If I asked you what you wanted to be when you were little, what would your answer be? If I asked you, what kind of one of those you wanted to be, what would you say? An astronaut – the best…a dancer – world class, a racing driver – the fastest, a scientist – leading the field. I want to be ok, fair to middling, average said no child ever.
This was what was asked of me and my colleagues last week by success coach Michael Finnigan. And it is such a clever way to set your soul on fire. If you ask yourself this every morning, it really is great motivation.
What if you are not the best?
Of course, it begs the question about what happens to us such that large numbers are content to settle for second place and are just muddling through.
That said, the idea that we should all strive to be the fastest, the brightest, the best sits uncomfortably with me.
In my blog, ‘Enough is Not Enough’ (https://kerrytalks.com/2017/06/10/enough-is-not-enough), I explored the notion of mediocrity and how I was fed up of being made to feel inferior, just because I was not the best sales person, the person striving for a bigger and better house, a faster car….Am I mediocre because I choose what I have, until lately, called a small life?
Equally, we are not all as talented as each other – we cannot all be the best footballer, the best lawyer, the best teacher.
Does this mean we are failing? That we are betraying our childhood aspirations? That we have forgotten how to be ambitious?
How do you define success?
For me, success need not be defined by what level of management or promotion you attain, and not by the material trappings of wealth you acquire, it’s about the value of the decisions you make. Indeed it’s about whether or not you make any decisions at all.
As someone who is now 40 I have carried with me a growing sense of unease over the last couple of years, years in which I had all the love I could have ever hoped for with three beautiful children. But the point was, for the first time, I had no goals, no aims, I was just drifting. I had fallen into the humdrum and was sleepwalking through life.
This doesn’t mean I want to leave it all behind and set off on a path of career driven wild ambition, nor does it mean I am going out and buying an inappropriate sports car. What it means is that I have decided to live my life with purpose and on purpose. I am choosing what is important to me, making commitments to what defines me, to what I consider my core values and I am looking to live with joy and with an appreciation of all that I have.
It is not enough to say, for example, I want to be the best mum I can and a role model to the girls. If that’s what lights you up, take action, design and consciously decide what that means to you. Then act, move, take steps to do that to the best of your ability. This doesn’t mean that you need to bake cakes every day, sew your children’s clothes or become amazing at craft activities, it just means you have to do what is true to you with heart.
Keep moving forward
Sometimes it’s not easy to know what you want, sometimes you might feel trapped by where you are. But it’s about setting your intentions and moving towards something. Heck, even the fact that you are thinking about what next, might be an improvement on where you were. Certainly, that is true for me.
What I am trying to say is that 18 months ago, the questions asked of me by Michael Finnigan would have made me feel miserable. Like an abject failure. I have not become a dancer, a famous choreographer, I have not yet travelled the world and have not yet written a book. I am not the best at everything I do. But today, I am excited by the questions, they motivate me.
Not because I am the best mum in the world. However, I am thinking really hard about what that means to me and about how I might be the best version of the real me and it has opened up my world. This means I am now self-employed, working flexibly on my own terms. I would never have imagined that to be possible. This means that I have started this blog and discovered a whole new level of joy and purpose. This means I am reading extensively and am consciously choosing the behaviour and life we model for three beautiful young girls. It doesn’t mean I have to be a multi-millionaire and world famous. It just means I need to make the most of who I am in a way that makes us all happy.
Please don’t think for one minute I have it all figured out and that I am now living this perfect life. I still scream at the kids, I still drink too much red wine, I still faff about the house and waste time, I am overweight and don’t exercise enough, I don’t have a robust client base…but I am working on it and the fact that I have new drive and new purpose has significantly altered my happiness. Since Michael’s words last week, I have identified this as ambition and it is invigorating. Go find yours!
Ps thanks to Pinterest for the images.
Pps thank you to @MichaelFinnigan for an amazing talk and inspiration