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What is success to you?

It's an interesting question, and your answer will largely determine your experience in life.

In some ways we all act like we'll live forever. We spend days foolishly pursuing goals without considering how or why we adopted them.

Some folks want fancy cars. Others want big fancy houses. Others want the respect of their peers. Others want to be admired and revered.

Some tell themselves that they want these things because it will help them feel better.

I'm not going to tell you what your goals should be, or if they are wrong from my perspective, but in this article I do want to help you see your goals in a different light.

A few of my 8 younger brothers worked as mobile car detailers in their teenage years. They were in San Diego, so the cars they frequently detailed included Ferraris and other exotic sports cars. You know, the kind that you might take a picture of and think about driving. You probably imagine that folks would stop and stare at you as you drove by.

Well, I remember one of my brothers telling me about how notorious Ferraris are for breaking down. It immediately killed that idea for me. Why would I want a fancy car that I couldn't even drive on a regular basis?

When I was a kid, I was raised to be ambitious. Having a million dollars by the time I was 35 was on at least one of my lists of goals. At the time I never questioned why that was a goal. But for me, that turned out to not be a fantastic goal.

By the time I was in my mid twenties I was so obsessed with goal setting that I started a book on goals, but before I finished it I decided I couldn't possibly publish a book on something until I really knew what I was talking about, so I shelved it.

Over time I began to recognize that my goals were driven by external factors or to create a sense of security.

Having a million dollars would gain recognition. It would insure that I wouldn't have to worry about having money and place to live.

These motivations might have sounded normal to others, but I began to recognize they were driven by fear. I know some might say, "What's wrong with allowing fear to drive you to succeed?", and I'd say, "The quality of your life experience."

See, what I'm hoping to communicate to you is that the motivation behind your goals will color the experience you have. The reasons why you choose the goals you choose will reinforce the perspective you have on your experience. 

If you are focused on hitting a financial goal to remove fear of not having something you deem critical, or to gain recognition from others, you will never feel satisfied. And what's more, you will have a terrible time as you pursue it.

So if all of what I've said so far is true, then how do you get yourself out of bed each day and do something productive with your life?

Flip your goals to be soul expanding.

As you might know, I run a pretty decent software company with my brother. We do pretty well, in fact I feel very fortunate. 

When we started it in 2009, I'll admit my goals were fear driven. It made the early experience less than enjoyable. Then somewhere along the way my goals flipped. I moved from being focused on financial goals for money's sake to converting the business into an external representation of my desire to elevate others. 

What's interesting is that in order for me to realize my goal of elevating others I must:

  • Create a business with a firm foundation for growth.
  • Help my team members become the best that they can be so that they can elevate our customers.
  • Maintain a healthy profit with a growth vector so that our ability to elevate is expanded.
  • Innovate a truly useful software that answers a core problem that our customers have.
  • Continuously seek to understand the needs of those we seek to elevate so that we can successfully lift them.

The end result is increase prosperity for me and my family, my partner, our team members and our customers. Everyone wins. But more importantly, the journey becomes more enjoyable. Slowly I get to shed worries and fears. I'm able to change as a person to become a better listener, a better servant, all while fostering what's most important to me.

So I'm not going to tell you that you need to give up your dreams or aspirations of fancy cars, big houses and millions of dollars, because I don't think those things are bad or destructive, but check your motivations. 

Be aware of your daily experience as a result of what you are in pursuit of.

Part of what flipped my goals was the realization that what I thought I needed to pursue was the result of what other people valued, and I hadn't considered what their life experience really was.

As I started to be more observant of who was truly happy most days and those who were sacrificing too much, I started to notice that the goals we set are largely influenced by miserable people. Most of us find a division between what we say we want for ourselves and what we set our hearts upon.

Check what drives you. 

Check what motivates your daily behavior and the joy you find in each day. Verify that what you are pursuing will deliver what you really say you want.

When you get in alignment with what's really most valuable in life, don't be surprised if you actually get it. 

It might show up with fancy cars on the side, it might not, but what you'll realize as you leave this life is that you didn't short change yourself by going after what everyone around you told you was important.