Success is a funny concept. The concept itself assumes we are trying to achieve something. Entire cultures create external markers to judge success against and groups of people feel pressured based on cultural norms to meet lofty, sometimes unattainable goals.
Success isn’t a bad thing though. Setting goals gives us a destination to work toward without which we might struggle to find meaning or purpose in our lives.
If we look back through history, success to a prehistoric human was simply to survive and procreate. Success to a farmer was to produce food to feed his family. Success to a King was to protect his kingdom. Success seemed so simple.
Today, achieving cultural success means making lots of money, owning nice things, and having a prestigious job title. But that rarely makes one truly happy.
In yoga, success, according to Patanjali, is about reaching enlightenment. I’ve argued before it’s important that we get very clear on why we are practicing yoga in the first place to know how to judge success in our own personal practice.
Cultural expectations have seeped into yoga now too, though, creating alternative definitions of success.
What success in yoga looks like
Success in yoga is not about whether or not you are doing the pose right. Success in postures is more about whether or not you doing what you need to find balance between effort and ease (Sutra 2.46). The purpose of asana is to create your healthiest, happiest, clearest, most confident self by “purifying” your body’s energy channels. If contorting your body to look like the teacher makes you feel awful, you’ll have a hard time finding ease.
Success in yoga is about developing awareness of what’s going on around you and inside of you. If you are completely unaware of your body, your breath, or your thoughts, how do you expect to integrate them all?
Success in yoga is about aligning your actions to your soul’s purpose and your core values. Ancient Vedic philosophy teaches about staying true to your dharma – your uniquely suited purpose in this lifetime. In this philosophical system it is considered honorable to do the work (whether you enjoy it or not) that keeps you in alignment with who you are meant to be. I believe this is the source of some of our greatest struggles and internal battles in life.
Success in yoga is about navigating relationships with others – professionally and personally – especially when things get uncomfortable. One of the gems of modern yoga philosophy is how it teaches us to be in relationship with our Self and with one another. In fact, relationships and connection are the root of Tantric yoga philosophy.
Success in yoga is about connecting with that inner knowing within you to help guide you as you make the tough decisions in life. Uncovering and embracing your intuition is a powerful, subtle tool that gradually strengthens over time as you commit to daily yoga practice.
Success in life is about all these things too. Notice that none of these principles mention anything about moeny, the size of your house, or the brand of your car. Success in yoga and in life is about how you feel, how you contribute, how you show up to your projects and the people in your life every day.
Measuring your own success
Have you ever stopped to consider if you are successful? Do you think you are successful?
Most of the time we judge ourselves based on our failures and shortcomings. What if you spend some time celebrating your wins?
Wins don’t have to be big, grandiose achievements. The best wins are often simple. The extra second you took to intentionally rub your partner’s back to show you care. The moments you spent admiring the sunset and the beautiful colors in the sky, allowing yourself to be immersed in nature. The week that you made it to your mat 3 times instead of 2. The day you chose to get back on the meditation cushion after falling off the bandwagon. These are all wins, even though they seem small. Over time the small wins add up to big changes. It’s the small wins that deserve to be celebrated so that we continue our momentum toward positive change.
To measure your own success you have to ask what are you judging your success in life against? Are you basing your assessments off of society’s definition of success or are you confident in your own ideas about what a successful, happy life looks like for you? It’s easier to define success based on what everyone else thinks. It’s much more bold, courageous, and true to define success based on what you think it means and then take actions in your life to live in that way.
Most people aim for success in their lives. Few every achieve it by their own standards. This is why we hear of so many ultra-wealthy people living out miserable existences — they’ve achieved everything externally but failed to tend to their inner being.
Staying true to your inner Self is success. Any moment you can be true to YOU is a moment worth celebrating.
Take some time today to define success on your own terms. A perfect time to practice gratitude is when you realize how many successful moments you already have in your life just by getting out of bed and breathing.
I hope you have a successful week!
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