We all know the story. The King of England dies, leaving no heir to the throne, and the place gets hectic. Everybody and their dog wants to be the next ruler, and no one can agree on a king. So They ask the local wizard, Merlin what to do, and he comes up with an idea. "See that sword sticking out of that stone over there? Whoever can pull it out is our next King." So people start trying. And failing. Grunting and straining. Pulling with all their might, muscles popping, but still not one guy can pull the sword out of that stone. Along comes our boy Arthur (Art for short). Art is not your typical heavy-duty sword-remover. He's small, frail. But Merlin brings him over to the sword, and Arthur grabs it and slide the thing right out of there like it ain't no thing. The rest is history (or at least legend...).
Fast forward to today. "I think I'm trying too hard", I say to myself. It's obvious, too, by the fact that I'm getting upset over ridiculous little things: not getting a huge response for one of my social media posts, missing a note or chord as I play a song. Thoughts like this can devour me up if I'm not careful. When I'm double checking my 'likes', Staying up hours past my bed time to get the 'perfect take' for a video or song- spewing discontent all the while instead of enjoying the moment- it's clear there are some painfully prideful tendencies involved. As soon as I stop looking for the signs and symptoms of drifting motives, I find them getting mixed up. When my priorities start to all come attached with with words like 'work harder', 'get this done' 'not good enough', 'do, do, do, and keep doing', they begin to stink of misplaced ambition.
I sometimes think to myself "I just. wanna. be. successful." There's nothing inherently wrong with that. I mean it's one of the units of measurements by which we as humans operate and find fulfillment. But what defines success? Sure, there are the A-typical definitions: you get your big break, start making lots of money (this is a big one in our society), see something accomplished that you've been working hard for, etc. But that's just a slice of the pie... By some accounts, simply doing what you love because you love it and for no other reason could be considered a successful end. No waiting for results to confirm or deny it, just measuring what you do as a currency of success. This helps take away some of the discontent and discouragement that can come creeping in when I'm not measuring up to my own ideals.
I'm certainly not saying that we should all lower our standards and stick a toothpick in ourselves and call ourselves good and done. This life is a journey, and as long as you are here, you are never "there". Striving for improvement is a healthy and worthwhile endeavor, but when the striving becomes the focus, instead of the end result, frustration sets in and we become concreted by our own expectations, missing the point of improvement. When I'm measuring success by other people's standards, or by how much clout I'm receiving on social media or even by my own skyrocketed standards, that's when I know my definition of success has gone awry.
When I googled the word success, the first definition that came up was "the accomplishment of an aim or purpose". That leaves lots of room for interpretation. If your goal is to make a million dollars as a rapper and you don't, then you didn't hit success with that endeavor (and you miiigghht be aiming a little too high). But if your aim is to play a song a day, or to improve yourself or your craft in little steps at a time over a week, a month, a year and you do those things and find improvement and/or fulfillment in it, those to me are personal successes. Sadly they may not always be considered success in the commercial or societal world, but it's up to each of us to define what constitutes success for us, and happiness and success go very well together.
For me, it's all about balance. I try to tread between unrealistic (get 1000 'likes' a week) and things that are bound to happen anyway without much effort (wake up, eat breakfast). Obviously I don't always follow the advice I've written here, otherwise I probably wouldn't be writing this. But I've learned to not get so out of sorts when the end game doesn't end exactly how I tried to write it out. I'm seeing the value in finding satisfaction in the moments that make up the journey to success, and to be okay with the end result assuming that I put my best foot forward.
Really the takeaway is that we are not defined by what we do as much as how and why we do it. Success can be a tricky thing to really pin down, but it shouldn't be a stressor or some unattainable holy grail off in the distance. Rather it should be an enjoyable ride, full of readjustment and joy. Like Arthur and his date with destiny, I think when we find ourselves doing what we are supposed to be and not trying to bang our heads against unnatural walls, things get a whole lot easier & our swords will begin to pull out on those stones. Every new day can find some form of success, and our choices are what mold and shape our attitudes and the outcomes of it. I'll leave you with this verse from Proverbs 16:3
'Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established'