As a new year begins, I have been reflecting on a burning question: what does ‘success’ really mean? And then I saw a movie where the lead actor gave me the answer. It really nailed it for me. And has given me a genuine insight that has changed my path. Here it is.
In recent years, and particularly since a health scare, I have been panicked by a lack of clarity around what ‘success’ means to me. I know it’s not about having more stuff, or more money, friends, power, status (or is it?). Maybe it’s about making a positive difference. Or is it around achieving one’s potential? Confusing. It has been causing me real anxiety.
And then Sven Baker told me he’d watched a movie, “Papadopoulos & Co.” It was playing on my plane. I watched it. “So- how do you define success?” the actor liquidator asked the failed business tycoon who had returned to his brother’s fish and chip shop. And his answer stunned me:
“Success is the amount of joy you feel in your life.”
So simple. So powerful. Such an insightful guiding light. For me anyway.
Joy- writes Zadie Smith in the New York Review of Books, is different from pleasure. Pleasure is something we can experience a little of every day. I get pleasure out of driving with my soft top car roof down, from a sunset, a fine wine.
But joy is far more rare. The trick, Zadie writes, is ‘to learn to recognise and savour it.’
I get the concept. In the past few months, I can think of several occasions when I experienced genuine joy. Walking with loved ones through a shopping centre just prior to Christmas, the holidays for me just beginning, a great two weeks ahead, the ability to shop and enjoy, and the laughter of my most precious things right beside me. Or dancing without inhibition to Madonna’s “Like A Prayer’– a few reds under the belt- at a wedding of close friends in a French mountain top village – knowing my future stretched ahead of me, with big potential for adventure and fun, underpinned by good health, loving relationships, and security for loved ones. And then there was the time, after a week of close nursing at my home, observing my mother dramatically regain strength and optimism following a debilitating operation.
I have realised my life is sprinkled with moments of joy- joy that comes from a combination of the broad palate of my energies- learning and growing, achieving, generating income and what that provides in terms of experiences and opportunity, making a difference, having options, being more in control of my time. Whatever.
So Why Am I Telling You This?
It gave me some clarity: to try hard to recognise where I get my JOY from. And then to be clear on the ingredients I need to work on to enable those emotions to be safeguarded, and maybe multiplied.
Where do you get your genuine JOY from? And what can you focus on (and drop) to help experience those moments more often?