“Be happy with who you are and what you do, and you can do anything you want.” —Steve Maraboli
Looking back over the past few years, my life has been a crazy ride and something I never imagined. I started this website as a simple online journal, but today:
—Becoming Minimalist welcomes almost 1,000,000 visitors each month totaling 2,000,000 page views.
—Our Facebook page recently exceeded 500,000 followers.
—I’ve written three bestselling books (Simplify, Clutterfree with Kids, and The More of Less)—ranking as high as the #1 Self-Help book on Amazon and appearing on every major best-sellers list in the country except for the NYT.
—My wife and I started a nonprofit organization to change orphan care around the world. To date, The Hope Effect has raised over $250,000 for orphan care projects.
—And I’ve been privileged to speak internationally at various venues inviting others to find more life by owning less.
I include that list above for one reason: by almost every available measure, you could say it’s been a pretty successful past few years.
But here’s what’s weird. I don’t actually feel all that successful.
In fact, some days, I feel like I don’t even know what I’m doing. Other days, I’m evaluating my life wondering what I’m doing wrong, why things aren’t going even better, and wishing I was better at any number of different skills.
I look at other people and wonder why my growth hasn’t equaled theirs. I look at the long list of things I wish I could accomplish and wonder why I haven’t. Some days feel productive… but other days, I wonder if I’m too undisciplined or too undeveloped in the skills I need to move forward.
While things appear to be successful from the outside, I am often filled with doubt that they actually are.
But I’m starting to wonder, if maybe, this is just what success feels like.
I was texting with a friend one time—someone who probably looks up to me in both age and career. He kindly asked how things were going. My response went something like this, “Some days I feel productive. Other days, I feel distracted and undisciplined. As a result, I can never quite tell if I’m moving forward effectively or too inefficient to do so.”
And I’m starting to wonder, if maybe, I’m not alone. If so, maybe this is just what success feels like.
Maybe success feels more like challenge, than accomplishment. I look at people who make success look effortless. And to be honest, there are times when my work seems to flow naturally—entirely unforced. But most of the time, it doesn’t. Most of the time it is hard and calls me to question my skills and talents—always wishing I had more or different.
Maybe success feels more like discontent, than completion. Maybe success never feels like a finish line, or a goal that is ultimately crossed off a list. Maybe success, regardless of past accomplishments, always looks like it is off in the horizon on the other side of the next hill.
Maybe success feels more like giving thanks, than being thanked. I get emails of appreciation every day from readers. They are lovely and I find great encouragement in them. But I often feel their gratitude is misplaced as I consider all the men and women who built into my life to make all of this possible: parents, friends, my family, and fellow bloggers. They are the successful ones worthy of my gratitude.
Maybe success doesn’t always feel like it looks from the outside. (tweet that)
Take heart in this truth, regardless of your pursuit in life. Whether you are trying to be a successful writer, a successful farmer, a successful school teacher, or a successful mom, maybe success doesn’t always feel like success.
Maybe success just feels like this. And if so, maybe you are far more effective in your role than you ever imagined.
Alpa Pandya says
For me, success is the feeling that I’m constantly growing. Skillfully, financially, emotionally, in relationships. As long as I’m doing things that requires skills I’ve never used before or new approaches, meeting new people, doing things differently, I have no doubts that I am successful. Anyway, I guess it’s easier to feel successful in retrospective. That’s why we can pick successful moments when we look back, even though they might seem stressful at that particular time.
Emenike Emmanuel says
I really don’t know if that’s what success feels like. But most times, I feel similar way. Yesterday, I had a similar experience. I was so fed up with myself. I felt I wasn’t trying enough. I felt all my mates are ahead of me. I felt there’s something I did wrong. I couldn’t just explain it but I made a short prayer to God before I went to bed.
Zara Aitken says
I think you are right. Success isn’t a destination you can reach, to then sit back and enjoy your success. it is a way of life. Successful people continually strive for more, to achieve more and maintain the success they have achieved. Which is what causes them to be successful in the first place.
I guess I have to ask what has to happen for something to be deemed “successful”?
Is it good or is it bad? Who says?
In that, it is making ‘self’ the determinating factor is it not?
For me being ‘in the moment’ without Judgement! , but just doing the next right thing, even if it’s laundry, it’s all good.
I ask my higher power whom I call God what He/She shall have me do. It just comes to me IF I’m in the moment. For me that means not wondering what others think even if what I’m to do is just sit and be still.
If my leg gets broke in the moment doesn’t make it good or bad it’s how I respond.
Acceptance is the key.
If I am discontented that means some person, place or thing isn’t how “I” THINK it should be. Therefore I shall always be in some sort of dismay.
This has helped me beyond words.
Blessings to you all
Jeff Pope says
Thanks Joshua. Great post. Really helped me out. We spoke a couple years back by phone. I appreciate you taking the time to talk. I serve as an Associate Pastor. As you know ministry always feels this way, as you struggle to see if you are truly accomplishing the mission or spinning your wheels. I’ve tried blogging to some degree, but never seem to find my voice. Writing always feels somewhat unsuccessful. I think I’m on my third blog now. It sits unproductive, still waiting. I often wonder if I’m trying hard to get somewhere and often missing life right now. I’m starting to believe that success would be to let go of things I thought I wanted to be and be grateful for who and where I am. I have been struggling these last months. This post is so helpful. So maybe your success is more about those you help. Thank you!
julia a kasdorf says
Ha, Jeff! I know just what you mean about starting blogs! I have a few skeletal efforts behind me as well! It seems like blogging would be the perfect way to keep our thoughts aligned and on track, so I begin with freedom and gusto. The next thing you know, somehow Ive edited myself right out of existence!
Some days I want to say “wow I just learned something so cool!” And other days, all I have to say is just ” Erp. Dorp. Uh……”. Those days, my efforts grind to a halt.
I think Success looks like Consistency.
Phoebe Tickell says
Maybe success only happens BECAUSE of the relentless character trait of never feeling like you’ve become successful – and so always striving further.
I know that’s one of the things I notice that sets me apart from others… I rarely sit back and ‘celebrate’ – although I’m trying to now! Given that success = wellbeing too :-)
Dianne Davis says
Josh. This post is going viral in my friend and professional group. You nailed where we all are operating from. I am reading and reading again. Thank you.
joshua becker says
Thank you for helping to spread it Dianne.
Beautiful post, Joshua.
Thanks for sharing.
Omg, thank you for those encouraging words, they’re really helpful! <3