If there is one point upon which ALL success gurus will agree, it would be this: Success isn’t just a matter of what you do but also of what you believe. The “Dean of Personal Development” Earl Nightingale said the best definition of success he’d ever been able to find was this: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” In his audio book The Strangest Secret he illustrated success with the following examples:
“A success is the school teacher who is teaching because that’s what he or she wants to do. A success is the entrepreneur who starts his own company because that was his dream — that’s what he wanted to do. A success is the salesperson who wants to become the best salesperson in his or her company and sets forth on the pursuit of that goal. A success is anyone who is realizing a worthy predetermined ideal, because that’s what he or she decided to do… deliberately.”
Based on Mr Nightingale’s findings, only one out of 20 does that! The rest are “failures”. I think for every one person that risks being seen and speaking up; that risks going out on a limb and trying something that no one has attempted before, there are 19 who choose to play a very small game. Risking very little and playing it safe. Rollo May, author of Man’s Search for Himself says “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice … it is conformity.” This is the reason for so many “failures.” Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing WHY or WHERE they are going. Earl Nightingale’s voice was one very popular in the 1950s. Yet what he shared in The Strangest Secret remains true today.
“Given a street full of houses with blue doors, save for one with a red door, 98.3 per cent of us will be intrigued by the red door.” I read this in Karen Walrond’s book The Beauty of Different. She’s goes on to say, “It’s surprising, downright startling really, that given this irresistible enchantment with the different — so many of us desperately try to be EXACTLY the same as that which we found unique in the first place.” She went on to give an example to which all of us can relate —
“I remember several years ago, an actor in a wildly popular television show cut her hair in a particular way. Suddenly EVERY woman I knew between the ages of 25 and 35 with straight hair high-tailed it to her stylist, breathlessly asking for The Rachel or The Britney or the Tiffani or whatever the character’s name was. I even had some curly-haired friends in the mix too, paying hundreds of dollars to beat their hair into straight submission.”
Regardless of the reason, those remaining in the group of 19 resist making changes in their lives. But while there is comfort in familiarity, there’s also little progress in it. Karen says it takes guts to declare yourself an individual and live your life accordingly; backbone to dye your hair a colour that doesn’t actually occur in nature and wear it unapologetically; courage to create one of a kind art and put it out there, damn the reaction. Who wouldn’t be attracted to that kind of bravery? The truth is that we find it attractive when we see it in others but in our own lives we live behind boundaries — real and imagined. We colour within lines, toe lines and bat within our crease.
One of my clients is a marriage and family therapist. She recently shared with me a trend she noticed in professional women — they lose themselves in their relationships. They are great at what they do, but when it comes to relationships, it’s as if just one person exists. Sharon Preiss says “There will never be an “us” if I play small. In Dante’s Divine Comedy the only difference between the lovers who find themselves enduring Hell and the lovers working their way through Paradise is that those in Hell have no individual centre, and so they spin in endless identification with each other. Mark Nepo says “As hard as it is, we cannot shrink from our relationships or we simply become an audience or gofer for the dominant partner or friend.
Without change, your life today becomes your same life tomorrow. [Click to Tweet] Consider what you’d like to change, and just take a leap of faith toward it. You will struggle, fearful of what might happen if you actually voiced your concerns and needs but doing so makes you more of who you are. The more you exercise your risk muscle, the more confident you will become.
Risk is a measure of your willingness to step out of your “comfort zone”. Success often requires change, and the road is often paved with new challenges that defy complacency. Those not willing to change live a life like everyone else but those who accept risk get to live like no one else. It’s up to you!