Money, status, assets, power! They’re the markers of success, right?
Certainly that’s how I measured success for a long time. I had a successful business and career, and I had the trappings of success as I defined it – money, sports car, million dollar house, gorgeous wardrobe of clothes, expensive jewellery (until it all got stolen – but that’s a story for another day), travel……you get the picture.
Have you ever wondered if defining success as money, status, assets and power is a little, well, last century, one dimensional thinking? I had started to wonder about this in my life…..
Then something happened.
Life in all its beauty, joy, heartbreak and sadness tumbled over me during a series of years, challenging and uplifting me to the core of my soul….
The birth of our beautiful baby girl.
Losing money, making money.
The power of love, and the emptiness of being alone.
Death of loved ones.
The destruction of relationships and broken trust.
The unexpected death of babies – my friends’ and my own.
Health, fitness and illness, and the opportunity we have to create our personal wellbeing (or not).
The glory of travel, learning about and treasuring diversity.
The power of choice in life, and insidious nature of living as a ‘victim’.
The beauty of spirituality and legacy, and the sadness of it too.
What is success, really?
The universe was asking me to reconsider what success in life really means. And so I did!
I created the Seven Dimensions of Success – my new model and barometer of success. No more one dimensional, last century thinking for me!
Success as I define it is based on the balance we can create in seven key areas of life – in no particular order:
You might be thinking: “Oh, she’s into that woo woo, weirdo, stuff. I’m not having a bar of that!”
If you are, I’m smiling, as you’re not alone…. and once upon a time, I’d have been in your ‘camp’ too. But, please hear me out for a bit.
Aren’t seven dimensions more exciting than one?
Living in London, I hear of and read stories about people who are working themselves to the bone – day and night. Work hard, play hard is the ‘mantra’ in the City of London and amongst bankers, in particular. They work seriously ridiculous hours, and the ‘play hard’ often includes partying, serious drinking, drugs, sex… and a whole lot more…. Yes, some are earning plenty of money, but is that really success?
Or there are others – entrepreneurs and business owners who have achieved tremendous financial and business success? But at what cost? How’s their health and fitness? Or their most important relationships with their partners and children? Often there’s a cost. Is it too much?
Then there are yet others who have terrible things that happen to them, and they live in a state of victimhood – lifeless, directionless, and at times addicted to goodness knows what.
It starts with a DREAM
Here comes the ‘woo woo’ again, but I truly believe that success is based on having a DREAM for our lives. Actually knowing what we want in life and then working towards it in all dimensions. For me, DREAM means,Destiny, Represented Evocatively, Actively and Magnetically.
If we don’t know the DREAM, then we’ve got no path to follow in life… and we’ll end up anywhere or nowhere, and possibly towards the end of our lives, pretty sad that we haven’t made more of our journey through life.
I believe there’s a better way. Rather than striving for more and more one-dimensional success, aiming for perfect and feeling like a failure when we inevitably miss perfection, exhausting ourselves in the process, we would do better to identify the things we truly value and then work to generate more of them in our lives.
Please don’t think I’m knocking aspiration. I’m not! I’m hugely aspirational in my life – as one measure of my success.
So, start with working out what you want in all seven dimensions of YOUR life… then create a plan towards getting there.
Seven dimensions of success – what are they?
Life should be multi-layered. For me, it’s about love, adventure, creativity, people, books, dancing, great food, conversations, silence, laughter, fun, the beauty of precious moments, charity, curiosity, learning, teaching, giving… it’s also about those more traditional markers. I’m really into my career and business success is important too… but not at all costs. Life should be full, rich and exciting. It should also be evolving all the time.
As you can see from the Heptagram, there’s no hierarchy with the seven dimensions of success; it’s not that growth is more important than relationships, or that spirituality counts for more than achievement. Think of the Heptagram as a nudge to expand your imagination as you start to explore what success means to you. You can move from one category to another and back again. They all flow from one to another; they’re all inter-connected.
You will naturally find that you’re more attracted to some areas than others. That’s fine. You may also find some concepts uncomfortable. A lot of us are deeply uneasy about the idea of making wealth, for example (that’s one of the markers within the achievement dimension). We think rich people must by definition be greedy, or believe that wanting a certain lifestyle makes us shallow. Others dismiss all talk of spirituality. We label it as not for us – religious dogma or hippy nonsense. By thinking in this way we stay comfortable within our own narrow definition of success and cut ourselves off from potential fulfilment.
Use the Heptagram to explore and challenge your beliefs about what’s possible for you. As you’re reading the descriptions below, jot down in a notebook any thoughts or ideas that occur to you, especially if a particular dimension either appeals or puts you off. You might have a light bulb moment and start to feel energy forming around goals or aspirations.
While there is no hierarchy within the seven success dimensions, for me wellbeing is the foundation of everything we do and everything we can achieve. We might have all the money in the world, be successful on every measure, but if we don’t have our health, vitality and wellbeing, we won’t be able to enjoy it.
I’m not talking about being a size eight or having a seriously enviable six pack, although if you aspire to those things, go for it. Do the work and make them happen. I am referring to looking after ourselves in the widest sense.
Why is it that in the richest nations of the world, the people are the fattest and sickest, often drug dependent? For me, it’s because so many of us have lost a sense of accountability for our own health and wellbeing. We cannot delegate this. It’s our responsibility.
Do you eat the right food, drink ample water, get plenty of sleep? Are you taking regular exercise? Are you nurturing yourself as you would your child or a friend who wasn’t well? If not, why not? It’s not self-indulgent, it’s basic self-care.
This stuff often feels like a chore (especially, for many of us, our diet or exercise regime) but small changes can reap huge rewards. Rather than thinking of wellbeing as an old enemy or dull routine, see it as a source of easy nurturing wins.
Seven-dimensional success is built on staying dynamic. Don’t settle. Keep learning. Babies and children grow every day, not just their bodies but their body of knowledge. As adults we forget how exciting it is to learn and grow, and how vital to a meaningful life.
Successful people grow by being productive. I’m talking about producing in the broadest sense: making things happen. Any process that incorporates learning, problem solving and creativity into our lives enables us to grow.
Personal growth only happens when something changes, and change is often painful. It means we risk failure, which is very often painful. But failure is a fact of life for anyone who is dynamic, and failures are fast tracks to growth. We should try to fear them less.
Growth also leads to new opportunity, new horizons and new people in our lives. That’s exciting.
So here comes the bit about traditional markers of success, whether it’s making a good salary, building a successful business, creating wealth through investment, reaching the pinnacle of your profession, getting published, winning awards, being influential, well-known or even famous.
These are all wonderful goals – just because they’re the ones we are more familiar with doesn’t make them less valid. We all long to be recognised for our achievements. When we are paid well for our work, we feel appreciated. And money is handy, as anyone who has ever been without it will tell you.
The interesting thing for me, though is that this is the dimension of success that brings disillusionment as well as satisfaction. We need to watch it with achievement, to make sure that we’re not getting sucked into a cycle of competitiveness, or always needing more. There are ways to offset that risk.
The flip side of getting hooked on winning (I’ve met a lot of achievement junkies in my time) is thinking that it’s shallow to want to earn a good salary, or win an award. That’s a self-defeating approach, not to mention a judgmental one. When we push ourselves to be the best we can personally be, our life feels richer as a result.
When a nurse who worked with people who were dying was asked what her patients most regretted, she responded, ‘Not spending more time with loved ones.’ Her interview went viral. Millions of us all over the world recognised the truth of that sentiment. It’s the people we care about that give most shape to our lives, whether they’re our partners, children, extended family, friends, colleagues or communities.
On one hand, this has become a truism of modern life: people matter. On the other, most of us forget it, every day. We take our loved ones for granted. We do what we need to, in order to keep the home fires burning or fulfil our social obligations, and we forget that this is a dimension of life in which we can either succeed or… not.
It could be our professional contacts, our colleagues, our friends, the other parents on the school run or our elderly next-door neighbour who really appreciates it when we pop around to say hi: when we connect in meaningful ways and give our time and attention to our relationships, our lives start to have more joy and meaning. More connection.
When was the last time you did something just for fun? When did you last give yourself permission to visit a museum or walk in the woods? All of us need novelty, treats and intriguing situations. We need recreation and adventure. We need time to play.
If this sounds self-indulgent or irrelevant, think again. I know you’re busy, and I know you’re a grown up with lots of responsibilities. Doesn’t matter, you still need time to play! You probably have a job, or kids, or a job and kids. Maybe you have a sick relative you’re looking after, or a business that’s in trouble. If that’s the case, you are even more in need of nourishing experiences.
A life that has no room for a new experience is a life over which we have lost control. I’m not necessarily talking about sailing solo down the Amazon. It could just be going for lunch in the café you’ve always wanted to try, rather than eating a sandwich at your desk. We fill our lives with obligation and think there’s nothing we can do about it. Not true. Experiences, however grand or modest, are what we thrive on. They are the stories we tell our friends, our children and grandchildren. They are also the memories that sustain us in challenging times.
This is another of the dimensions of success that often provokes resistance. But spirituality doesn’t equal religion, or New Age thinking. (Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things, at least not in my book.) Spirituality might consist of being mindful of every moment as precious, developing a personal system of values to live by, letting go of perfectionism and embracing the idea that life is a journey, or exploring your purpose. It can just as easily entail delving within ourselves to find stronger connections to others, as turning to God.
Nurturing our psyche and our soul makes our lives shine with peace, with acceptance of others and ourselves. In this state we are freed from constant ego-driven demands so that we can explore bigger questions and do greater work. Some of the most ‘alive’ people I’ve ever met are those who live within a spiritual framework they have figured out for themselves. That’s a huge achievement. That too is success.
When we ask ourselves what trace we’d like to leave in the world, we naturally focus on what matters most to us. Do we want to leave a treasure trove of happy memories for our grandchildren, be remembered as the person who saved the local football pitches for future generations? Do we want to raise £10,000 for charity? Perhaps we want to be remembered as a loving husband or as a political activist who never gave up, or as a businesswoman who ran a company that employed dozens or hundreds or even thousands of people. There are infinite ways to leave behind something of value in the lives of others.
Imagine being in the crowd of mourners at your own funeral and listening to the eulogy. I bet you’d want to hear a sincere and emotional roll call of the traits people loved about you and the good things you did.
This might sound ghoulish but it is a fast track to thinking clearly about how to make the most of your potential. Most of us could do, be and give more: more of our attention, time, expertise or money. And most of us know this; it nags at us but we push it away.
When we know we’re running out of time we get on with the things we’ve always wanted to do but were too distracted or afraid to prioritise. Start those things right now.
Meet the 29 year olds in my life… and my 80 year old father
I have a 29 year old stepson who without realising it lives and breathes the seven dimensions of success along with his friends.
Right now, they’re all at the early stages of their lives and careers, and living in London they’re really focused on some aspects of wellbeing (mainly fitness); growth is tremendously important to them as they learn and develop in their careers. Achievement for them means pay increases and promotions. Relationships are equally important as they network and socialise around London and Europe meeting great people, adding to their networks, dating as they seek to find love and a longer term partnership with someone. Experiences are key to their joy in life… they’re always travelling Europe and beyond, clocking up the most amazing life adventures and creating memories. Right now, for my stepson and his friends, spirituality and legacy are not on their radars…. But one day they will be.
Then there’s my recently widowed father. He’s from New Zealand and a ‘country boy’ at heart. After dedicating himself for over two years to supporting my mother during her unexpected illness and subsequent passing, dad’s now recognised that he’s got plenty of life left in him – at least another 15+ years of quality living and experiences.
So, for him the seven dimensions play out as like this. Wellbeing – for the first time in a long time, dad’s recognised the importance of his health and he’s paying much more attention to it, seeking help as necessary to keep him in shape. Experiences are now all important to him! He wants to do and see things… he wants to travel… anywhere and everywhere – and that’s from a guy who for most of his life wasn’t too interested in much travel. Relationships are critical to dad – and always have been. He’s spending more time with people he loves and in doing so, he’s creating more of a legacy… memories he’ll leave behind after his time’s up on earth. Finally there’s spirituality. Dad’s not a religious man, but from time to time, he visits the church mum went to every week, as that was an important part of her life. In going to her church, dad reconnects with a place that was very special for mum, and with people whom she loved. It adds to the spiritual connection he now has with mum.
As I hope you can see, the seven dimensions of life can be applied in any stage in life and in any circumstances. I hope you’ll embrace them. What might they mean for you at your stage in life?
It’s time for your life to be in seven dimensions
Are you feeling fired up to get started on creating the life of your dreams, a life that’s alive in all seven dimensions? I want to inspire you to believe that you can turn your dreams into reality. Remember, what distinguishes people with lives that are alive, passionate and extraordinary as they define it, from those who are stuck in struggle or simmer, is that they have total clarity on what success means to them, great strategies to achieve it and are prepared to take massive action to make it happen. You can develop all those things too. Are you ready?
Would some guidance from me be helpful to you? If so, please arrange a free 30 mins Skype strategy meeting with me. Here’s my calendar to make an appointment. I’d love to support you in some way to gain ‘seductive clarity’ in any aspect of your business or life.