The ever-charming and entertaining Joshilyn Jackson posted a blog post today that started me thinking. I’m the kind of person for whom “good” is not usually “enough,” and my definition of success is constantly being adjusted upwards. It’s a good thing, having goals, but there’s also something to be said for enjoying the moment, for appreciating what you’ve achieved. I tend not to do this, and I’ve become more and more conscious of my attitude as my children have grown. I want them to strive to be their best in everything, but I also want them to be able to delight in the high points without rushing forward to the next peak. And I want them to realize that who they are, and what they are worth, comes from within, not from some outward goal that they may or may not make.
I don’t always help myself on this path, but luckily I have people around me who will remind me of what’s important. Sometimes I have an epic fail. (Example: I’m not really a Tiger Mom, but when my daughter came home with a fabulous report card I couldn’t …quite … stop myself from asking why she went from an A+ to an A in one subject. My husband didn’t hang me upside down for that one, but he was definitely tempted.)
In my writing career, I’ve spent a lot of time focussing on what’s ahead, instead of what’s in front of me right now. Finishing my book, finding an agent, connecting with an editor, seeing my book in stores … it’s like climbing a mountain, and as soon as you reach the top of one, there’s another summit to tackle. And the thing is, it never ends. There will always be some other goal, just out of reach. And if you tie your self-worth to whether you attain it, you will never be content with what you’ve already accomplished.
I’m starting to understand, too, that after a certain point, much of this whole thing is out of my control. At the end of the day, the only reasonable goal is to write the best book I am capable of, do what I can to get it into the world, and let it go. And then spend time with the real prize, the people (and slobbering beasts) who matter. Because if you think time on each mountain top is short, the time you have with the people you love is infinitely shorter.
How do you define success?