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My Definition of Success

I saw this post on my favourite Facebook pages ever.  It struck a chord with me because I’m pursuing an unstructured life.

hony

I often think about what drives me to do the work I do.

Once upon a time I use to think it was ‘being successful’.  Like the ability or potential to run a financially successful business, which would then potentially free me up to do other things and not suffer being ‘financially poor’.  I use to think in terms of business plans, graphs and bank balances.  The pursuit of so called ‘success’ is what initially sparked my imagination to create and do stuff.  I knew I longed for something different than a standard day job.

I use to think that if only I had the money, then I could do this, or that.  However, this is a trap that too many of us fall into.  I’ll just do this one last contract. Or pay off my mortgage. Or work a couple more years.  THEN I’ll be able to be free enough to do what I really want to do.

The idea of success is what may have driven me in the early days, but it’s not what drives me now.  Or maybe it is, but my definition of success has completely changed.

The old way I looked at success was about being someone big or important.  Having big responsibility, assets and commitments.  However, the reality, where I am now is that I don’t really want much of that.  I’m introverted. Avoid being the centre of attention whenever possible, often choosing a strategy to put others in the limelight.  I’ve also become averse to commitment (apart from my marriage!).  I’ve increasingly avoided most long term business type commitments as all too often they turn into stressful and painful situations.

My newer way of looking at success is by the degree of how much freedom I have.  I make regular and conscious choices in my life to give me freedom.  I find freedom brings me the unstructured life that I love, even if the results have not come as quickly as I often would have liked.  The patience required for this has made me feel incredibly grateful for the freedom I have now.

Here are some examples of the freedoms I have compared to my life in the past:

My Freedom Now In My Distant Past
I am able to turn work away.I value the opportunity to do work I enjoy doing.  We don’t live month to month and feel comfortable turning away work that compromises our happiness and lifestyle. I never had much choice in my work.I was too worried about money to make decisions that would effect my income.
I am able to focus on work I love.I choose who I work with and intentionally avoid people who bring negativity and stress into my life. Whilst I enjoyed the work I did, I often didn’t enjoy the environment I worked in.  I often felt unhappy and stressed.
I am able to spend time with my family.When I plan my work and the things I want to do I ensure they are compatible with my growing family’s needs.  Otherwise I say no. Work dictated my life.  It was 9-5. Not seeing much of my family. Juggling childcare and all the hassles that come with a busy working life.
I am able to spend time on myself.  It’s taken me a while to not feel guilty about this and it’s only the past year or two that I’ve started doing things for me.  Taking time out when I need it. Doing stuff I want to do.  Deciding that certain things have to happen to keep me balanced and happy. Between work, kids and housework – I felt too stressed and tired to even think about doing things for me.  My health slipped.  My exercise was non-existent.
I have the choice in how to structure my day to day activities.I’ve developed my own way of working. It’s carefully placed between everything that goes on in my life. It works for me and is snug as a bug.  Sometimes I stay up late.  I often have naps to catch up on missed sleep.  I only wake up early when I have no choice (this usually means the kids wake me up). Pretty much no choice in how I structured my days.I had to commute often. Be at work at certain times. Be home for the kids. Etc.  There was no flexibility.
I am able to take time off to relax when I feel I need it.We’ve been lucky enough in the past couple of years to have the flexibility to just take time off or go on extended worklidays as a family.  This is partly because we can mostly do work from anywhere, but it’s also because our kids are not tied to the school system (as we are unschoolers). Like above.  There was little say when I could take time off.
I limit my number of hours of ‘actual work’ to 4 hours per day (on average).Some weeks are busier than others, however overall I try to limit my actual work time to 4 hours a day.  Often they are 4 intense and productive hours.  I’ve grown quite accustomed to it and I feel it is the right balance for me and the other life duties I manage. My work days were at least 8 hours, often more.  Plus commute time.There wasn’t much choice.  Even when ‘there was nothing to do’ I often felt like I had to pretend to be productive.  This is wasteful and full of stupidity!

Perhaps ‘freedom’ and ‘unstructure’ sound simplistic enough to disregard as unimportant.  However, like the woman in the picture above, it is underestimated.

Freedom gives me the more obvious things like deciding when to work. How to work. And what to work on. The ability to prioritise my family life. The ability to choose what projects to work on. Choose the food that I eat (because it’s easier when I don’t rush about). When to travel and go on holiday with my kids.  And simply do things when we feel like it, not when others feel we should.

However, it’s the things that are harder to see that almost make me feel enlightened by the whole experience.  I have time to think. To feel. To listen. To take time to properly decide things at my own pace.  Choices without huge pressure.  It’s a wonderful thing.

I am not financially rich.  Nor am I financially poor.  Money is important to give us a certain amount of freedom, but it is not our over arching focus.  We are working towards minimalism as a family.  We want to spend less money. Have less possessions.  Have more time for ourselves and each other doing things that we want to do.

I think about and appreciate the freedom I have every single day.  I am thankful.  I feel I am succeeding because every time I think of life without the freedom I have – then that is when I know that a life without freedom would be a unsuccessful life for me.

  1. I agree with your definition of success, and would love to join you in that lifestyle. For me, and I suspect for most, the block to this kind of success if mental. In both definitions. i.e. It’s all in my head, it can be done if I change my outlook and break free from the material desires built up over time by a inexplicable need to follow the rat race; and mental as in madness!

    If only I could break the addiction to gadgets and excessive food, and an “easy” life that is far from easy.

    Then I wouldn’t need a 1/3rd of the income I seem to ‘need’ now, my health would be better, and I could enjoy life more. Just like you seem to.

    Drive and competition is necessary to evolve and grow, but the modern material world is not the most healthy way to do this.

    • The block may be mental. But the block is also in the understanding of taking small steps to work towards the bigger goal. We didn’t set these goals last month, or last year. It’s been a good 5 years at least of slowly working leading a more humble and rewarding life.

  2. It’s sounds wonderful however i wonder if you’ve been able to arrange things financially with your partner to enable this, or if your new 4 hour businesses have replaced your old 8 hour income?

    Many/most people live to the edge of their means, so suddenly going from two to one wages isn’t feasible unless they’ve been able to arrange the finances accordingly with their parter/family.

    I’m jealous :-)

    • The thing is, that nothing has been sudden. I’ve had my fair share of ‘day jobs’. My husband more so than me. It was the dissatisfaction of working on these ‘jobs’ that made us seek something more aligned with our thinking/needs/wants. We are making it happen – but it has taken years.

      My husband’s consulting gave us a runway and flexibilty for a certain time to focus on things we really wanted to do. Now my business is growing he is helping me with that with tech skills I need and just don’t have. This means we are both at home mostly. Both with the kids. And juggling things on a day to day basis.

      It’s not all blissful. It can be tiring and stressful. But I am happy and grateful for the freedom. We didn’t exactly plan it all this way, but overall things are heading in the right direction.

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