Do you ever catch yourself saying “if I only had this, then I would be happy?”

Some days you might be debating with your spouse over an upcoming home renovation, and then woken up at 3:00 am by an upset child, and left laying awake thinking through that difficult conversation with someone at work. A day filled with these types of problems doesn’t always make you feel successful. Some days this might even make you feel like you’re—dare I say it—a bit of a failure.

What if I told you that on January 23rd, 2014, I was feeling like a failure. And in response to that, my business coach challenged me to write out exactly what I wanted my ideal scene to look like. I was asked to describe in detail what outcomes I wanted to achieve. She asked me to treat this practice as a mental rehearsal of how I wanted my future to play out. This process would require me to clearly create a vision of how to move toward achieving those next steps.

My coach knew it was time for me to get specific about what I really wanted. She knew I was frustrated and tired. I was in the middle of a difficult breakup, I had a deep desire for a family and I felt restricted by the way I had currently structured my business. I took her assignment seriously – it couldn’t hurt!

In my ideal scene, I described the type of relationship I wanted. One in which my partner was loving and supportive—I wanted things between us to be easy. I knew I wanted children and to create a loving family. I wanted to help more leaders through programs I designed myself so I could create a bigger impact.

Fast forward to January 23rd, 2016. It was my daughter’s due date and I was busy organizing my office with the assumption that my maternity leave would start any moment. I was deleting old e-mails and somehow came across my ideal scene assignment. As I read it, chills shot up my arm. Exactly two years to the date of that journal, I was now right on track to living my ideal scene!

Fast forward again to today, I’m in that relationship, I have two wonderful children and my business has changed dramatically for the better. But what I didn’t highlight in my ideal scene was the entirety of what that great future state would include such as:

  • Although I feel loved and supported, I still have to negotiate with my partner on important decisions that impact both of our lives. It’s not always easy.
  • Although I’m the mom of two beautiful children, I still get woken up in the middle of the night. I still have to navigate grumpy kids in a store. Leaving the house to go somewhere with my children requires that I find three pairs of socks, three pairs of shoes, three different coats (but not that coat), two important stuffies (but not that stuffie!), two water bottles and at least two granola bars just in case. Oh, and my purse. And three masks.
  • Although my business is exactly as I had envisioned it, I now face new challenges of not having enough space for new clients and struggling to parcel out a few hours of time to think strategically during the workweek.

Is it possible that the list above is not of headaches or problems, but that they are true symptoms of success? Is it possible that when we are picturing what success looks like—the bigger job, better house and bigger retirement savings—we also need to factor in the full reality of that outcome—the expanded responsibility, the added problems and the bigger risks?

I share this all so you can join me in my effort to be grateful for the entirety of each success in life. To be thankful for the curses that come with the blessings. To love it all and embrace it. In the same breath—to not avoid future success due to fear of those symptoms of success.

I hear clients often say they’d love leadership responsibility but don’t think they can handle the pressure. Some say they would love to have children, but don’t know if they have the patience to be great parents. Ironically, very few things come in a single dimension – so many of the joys of life include a healthy serving of symptoms of success on the side. But that’s what makes those joys in life even sweeter.

As you navigate the busy and oftentimes overwhelming holiday season, will you be able to see some of your daily headaches through a new lens? Can you view them as true symptoms of success of a life you’ve created and be able to give thanks for all of it?

And last but not least, when you look forward into 2022, what do you envision as your ideal scene?

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