Redefining success – it’s the small things that matter

by | Aug 30, 2017 | Change, happiness, Self care | 0 comments

I remember reading once that those who successfully managed to lose unwanted weight shared certain traits, one of these being to weigh themselves daily at around the same time. By keeping their goal in mind they were able to celebrate the continued downward progress towards their ideal weight, spurring them on to continue. Of course, they also had to actually really want to reach this goal, and believe that they could, or setting it was nothing more than paying lip-service to society’s ideals.

Monitoring progress is often thought of as setting goals for success and ticking them off as you get there: as a child you start school ✓; make friends ✓; achieve good grades in your exams ✓; make it on to the sports team ✓; apply to a good university ✓; get accepted for your course ✓; and so on. Anything less is failure, right?


What happens if you get knocked off that course? Not quite make the grade in those exams? Injure yourself in the try-outs? Find yourself with the world’s worst teacher or boss? Does that make you a failure? Or does it mean that you should start looking at other goals in the short term? Celebrate other successes? I have always told my children that life would be boring if we were all the same and that society would collapse if we were all CEOs and no-one was left to build the roads or care for people in hospitals. For some, just making it to school is an achievement in itself.

This was brought home to me forcefully recently. I have always been an achiever; nothing was beyond me and my ‘To Do’ list was always full… of ticks. One year ago, in August, my back gave out suddenly, leaving me lying on the floor for several hours before I finally admitted I couldn’t sort this on my own and needed help, managing to get to the Emergency department at the local hospital. Several x-rays and scans later and I was informed that I needed surgery to correct the problem. This didn’t really fit with my view of who I was and so, once back on my feet, and having adjusted life a little (allowing other people to lift my heavy scuba gear, for example) I held on to the thought that it might not get any worse and I might get away without the knife. I even started a business and signed up for a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology in January.

By mid May, it had become obvious, even to me, that something had to be done, but this year looked so busy. I found a gap and set a date in my head for January, when it would quieten down, but by mid June after a small accident caused breaks to open up where before only hairline fractures had been, the date for the operation was brought forward to the end of July. Where before, reaching the goal of 10,000 steps a day had been child’s play, I was now struggling to walk around the local supermarket.

Now, at the end of August, one year on from my brief love affair with the carpet in my living room, I am sporting rather a lot of metal work in my spine and have discovered what it is to be pain free for the first time in years. I have had to suspend taking on any clients for a while and for the first time in 30 years I am putting myself first. I let go of control at home and placed it in the hands of my daughters for the first two weeks I was home, and amazingly the world didn’t fall apart.
I have begun to practice what I preach as a psychologist, and have started a little book of achievements: the first time I successfully managed 6 steps up and down; my stitches falling out and being able to go back in the pool; the first time I drove the 3 minutes to the local shop; and being able to put my own shoes on without help being some of the entries.

Where before I took for granted that I could do anything I set my mind to, I am now readjusting my definition of success from just celebrating reaching the end goal, to feeling good about every single step that takes me towards it. It’s actually pretty positive as every day I find something new to celebrate, to feel grateful for. Today it is finishing my first blog post that I have started since the operation; yesterday it was driving to the mall (was it only 2 weeks ago I drove for the first time with someone in the car in case I couldn’t do it?); the day before it was being able to sit on the floor (who could imagine that that could be worthy of calling a success, but I was unbelievably pleased as it now means I can stroke the cats).

So, the lesson learned and being embraced wholeheartedly is that life has setbacks; sometimes goal posts have to be adjusted, or even thrown away and remade as they become irrelevant or outdated; and that every step counts and should be celebrated. Life is still sweet, just more slowly paced for a while, which allows me to enjoy the butterflies in the garden and takes away the guilt from reading all day.

I am healing.

Latest Posts

What Happens in an Explore Coaching Session?

Some of the questions I was asked recently at a networking meeting were: What happens when I book an exploratory call with a coach?   Will I be sold to?  Is there a minimum number of sessions I need to book? Is it like therapy where once you start,...

I do not do New Year’s Resolutions. 

I do not do New Year’s Resolutions. 

It’s not because I am lazy, but as a Coaching Psychologist, I know that they are statistically likely to fail within a few weeks. Statistics on this vary from 8% success to around 50% success, however the data collection is varied in its accuracy and...

A Focus on Strengths

A Focus on Strengths

Working with your strengths and encouraging clients to identify and utilise their strengths well lies at the heart of positive psychology coaching. The last two years have been tough years for most people, and I have felt my personal resilience slip a little as...

Overcoming a Mental Block

Overcoming a Mental Block

Looking through the blog posts on my website and you may be forgiven for thinking i took time out. In a way that was true. The website i had created several years ago had been allowed to go to seed... a lack of updates and a complete focus on firstly completing my...



Humility: How much does it feature in your leadership practice? If I was to ask you what you thought the key leadership strengths are for our current and post-pandemic world are, I don’t suppose humility would feature very highly. If I was to say that it was a key...

Related Posts



Humility: How much does...