Overcoming the Poison of Society’s “Success”

Overcoming the Poison of Society’s “Success”

In the pursuit of a dream, we will stumble across many “poisons” that attempt to deter us, weaken us, and make us doubt our dream’s capability and legitimacy. Like a physical poison, it’ll work through your system and slowly kill any hope of passion and confidence.

One of those poisons that has haunted me quite a lot is the perceived notion of “success” that is intentionally-unintentionally pushed on us from society. Well, it is half the time, and then the other half is our own self-imposed notion. There’s different factors that we may deem “successful,” and it can slightly differ amongst us, but overall it involves the same concept. And, ultimately, it results in us believing that because our lives don’t match this picture, then we’re not successful.

First of all, this is all this “success” is: a picture. An idea. An ideal imagined by generations of a collective culture that has changed and merged and intersected so much we’ve lost track. So this picture of “success” has changed an insurmountable amount of times. It’s irrelevant. It’s pointless. There’s no need to pay it any attention.

Here are a few things to dwell on:

  • What makes you happy?

Now, if having a certain income or marrying well or climbing the ladder to CEO or becoming famous is what makes you happy, then by all means pursue it! If none of that matters to you, then there’s nothing wrong or different about that. If you’re happy, or at least content, I’d say you’re doing pretty good.

  • Every path is different.

Even when two people are pursuing the same thing, they won’t do it exactly the same way. And both are valid and equally successful.

  • What’s better: satisfied others or satisfied you?

What’s so great about living a life that others demand and being miserable and bitter all the time? I’m sure you’d rather be pleased with yourself. Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t listen to wise and well-meaning advice from those you trust and who know you well, and this doesn’t mean you don’t practice humility and sacrifice (after all, Character comes before dreams). But also don’t forget to listen to your own gut. Even in the midst of presumed certainty, your gut will never lie.

  • Society knows nothing of you.

You know you. Your family and friends know you. What do they say about you? What does your heart say about you?

  • Divert your thoughts when they dwell too long on this “success.”

Thinking too much about this will only make you lose hope and energy. Have a plan to divert your thoughts to something more productive, and something more positive. Choose a subject on which you will habitually think about when your mind starts to wander into darkness (Philippians 4:8-9, “think on these things…”)

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The Falsehood of Being “Behind”

The Falsehood of Being “Behind”

I once stumbled across a post that I saved and shared on social media because it spoke so personally to me:

“Just because you took longer than others, doesn’t mean you failed. Remember that.”

I don’t know who wrote it or where it came from, but I would wholeheartedly give credit to its origin. This was one of those quotes that struck so deep it was like a punch in the stomach. A punch that I very much needed. From high school, I did not do things like my smart, overachieving, well-to-do group of friends. I graduated a year early, took college classes during the summer, did not participate in National Honor Society or other honorable student organizations, went to community college instead of a four-year university directly after graduating, and so forth. Certain motivations like avoiding unbearable student tuition debts as much as possible made me choose this kind of path, as well as circumstances like breaking my back which led me to start online classes out of sheer boredom. There’s also the factor of spending most of my time doing internships practically every semester for the past four years. Needless to say, I have done things a little differently from my peers; from most people my age, I think.

From the moment I graduated high school I have struggled with doubt, regret, jealousy, comparison, shame. I just turned 22, and many other 22-year-olds I know are nearly finished with their Bachelor’s, whereas I am just now, not even yet, on my way towards that same goal. Yes, I have made progress with an Associate’s that gets me a little ahead of the four years, with doing internships that have proven valuable experience and connection. It’s still hard not to think about how I will likely be 25 or 26 when I do get that Bachelor’s, as apposed to old friends already having it before their 21st birthday.

Everyone in my life who is in the loop of my life has repeatedly told me, “Why do you think this? You are only such-and-such years old! You’re still young! You are doing fine! Chill out!” And I imagine those who are older than me are probably rolling their eyes in their mind as they say this. If I step out of my body and rationally observe myself, I have the exact same reaction. Why, indeed? I really do need to chill out.

It all boiled down to personal expectations. I live in this subconscious mindset of age-induced deadlines, of assumed projected standards from others, of living up to a subjective definition of success, according to society.

This idea is “being behind” as if life is some kind of race to compete in is totally, completely, stupidly false. I know this. Doesn’t mean I’ve successfully overcome it, but I’m working on that.

Why is it false?

There are different paths to the same goal.

Your path is different from your peers.

Age is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with achieving dreams.

Your age does not define you or your level of success.

“Success” is a vague term that can have a million definitions according to the individual.

Doing things for the sake of accomplishing certain societal standards is a major waste of energy and passion.

More often than not, the expectations you imagine are from outside pressures are actually your own placed upon yourself.

There is no designated deadline based on timeline, age, or order of goals that says “you failed.”

Accomplishment differs between careers. What makes someone a doctor will be a very different list of goals from what makes someone a filmmaker or an entrepreneur or a childcare provider.

Value of time and energy also differs between careers. It may be more worth it for a musician to spend their time networking while an aspiring vet will spend their time in school.

10 Thoughts you’ll Encounter While Pursuing your Dream

10 Thoughts you’ll Encounter While Pursuing your Dream

As you go about making your dream a reality, there will always be certain thoughts that cross your mind, bringing in doubt, fear, and discouragement. But they’re just thoughts, and we can’t trust our thoughts. Your head likes to mess with you, especially when it comes to the thing you love. These thoughts will likely stumble into your brain at some point, but there’s no need to dwell on them.

  1. “I’m too young.”

1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” So what if you’re still a minor? You should be working on your dream right now. There are dozens of success stories of people 18 or younger achieving amazing things. Age is irrelevant when it comes to achieving dreams.

2. “I’m too old.”

My favorite author C.S. Lewis said, “You’re never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Did you know he was in his 50s when he wrote the first Narnia novel? And he actually first had conceptual ideas for it back at the age of 16, but he did not begin writing it until much later. Considered his greatest literary achievement, amongst others, that’s an inspiring story. Once again, age is irrelevant to dreams.

3. “I’m running out of time.”

How, exactly? Because you’re growing up? Because you’ve created imaginary deadlines? Because your achievement date doesn’t match that of your peers? No, you’re not running out of time. And you better be pacing yourself.

4. “I took too long.”

I recently came across a post that I then shared on social media because it spoke so personally to me: “Just because you took longer than others, doesn’t mean you failed. Remember that.” Remember that, indeed.

5. “I should have done it like the others.”

No, you are not them. They are not you. Your path is different. Something I always say: “There are many different paths to the same goal.” Just because you’re doing things differently from everyone else doesn’t mean you won’t achieve the same thing. Stop comparing yourself.

6. “I missed my chance.”

Doors open and doors close. They also open again. If you missed something, then something else will come along. It may change up your path a little, but like I said, there are many different paths to the same goal.

7. “I chose wrong.”

If it’s what you love to do, then you did not choose wrong. If you’re basing this off of the monetary success, well, DON’T! If your goal is to make money, well then, I hope you chose a path that made sense for that.

8. “I’m not skilled at this.”

If you’re passionate about it, then you will get good at it. Truly, ability should come naturally with passion, so perhaps you’re just underestimating your skills.

9. “I know nothing.”

Well of course, you’re still learning! That’s what studying is for! This is such a silly notion. If you’re passionate about it, the studying part will just be part of the fun.

10. “What the heck am I doing?”

Oh, we all think this, of everything. At least you’re doing something. So what if you have no idea? You’ll learn by trial and error. There’s no greater teacher. Let this thought slip away and laugh it off.

Dear Starry-eyed College Me…

Dear Starry-eyed College Me…

You probably just graduated high school, and congratulations. It’s not every year a student does it in three instead of four. I admire your deadpan focus and rock solid determination. It helped you get a long way.

I ought to warn you, though, that there is danger behind that foundation.

Some would say that setting your goals into the ground, kind of like a house, is a good practice. Most of the time it keeps you in check. But, after a few years since graduation, I’ve found that there’s a more world-agreeable practice. It’s hard to see it now, but reality is a biter. It likes to ignore you when necessary. Then it coaxes you with breadcrumbs, like you’re a pigeon. Then it shifts its foot, and because we’re all skittish pigeons we flap and flutter in hysterics.

Then we do it again.

This is how things are. Don’t waste your energy denying it; you’ll only wear yourself out. I’m not telling you to be a puppet in the system, though. Here’s what I’m saying: accept what works, but don’t forget what works better. Go with the flow; discover the checkpoints. Does that make sense?

As you enter into the “college stage,” here’s a few things that you must know:

Figure out what you want-learn how to get it! It looks like you have all the time in the world to dilly dally, but please, for the love of God, do your research.

Start saving…now! I can’t stress enough how much money will soon become one of your greatest obstacles. You’re gonna hate it. Prepare yourself. You know, there’s great resources out there for you. You just have to find them…

Get over yourself and meet people. It’s time to stop being an antisocial baby and learn the art of networking. Your future, your career, and yourself will thank you.

Understand your weaknesses; operate in your strengths. There’s a great deal of importance in both. If you’re good at something, then do it. If you’re weak in something, understand why and move on.

And when the stress and the anxiety and the frustration and the depressive thoughts come (because they will come), have a plan of attack ready. Right now. Are you ready?

 

Here’s another thing: start community college classes now. Don’t wait half a year like I did. And then, before you finish your Associate’s, prepare for which school you will go to for your Bachelor’s, because you’ll need a Bachelor’s. I know, you’re angry with the system. You want to go outside the beaten path. You want to achieve the same thing in a different way. Well, you will, don’t let go of that. But be ready…life isn’t kind to those who travel a different road. But remember what Robert Frost said?

“And I…I took the road less traveled by,
And it has made all the difference.”

For college students like me, Earnest can make a difference in one of the greatest known hardships amongst young adults: money. Especially the kind paid towards school.

You could be your Dream’s Greatest Obstacle

You could be your Dream’s Greatest Obstacle

Perhaps you’re in a place where you’re wondering why your dreams just seem to be playing hide-and-seek. There are a number of outside circumstances that can affect their ability to come true, yes, but have you considered that you might be the greatest obstacle?

It might be a tough thought to grasp, but grasping it can be the first step to shifting that dream-limbo reality. How might you be the greatest obstacle?

  1. You’re discouraged by missed opportunities. Discouragement is a rough thing to combat, and it never truly seems to go away even when things are looking up. After a series of unseized opportunities, it can shape your perspective into one that believes you’ve lost all opportunities and it’s time to give up. Nevertheless, discouragement can be beaten, and it doesn’t have to hold you back.
  2. You lack the motivation. I’ve come to believe that some people are more naturally lazier than others, and those individuals do have a tougher time getting places. Though not necessarily something to be ashamed of (we’re only human), it’s not something to be proud of either. A lack of motivation could be the cause, and so it would help to find some, a kind that will truly have a significant longterm effect on you so that it’s powerful enough.
  3. You restrain your potential. Either if it’s done unconsciously or with reason, holding yourself back just doesn’t make sense. There is no such thing as being “ready” for anything, so it will always be expected in vain. There are some mysteries about yourself that you haven’t uncovered yet. You’re never 100% discovered.
  4. You don’t take responsibility for failures. A lack of money or uncooperative people can easily suppress a dream, but putting the blame on them for your unfulfilled dream won’t resolve anything. The thing about those factors is that they can be adjusted with enough nitty gritty effort.
  5. You hang with the wrong crowd. Being around people who aren’t very motivated or goal-oriented is going to really hold you back. Seek out those peers who are innovative, independent, creative, and you’ll find yourself inspired to be the same.
  6. You keep your options a little too open. Quoting from an intriguing article I recently read by Psychology Today: “…our stress befalls the generation with the most optionality yet. This blessing could also be our curse.” It talks about how the stress present in the millennial generation comes from having an endless list of choices, from picking a breakfast cereal to choosing a career path. It’s been proven from research that the more options that are offered, the less likely someone is to make a solid decision. Rather, it makes us shy away and do nothing. Perhaps your dream isn’t happening because you’ve considered too many options. Even though they’re there, and they’re all equally achievable, it doesn’t mean they all should be achieved. You have to pick one path, and stick to that path. (read the article; I highly encourage it)

So, why isn’t your dream happening, you ask? Maybe it’s a matter of time, and maybe it’s something you can do. If you’re in the way, then step aside.

A Poem A Week #31

A Poem A Week #31

Your Story

Dear old man that I pass
On the trail
At exactly 7:45am
Every morning…
Who are you?
And what is your story?
You seem like someone
Who might have fought a war.
Vietnam, perhaps?
When we cross paths,
With a smile
And a “Good morning,”
(I can’t imagine you hear mine;
You’re always wearing headphones.
What are you listening to?)
Sometimes
I want to stop you
And ask you for your story.
But the two small dogs
Pulling on my arms
Would never allow that.
Perhaps you wonder
The same thoughts of me.
Who is this young fresh-face?
What did she possibly achieve
To arrive in such a place?
Truth is, I’ve achieved nothing.
My story…I’d rather hear
Your story.
Then, perhaps,
I can add something to mine.

Catherine Joy

5 Moments that gave me an Inspiration Surge

5 Moments that gave me an Inspiration Surge

We can’t easily forget those moments, when something or someone so deeply inspired us that it birthed an idea in our minds or changed our way of thinking or made us take action. I’ll bet you can name one significant event. Let me share five.

  1. The day I watched The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I saw the first Chronicles of Narnia movie when it came out in 2005 before I even knew about the books. It was thanks to my brother who expressed enthusiasm for this unbeknownst story, and his insistence of me reading the books. I saw the movie, and I fell in love. “What is this story?” I asked my brother. He gave me his big fat copy of all seven books when we got home, and that was the start of a lifelong infatuation with Narnia and C.S. Lewis. And this was all before I discovered I wanted to write just like him…
  2. The first day of seventh grade English. My teacher, still a good friend and inspiration to this day, welcomed us to her class, and then ordered us to take out a pencil and paper. We were to write in silence for five minutes. We couldn’t stop, and we couldn’t erase. If we had nothing to write, then we wrote don’t know what to write over and over. When the timer began, I was thinking about The Legend of Zelda. I would watch my brother play the games, and he had recently finished Ocarina of Time.  So, in those five minutes, I wrote a short story about Link and the little MarketTown of Hyrule. That was the story that, at the end of the five minutes, I leaned back from and stared at with a tingling sense of awe. It was the moment I realized, I loved that. 
  3. When I heard my fourth grade teacher had said, “she’s going to be a writer.” My fourth grade teacher (who was also my second grade teacher) was another teacher that made a mark on my life. She saw the gift in me first, years before it came up on its own. I didn’t know she said this until years later, because she wrote it in a letter to my mom. It was confirmation to me, and a surge that kept me going.
  4. After I cried on the bathroom floor while healing from a broken back. There was a point during that season when I feared that I would never run or dance or climb ever again that I broke down in the bathroom. My mom found me and prayed over me. Something changed after that day. My attitude toward my injury shifted. I began to see the opportunities that lay in wait. And when God let me know, “Even if you were paralyzed, you’d still be able to fulfill your purpose,” it was all different after that. I thanked God I wasn’t an athlete.
  5. December 31, 2015. I made the decision to quit a previous position this day, and though the process was hard, I relished the feeling of a fresh start when it came to pass. It was a great way to launch the year of Independence with a reassuring message that I can move my feet and not make an earthquake if I didn’t want to. I can move my feet and make a path appear.

What are some unique significant moments that inspired you and made a little change in your life? What event gave you a surge of Inspiration?