Why, Despite ALL that You Have Achieved do You still Feel Like a Failure?

Perhaps because all your life, you’ve been driven by doing it for others more than actually doing it for yourself.

Think about that for a moment.

We also have an uncanny ability to feel weird if things are going TOO GOOD for us.

Coach and bestselling author Martha Beck tell us that “weirdly, we feel uncomfortable when things get “too good”. We have a sort of happiness set point and if we exceed it, we may discount or even sabotage our “good fortune in order to feel normal again.”

And of course, we love to listen to our critics. Why are we more interested in external measures: outside rankings, results or opinions over our own assessment of how well we’ve done?

Abraham-Maslow happy peopleNeil Pasricha, author of The Happiness Equation tells us “the root issue is our lack of confidence; self-judgment. We get lost in our own heads; we get confused with mixed advice, so we follow what we see.”

I think the root issue in all three cases is self-confidence. Even in those cases where we would think self-confidence would be at an all-time high! Take for example, Neil’s Harvard Professor.

Tenured Harvard Business School professors have bachelor’s degrees, masters’ degrees, and PhDs, and they finish at the top of their class in all three! They make six-figure salaries and consult and speak on the side to earn even more. And they’re teaching at Harvard!

So why did his Harvard professor consider himself a failure?

“I walk up to my office door every morning and see that the professor in the office to my left has a Nobel Prize…and I know I’ll never have a Nobel Prize. And I see that the professor in the office to my right has written twelve books….and I know I’ll never write twelve books. I haven’t even written one. Every single morning I am reminded how inferior I am and it kills me.”

Okinawa is known as “the land of the immortals”. There are more people over a hundred years old there than anywhere else in the world. Researchers from National Geographic were so fascinated by Okinawans that they studied what helped them live so long.

  1. They eat off smaller plates
  2. They stop eating when they’re 80% full
  3. They have an outlook on life that does not involve the word “retirement”. Instead they have a word called ikigai (pronounced icky guy) – which roughly means “the reason you wake up in the morning.”

Neil encourages us to think of it as the thing that drives us the most.

There is a 102 year old karate master whose ikigai is to carry forth his martial arts. A 100 year old fisherman whose ikigai is to feed his family. A 102 year old woman whose ikigai is to hold her great -great –great- granddaughter!

Purpose and mission have been confusing us for decades. As individuals we worry that we have no purpose. If we could only find it, then we’d be set. We look at others and think that they are lucky to have found their purpose. But based on what I’ve shared, I hope you realize that what you THINK is going on in someone else’s life and what’s ACTUALLY going on could be very different.

We live in a world that is driven by external measures of success.

If you want to feel happiness, contentment and fulfillment you need to be able to describe what self-success means to you. You must be able to come up with a reason why you WANT to do what you want to do and not be driven by what someone else wants for you. And you must make what’s going to drive you VERY personal.

On page 47 of The Happiness Equation there is a great definition of Self-success:

It is in your head. It is invisible. Only you know if you have it. It means you have achieved what YOU wanted to achieve for yourself. You’re proud of your accomplishments, happy with your work and most important – YOU’RE SATISFIED. You want nothing…you feel content; (Emphasis mine).

The number one regret of the dying, reported by a palliative nurse in the Guardian was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

My ikigai is to help people live true to themselves.

How can you go about finding what’s going to drive you? Here are a couple prompts from Coach Karin Lehmann:

  • What do you look forward to throughout your day?
  • What brings you pleasure?
  • Notice the tiny moments that make you happy and if possible, expand on them.
  • Indulge in the activities that enliven you
  • Savor the moments that brings you joy

What’s your ikigai?

%d bloggers like this: