If you opened the SMART Living Blog post email last week you probably noticed it was different. Rather than publish a full article like usual, I decided to take a short trip down to Baja Mexico with Thom and enjoy myself. And while that might not seem radical if you haven’t followed SMART Living 365 for long. But it was actually the first time in over six years that I’ve given myself permission to not post an article. And guess what? The world did not collapse and (thankfully!) you all did not unsubscribe. What it did do was allow to me pause and consider why I have felt so driven to stick to such a strict self-imposed schedule. More importantly, it reminded me that my definition of success and happiness as I enter my third-act of life is the guidepost that I want to follow at the present time. And perhaps my thoughts on this are something all of us can use regardless of our age.
Something about my personality allows me to make a plan and stick with it. Most times that practice serves me very well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve converted a bad habit into something good from this peculiarity. The biggest example I have is when I wanted to stop smoking over 35 years ago. I really enjoyed, (yes I’m one of those strange people who actually liked to smoke) was getting up in the morning, having a cigarette with my coffee, and reading the newspaper. So rather than repeat what I had been doing for the previous 15 years, I instead got up, put on my tennis shoes, and took my dog for a long walk. And yes, 35+ years later I am still walking about 2+ miles nearly every day. I am certain that my deeply ingrained walking habit keeps me healthy and strong all these years later. So certainly, my strict adherence to a created schedule can benefit me tremendously.
It can also cause me a lot of grief. Of course I’m not talking about writing here on SMART Living or publishing my books, because they are actually some of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences in my life. I don’t ever want to give up writing. But what I do want is to never be afraid to closely scrutinize my habits and make changes when necessary. Let’s face it, if we aren’t mindful of our own thoughts and habits, we too often become “comfortably numb” to the routines that make up our lives. So, the grief I’m talking about is locking myself into a behavior just because it is something I decided at some point was a good thing to do. But things change. I change. By the same token some of our actions need to change too.
So I suppose it is no accident that this morning I was listening to a podcast interview by the author, business entrepreneur, and blogger Seth Godin. He reminded me that my former definition of success has dramatically transformed in my lifetime. Years ago I watched silly shows like Lifestyles of the Rich And Famous and imagined how one day I could be a bit like those that Robin Leach interviewed. Remember him? Of course, I still don’t believe that having money is the problem. What I now reject is glamorizing a lifestyle of excessive consumption and frivolous pastimes as something worthy of our time, attention and talent. I’ve outgrown such pursuits, but like Seth Godin, I’m not sure our culture has. I think it is time we did.
And one way to redefine it is by refusing to think that success is something that can be easily measured by what (or who) makes the most money, gets the most likes on Facebook, or is the most popular. It is so easy for us to compare our life and our work with what others are doing and then judge it based upon superficial observations.
Godin likes to use the example of The Beverly Hillbillies vs. Star Trek. Shows like The Beverly Hillbillies were a rating success—but did they do anything more than entertain for 30 minutes? In contrast, Star Trek struggled to find an audience. But years later we can see how it gradually transformed television programing, introduced ideas of space and technology, and changed our culture in some ways for the better. Another example Godin uses is saying, “We can survive if we eat candy for an entire day, but if we put the greenmarkets out of business along the way, all that’s left is candy.”
What this means to me as a writer and a blogger is that although I love it when people respond to the ideas I am sharing here, I resist basing my success on the number of people who subscribe or whether my blog is considered popular. As Godin suggests, I don’t want to be the “Walmart” of blogging or writing. Instead I see myself as a speciality store with a select but discriminating clientele who I consider friends.
Of course, even as I say that, I confess that I’ve “listened to the experts” far too long who promote that the only way to have a “successful” blog is to put out posts on a regular basis. Those experts also say that your blog posts are only supposed to be xxx number of words long, and that your titles have to be provocative, and that your topic has to stay within your genre. Sure those tips might be great at increasing the number of visits to a blog (becoming Walmart)—but I’m far more interested in readers who enjoy exploring new ideas, appreciate being provoked now and then, and do their best to stay positive no matter what.
Still, I get that sometimes we have to adhere to schedules, go to jobs, or follow certain routines to generate income to live and maintain our lives. But what about the rest of the time? When it comes down to it, so much of the success and happiness I’m striving to live these days has everything to do with quality, rather than quantity. My short list includes.
- Spending quality time with my beloved husband having fun and new adventures.
- Maintaining the quality of my health so that I can stay active and enjoy my life.
- Nourishing quality relationships with others who are in my “tribe.”
- Sharing quality ideas and information with those who are open and curious.
- Continuing to grow, learn and evolve into becoming the best “me” I can be.
- Doing my part to make the world a bit better because I lived.
Of course my definition of success and happiness is likely different from yours. But whatever it is, I think the search for our ongoing definitions, and redefinitions as time goes by, are vitally important. At this point I’m not sure I will continue to publish full blog posts every Friday, more Photo Blog Posts, or skip a week altogether. But whatever I choose, I want to be fearless in trying different things as I feel guided to do. While I would love it if you continue to join me, more importantly, I sincerely hope that you find and follow those messages that speak to you and remind you to live a quality life. Surely that is the SMART way for all of us to go.
Okay, your turn. How do you define success these days? Has it changed since you have gotten older? Please share your thoughts and any others in the comments below.