Success is such a loaded word, especially for us spiritual and wellness types. Immediately, we're inundated with images of burned out, sleep-deprived corporate executives eating a microwaveable dinner at their desk.
We've all done the work. We all know that it's not the outside stuff that's going to make us happy. It's the inner work. It's the inner calm that produces outer freedom. We've celebrated all the stories of CEOs who gave up their "successful" lives for happiness. And we know that our society's obsession with the unholy trinity of success — money, power and fame — is exactly what's destroying our entire culture.
So, if we know that our constant grabbing at outside resources is really about not feeling good enough on the inside, then how could being successful be spiritual at all?
I spent the majority of life going after the pot at the end of the rainbow, which I believed would make me good enough. I did everything faster, quicker, earlier than everyone else. I helped to have founded a very successful PR agency when I was 22. I was an expert on health care reform and health care technology. I made good money. I partied all the time. I spent summers in Italy. I filmed a documentary in Rome. I was determined to get there — to achieve success — because somehow that was supposed to transform me into a person good enough to be happy.
And then it hit. "The incident." We've all got one. The thing that makes us wake up and change our lives. In my case, it was an undiagnosed sickness that caused me to vomit blood every day for months. The very thing that forced me — a health care reform guy — to turn to alternative medicine. The thing that helped me find spirituality. The thing that made me fall in love with my best friend. The thing that turned my life around.
And I looked back to my successful life — this toxic culture of striving to achieve my way to happiness — and I realized that the problem wasn't that I wanted to be successful. The problem was that I wanted to be someone else's version of success. I was living the life that I was told I was supposed to want, not one I had decided for myself.
Over the last few years, I've completely taken back my ability to define success for myself, and have worked to achieve that life — one where success means freedom to spend my days how I want to, healing my body and my soul, choosing love in every single situation, accepting myself totally and completely, and making a meaningful contribution to the world.
Now, I'm the only person who can judge if I'm successful or not, because I'm the only person who can weigh it against my own definition.
And I realized that success — true success — has way more to do with self-acceptance than with anything else in the world. It's about being really, really honest with yourself about what you want, and then letting yourself live a life based around that. Not what you're supposed to want, or what the rest of the world thinks — but what you actually want.
It's about having the courage to be yourself without excuse or hesitation or judgment. To be imperfect and vulnerable and authentic. To let yourself be seen. To only work with people who accept the real you. To only do the activities that nourish you. To create a life all around your life purpose.
And I don't think there's anything more spiritual than that.
For so long, we've vilified that word "success." Because it's easier to blame it on those outside pressures than it is to admit that we've been afraid to fully accept ourselves and create a life around what we want.
But if we're determined to live the best life we can, then we need to figure out what that life looks like. We need to decide what is truly going to make us happy. We need to define success on our own terms. The life that feels natural to us.
Because you never have to try to be yourself. If you're trying, it means you're being somebody else.
You are the only person who can create success on your own terms. You are the only person who can fully accept yourself. You are the only person who can live the life you're meant to live.
It's a journey that has brought up every fear and insecurity of mine. It has forced me to tear down everything I thought I knew about myself. It has pushed me through the darkest days of my life, and toward the person I'm meant to become.
Success is the most transformational process I've ever gone through. If that's not spiritual, I don't know what is.