a writer lose their shine after a while, but it’s like being in a committed relationship after many years. The love certainly doesn’t die, it just goes deeper and it changes, but it may take a conscious effort to bring it to the fore where you can use it as fuel.A good writing plan includes down-time, not just constant work. Click To Tweet
What practices do you need to build into your schedule to allow you to enjoy this part of your writing journey? How much downtime do you need in your day to reflect and rest? What kind of leisure will help you take your mind off your work for a little while so you can come back feeling refreshed and ready to jump back in? This kind of self-care is essential to enjoying the hard work of achieving publishing success. Take some time to reflect on what practices work best for you, then make them part of your routine.
Celebrate your hard-earned achievements
Yes, celebrate the big achievements; that’s obvious. But what about the small steps? Have you reached mini milestones that are worth celebrating? Nothing is too small. You’re doing a hard thing, and every step along the way brings you closer to meeting your biggest goal. And it’s these small achievements that fuel our passion and faith in the fact that we can do it. So, go ahead — pat yourself on the back!
Publishing success comes in different forms and along diverse paths — many of them surprising and totally unexpected. I’ll always encourage authors to pursue their publishing dreams, to set goals, and to work hard to achieve success. But what good is achievement if you lose yourself along the way, if all your days blend into a blur?
Success is a daily occurrence
I hope you’ll consider embracing this alternative definition of success, and that, if you’re not already, you’ll choose to slow down and find ways to enjoy the daily routine of your work. I also hope your eyes will be opened to the idea that in every step you take toward your biggest goals, you’re already a success.
How has your definition of success changed over the course of your writing career? What practices have helped you preserve your passion for writing when it becomes routine? Let me know in the comments. Or for more on the writing process, check out 8 Steps That Will Help You Start (And Finish) Your Book and How To Overcome Distraction And Really Finish Your Book.