We have lived for many years within a framework of society and led by a perception of certain words that may have defined our current thinking and experience of life. Words like success, failure and the one I want to focus on this week, achievement. My question to you is this; based on your definition of ‘achievement’ how are you experiencing life right now? Is it time to redefine achievement?
I was spending time with an incredible group of achievers last week. It was the 20 year reunion for the 2003 national premiership winners, Melbourne Phoenix. This is an incredible group of really talented and tall ladies, who did amazing things as players and a team. I was grateful to be a part of their success. As I drove home, I started reflecting on achievement. For the vast majority of my life, external achievement has been my aim. Why? And this is important to understand, as it certainly was in my life. As a young child, seeded from thoughtless words planted by teachers in primary school over several years, I developed a belief in my mind that I was not good enough as I was. My response to this inner belief interestingly was not to shy away and use not being good enough as an excuse for ‘underachievement’, I went the other way. In my young mind I concluded that the only way to be ‘enough’ in my eyes and the eyes of others was to achieve something exceptional.
I was a skinny, sickly, and insecure mama’s boy, and for some reason decided that my way to ‘enoughness’ would happen as a result of becoming a famous athlete. I was ill-equipped in many ways to become a professional Australian Footballer, my sport of choice, but didn’t let the facts or logic stop me from my headlong pursuit to be respected, admired, and feel that I was enough. I worked relentlessly to achieve my dream, and from the age of 16 to 23 I played Australian Football at the highest level. Did I feel any better about myself? Although proud of my achievements, I still didn’t feel worthy.
So, I thought to myself, I need to achieve in another arena. As I began a career in the fitness industry, I started working obsessively to create a body that I believed would help me feel good about myself and cause others to admire and accept me. I achieved it and am glad I started habits back then that continue to help me be a healthier person today, however, it never helped me feel like I was good enough. So, I kept searching. The answer must be out there somewhere, I thought. I threw myself headlong into business and worked harder than necessary as I believed being busy, working harder than others, would build a belief in myself that I was a worthy and wonderful human. In fact, it had the totally opposite effect.
After two years of working well over 100 hours per week in two businesses, I was in close to $100K debt. I was broke, I was broken, I was lost, I was depressed, and my self-worth and feeling of ‘enoughness’ had sunk to an all-time low. I didn’t understand how, after all I had been aspiring to achieve and the things I had achieved, I still felt as if I was a loser. It was time to redefine achievement. I am now the author of eight books, am a passionate speaker, mentor, and podcaster, but despite these ‘achievements’ what gives me the greatest feeling of self-worth, peace, and joy is none of those things.
I finally recognised that my external achievement, whilst nice, was never going to change how I felt about myself. That was, is, and will always be an inside job. I redefined achievement for myself. My goal moved from achieving; an improved physical appearance and performance, more money, more popularity, more book sales, more likes on social media, etc., to achieving inner peace and joy. I started focusing on who I was at the core and worked to achieve more of the traits that defined me as a man I could be proud of. Understanding, accepting, and loving myself for who I was, despite my flaws and irrespective of external achievements, was my new aspiration. My heart for helping others was something about myself I loved, so I worked harder to become more of that man. Compassion, forgiveness, and love were traits I worked hard to achieve. Gratitude, living in the moment, and seeing every experience as one that will enrich me in some way has become my ultimate achievement. Self-acceptance, self-love, and feeling I am good enough have become an automatic result of these inner achievements.
In my podcast this week, called ‘Flip the narrative’ I speak with Cam F Awesome. From an Olympic boxer to documentary star, comedian, and speaker, Cam is someone who has redefined many things, achievement being one of them. What about you? What are you chasing right now, believing it will bring happiness and fulfilment? When you achieve it, will it really? Why not look at achieving the things that will build you on the inside. It’s simple, all you need to do is redefine achievement.