Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

The Invisible Carrot

Published in Blog.

Success can have a variety of meanings depending on the individual defining it. In general though, many feel like we’ll never be “successful” — not because of our personal definitions, or lack thereof, but because of how inflexible our definitions are.

There isn’t too much in my life right now that I can do where I’d honestly consider myself a success. I’m exercising every day and am eating right in an attempt to lose weight and become healthier, for example, but at what point in time do I become successful? This process is something I’ve done numerous times before, but typically I’ve worked hard until beginning to plateau, only to become complacent with failing to achieve what I’d really hoped for. It’s not that I have a fear of success — I simply count myself as a failure before I’ve actually failed.

More and more however, I’m trying to shift “success” from being a goal-oriented objective to being the act of maintaining focus on what I define as important. Establishing priorities is one thing but maintaining a clear perspective regardless of how life plays out is what’s key. In my situation, what happens when I stick to a routine and I still feel miserable, unhealthy, and the pounds refuse to come off? Am I then a failure? Maybe. If my perspective is clear however, I’m more likely to see things for how they really are… That I’m only really a failure if I stop trying. In making the goal of resiliency paramount to metric-based landmarks, it becomes easier to refrain from negatively reacting to the appearance of stagnant progress and remain determined to move forward. Failed expectations are less likely to equate failure if our mindset is right.

Great expectations are premeditated resentments.

Too often it becomes habit to set expectations around rigid goals: A + B = C, and nothing else will do. But what happens if life gets in the way of these plans and we start feeling like we have to play catch-up just to get back to square-one? What if “B” never arrives, or instead, we’re given a “J” to work with?! Pretty quickly the plan of action to achieve “success” can become our worst enemy, mocking us as we try to latch onto the carrot on the stick — a carrot that we likely never had hope of grabbing hold of in the first place, if it was ever really there to begin with.

To draw out the metaphor out a little further, it’s easy to overlook all the carrots around us when we’re so intently focused on the carrot on the stick. Many successes arrive only to be overlooked because they’re not the successes we planned for. However, if we’re able to move beyond this, it becomes easier to build on small accomplishments and prevent expectations of what should happen get in the way from appreciating what is happening. Tomorrow’s success might very well be something you could never envision today.

Regardless of yesterday’s results, success isn’t dependent on whether or not things went as planned: If they did, great, if not, get over it. Instead, success can come in the act of simply recognizing that we can start over today. Success is what we make it.