NOTE: This article was originally posted to my previous blog, “The Healing Project,” in October 2010.
Last Friday, my husband and I went to see a taping of “The Tonight Show.” This was something we’d wanted to do for a long time but kept putting off. We are so glad we finally made it happen, as we had a wonderful time! It was very interesting to see how a show like this evolves behind the scenes. I recommend it to anyone who is curious and finds themselves in the Los Angeles area.
There Are Lessons Everywhere…
While we were at the taping, I had an experience that is worth writing about in this blog, as it relates to an ongoing issue that is one of the focus areas in my journey to heal my life. This experience shows that there are lessons inherent in all of life, even things we thought would be purely fun and entertaining. We should always be open to lessons and gifts in everything we do.
When we got to the NBC studio where “The Tonight Show” is taped, we were given numbers and asked to line up in an audience holding area. As we were waiting, I noticed a few staffers pulling people out of line to interview them. My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to smile at one of the staffers and use the power of my thoughts to manifest my becoming one of the interviewees. It worked and I was pulled out of line a few minutes later!
My 15 Minutes of Fame?
I was asked to participate in a segment of the show called “Q & A with T & J,” in which audience members ask questions of Jay Leno and his guest, Terry Bradshaw. I was handed my question to ask and was shocked at what it was… “How do you know you’ve reached success in life?”
As a person who is constantly focused on the issue of success and my associated self-doubt, I found it very interesting and perhaps more than coincidental that I would be given this question to ask on national television!
The taping was done and I asked Jay and Terry my question at the appointed time. It was fun to interact with both of them and to get their humorous take on such a serious question. Although I was excited to appear on television and posted about it on Facebook, I was disappointed to see that my question ended up on the proverbial “cutting room floor.” However, I did get to bring my group (which also included my father and stepmother) to sit in great seats in the studio, plus I was given a Tonight Show t-shirt, so all was not lost.
How Do You Know…?
All in all, my Tonight Show visit was a great experience, but I continued to reflect upon the question in the days that followed. During a walk the next day, I posed the question to my husband, “So, how do YOU know you’ve reached success in life?”
His answer was a good one… He said that for him, success relates to freedom. He knows he’s successful when he is free to spend his time as he wishes and can make empowered choices for what he wants to do in life. Success for him doesn’t equate to a particular job title, dollar amount, or material possessions. It is more related to how he spends his time and how much freedom he has to choose his professional and personal pursuits.
The American Dream?
We talked about how success varies from individual to individual and from society to society. In our society, the most prevalent measure of success relates to career achievement and monetary earnings. A person is said to be successful if he or she has a particular type of job or earns over a certain amount (which varies by region).
Home ownership is also a large factor in determining whether or not one is successful, such that the phrase “American Dream” has become synonymous with owning one’s own home. This collapsing of concepts contributed to the mortgage crisis of recent years, but that situation is a bit off-topic for this blog…
The limited definition for success in our society has many people feeling like failures because they don’t quite “measure up. “ This has been an ongoing issue for me, particularly in the years since I left my corporate job in 2003. During the past seven years, I haven’t even come close to earning my previous corporate salary, and I’ve changed my career path several times due to acute feelings of disillusionment. It has become habitual for me to consider myself a failure and that self-inflicted label has wreaked havoc upon my self-esteem.
I haven’t really taken the time to profoundly consider my personal definition for success in a number of years. In pondering the Tonight Show question, I remembered a quote I found long ago which deeply resonated for me. Fortunately, I was able to rediscover this quote through the magic of the Outlook search feature. It was published in professional coach Chris Barrow’s newsletter in March 2004:
“Success is doing what you love to do, when you love to do it, with people you love working with.” – Chris Barrow
I like this definition as much today as I did six years ago! It dovetails well with my own definition for success that I have created subsequent to last Friday’s Tonight Show visit.
My New Definition of Success
So how do I know I’ve reached success in life? There are five key factors in my newly constructed vision. I could write a complete post on each of these individual aspects, but I will briefly define them herein.
- Health – My recent health challenges have affirmed the truth of the old adage, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” Health serves as a powerful foundation for success in all other areas of one’s life. If we feel healthy and vibrant, we are much more up to the various challenges we take on and we can more readily withstand stressors along the way. Achieving good health is an accomplishment in and of itself, especially as we age and health becomes much less of a “given” than it was in our younger years.
- Freedom – I steadfastly agree with my husband’s assertion that freedom is an integral component of success. The freedom to choose the type of work we do and where and when we do it is a big part of how successful we feel. I remember when I was first able to move to Lake Tahoe (and later San Diego) and work from home. I think that’s when I felt most successful in my work.
- Happiness – Success is about so much more than career and money. I believe a successful life involves joy and happiness each and every day. If we can stop and ask ourselves at various times of the day, “Am I enjoying what I’m doing?” and answer with a resounding yes, we’ll likely feel much more successful people who feel somber and uninvolved in their activities.
- Connection – No man or woman is an island. As human beings, we want and need to feel a connection to those around us. We want to experience love and affinity and to develop functional and enriching relationships with the people in our lives. If I feel connected to others and am able to communicate honestly and deeply with my friends and family, I feel happier and more successful in life.
- Growth – It is highly important to me to continue to grow and learn throughout my lifespan. I want to always feel like I am evolving as a person and discovering new things about myself and the world around me. I am successful if I can easily answer yes to the question, “Am I growing and learning new things each and every day?”
A New Fresh Outlook
So, have I reached success based upon my own definition? Not yet, but I am definitely on my way… What’s more, I find this new definition infinitely more inspiring and empowering than the old one to which I subscribed. I’m not suggesting that career and money are not important in life. Of course they are, but they are not everything. While I still hope to achieve career success and earn a decent income, it feels good for me to know I can still be successful in life without reaching those milestones.
Who would have thought I’d learn so much from a trip to see a taping of the Tonight Show? I now move forward with my healing project with a fresh outlook and new goals. As I proceed with the final four months of my journey (that is, if I don’t extend it beyond a year…), I am newly invigorated and feel hopeful and positive that I can and will heal my life!