By Executive Coach, Karen D. Nutter
I was at a meeting recently when I overheard two women talking about how difficult life has become, and how everyone in their lives seem to be in major turmoil, themselves included. One of the women said she couldn’t get ahead in her career because she was too busy trying to balance everything else that was going on and she couldn’t focus. “My life feels like hurricane Dorian – just sitting out there in one place spinning and spinning and making a mess of everything” she said, “A nice, peaceful, successful life seems to be out of my reach.”
Her words echo what I have heard from many people in both professional and personal circles, and it made me think about the similarities between personal success and rainy days. While you may think they are opposites because success is often portrayed as a sunny day while failure has dark rain clouds – success and rainy days share some strong characteristics.
Is It Raining In Here?
Ask five different people to define success and you will probably get five different answers. The reason for this is that personal success really IS personal. It’s based on what you value, what you want for yourself, and how you see the world. How you view a rainy day is also very subjective. If you just see the rain, you may prefer to stay indoors. But, if you look at what good things the rain can bring, (flowers, clean streets, full lakes to swim in…) your outlook changes and you may find yourself playing in the puddles instead of cursing them.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying by poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – “Into each life a little rain must fall.” Well, that’s true, but when you consider that on average, there are 115 rainy days per year in the United States, that’s only 31.5% of the year. If you realize that 2/3 of your days are rain-free, it makes getting through the rainy days more manageable. So, instead of focusing on the success you have not yet achieved, look at the progress you have made or can make. And, don’t base your judgement on someone else’s definition of success, everyone is different and that’s more than OK.
Damn That Rain!
When hurricane Dorian brought tons of rain to Jacksonville, a friend of mine lost a bird feeder, an outdoor umbrella, and two garden statues because she didn’t put everything away in her shed. Now, compared to all that could have been damaged, she didn’t do too bad. Still, she was angry at the storm for ruining her stuff. My mom used to tell me that if you want things to last, you have to be responsible and take care of them. The same applies to success.
You can blame your boss, co-workers, clients, or maybe even your parents, but the reality is that you are the only one truly responsible for your success. Sure, other people, circumstances, and challenges can get in your way, and when they do, it’s up to you to take care of things and stay focused on your goals. When you take responsibility for your stuff/success/life, the rain won’t damage as much because you will have protected it, and/or you will be able to navigate your way through it.
The Success Cycle
If you remember your middle school science class, you’ll recall that rain doesn’t just fall from the sky for no reason. There is a whole process that creates rain and the water cycle – condensation, evaporation, sublimation, de-sublimation, precipitation…. This process takes time and involves numerous factors. When the rain comes depends on each factor, and there is no set timeline we can count on.
Success is a cycle, too. It is a process that requires time, growth, experience, and focus. We don’t always have control over each factor associated with success, but we do have the capacity to recognize the importance of each stage involved and do our best to engage in each one in a productive manner. It also helps if we are patient with ourselves and the process so we can experience the best results along the way.
Go Ahead And Wash The Car
Contrary to some beliefs, rainy days don’t come because someone wished for them, or because you washed the car, or were planning to paint your house. Rainy days are part of the overall cycle of life and living, and don’t happen just because we do or don’t want them to.
Likewise, your success doesn’t come from wishing for it, or because you found a penny face-up, or because you have been dreaming of it since you were a kid. Additionally, based on the successful people I know, success isn’t even about how smart, educated, experienced, or talented you are. Success comes when our internal attitudes, beliefs, motivations, and values meet our external actions. There’s really no way around it, everything adds up … Attitude + Action = Success.
The Sunny Side Of Success
Even though the media often portrays success as having a lot of money, fancy cars, and big homes, there are countless people who have a different definition of success. Before you decide whether or not you are successful, take some time to write down what success is to you. A loving family? A stable job? Good friends? A roof over your head? Define your own success and maybe you’ll find you’re not as far from it as you think.
Whether you are pushing yourself too hard, or not hard enough, step back and take a good look at what you desire in your life, and then develop a realistic plan that will help you get there.
Right now, I’d like a little rain shower so my flowers don’t die. It’s all in how you look at life.