We’re at that time of the year when many people are starting to reflect over the last twelve months and consider their accomplishments or successes.
Given that it’s also the end of a decade, this has started a trend towards sharing accomplishments over the past 10 years.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen loads of it online and it is impressive. There have been sporting triumphs, awards ceremonies, financial successes, new homes, cars, graduations, the list goes on.
These sorts of wins are all laudable and are rightly shared and celebrated.
When you work hard, sacrifice time with family and friends for success it’s wonderful to feel that sense of pride and validation of a job well done.
And when you look back over the decade, I hope there will be things to share and shout about. In the UK we’re uniquely unsuited to whooping our way through our triumphs. We choose instead, a quiet, dignified approach to success. Ripples of applause, a quiet handshake and then back to work.
I believe we don’t spend enough time reflecting on our success and sharing them. When you work hard, when you set instant personal gratification aside in favour of long-term results, it’s good to feel that the effort has been worth it and recognised.
Celebrate those hidden wins
What has struck me is that much of what I am seeing shared is often based around external and or materialistic achievements. Achievements around status and external validation. Those pictures of new cars, homes, piles of cash, golden cups and beaming smiles on podiums represent conspicuous outward-looking gains.
Then I started looking deeper. There has been a marked shift in the last few weeks towards internal achievements. A celebration of hidden wins. Wins that only the winner can see. There are no external banners to highlight a landmark, more a silent victory of a challenge overcome, a battle fought in silence.
These victories are unsexy, unseen and often unrelatable to anyone else. They come with no wreath, no medal, no podium. Yet, they should be celebrated, shared and are worth more than the achievements that society often defines as successful.
Battling the inner demons
Being human often means fighting internal battles. Fighting an invisible war against the one person it’s almost impossible to win against. Yourself. We see status through a lens of comparison. It’s hierarchical and measurable. You know when you’ve succeeded, and it often involves beating other people or leveraging them to achieve that win.
The inner work that people have done still takes work. It involves measuring up to a self-imposed measure of internal status. One created through conditioning and/or experiences that can leave us wounded and scarred. These battles are the ones that are easy to give in to yet, take extreme inner courage to overcome.
I find these private challenges more interesting. Not because of a voyeuristic leaning but perhaps because although they are within all of us, we don’t talk about them. They are not always negative obstacles to overcome. They may be a decision to be a better version of yourself, to an end that is only relevant and extremely important to you.
We know that these inner battles are often moving from dark and difficult places to one where looking in the mirror is a less haunted experience than it once was.
To others, these challenges may seem to be simple and, once overcome, unimpressive. Every experience where we win against ourselves is unique and in no way comparable. Maybe this is why we don’t talk about them. It’s embarrassing to celebrate something that we assume everyone else can do with no difficulty. Even worse, it’s a battle you’ve won that no one knew you were fighting.
Inner work only seems to hold a position in our society when it contributes to visible success. We’re in awe of those who have sacrificed to win a medal but when there is no medal, we can’t seem to attach the win to anything significant.
It is significant though. I look back at the person I was 10 years ago and I’m prouder of the person I have fought to become than the awards, external success and external ego massaging that comes with it.
I’ve overcome a pathological fear of speaking in front of groups of people. I’ve learned to deal with spirals of anxiety as well as depressive tendencies. I’ve overcome a need to blame others for my own failings and accept that those failings were my responsibility.
There’s been business successes and business failure. I’m less angry and more patient. I’m proud of my achievements as a dad and I’m proud of my resilience. Along the way, I’ve made new friends and been humbled by the love given to me. I’ve crawled my way out of debt and learned to like myself again.
It took and still does take work. To walk tall with your head high. It takes perseverance and patience and practice. And no-one will ever know that those demons are a constant struggle to keep at bay.
Keep your head high
We live in a society that measures us by what we produce, not who we are. When you next see a post shouting about visible success and it perhaps makes you feel inadequate – don’t. Remember it says more about where society is at than who you are.
More and more people know the value of striving to be the best version of yourself or perhaps just surviving in this ever-growing “like” based world.
So, as you reflect on the past ten years. Give a quiet shout out to your inner you. We wouldn’t have the space to list all the internal human achievements in the past decade.
I, for one, know that it’s the finest work you will ever do and will leave plenty of room on the podium alongside me.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and here’s to your continued (internal) success in 2020.