“They can be like a sun, words. They can do for the heart what light can for a field.”
—St. John of the Cross
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Redefining Success

© 2014 by Jennifer Read Hawthorne

Is the quest for success wearing you out? For many of us, personal definitions of success have collided with and become bound by the collective thinking that success has to do with the bottom line, financial achievement, status and winning. We have looked to our relationships, our salaries, our achievements and our possessions to define ourselves and measure our success.

We have mastered “doing.” We have learned how to work hard at everything, and for women especially, not only at full-time jobs, but also at managing our homes, our families and our primary relationships.

But at what price? Personally, I reached the point where I had to admit that my level of “doingness” had evolved into full-blown workaholism and was threatening my health, my family and my sanity.

I first set out to master the material world years ago when I attended an intense three-day success program where I learned how to set goals (daily, weekly, monthly, one-year, five-year and lifetime), how to manage time and how to look the part of the professional. I still find many of the techniques I learned then to be valuable tools for managing life today.

But as time passed, something shifted inside me. Going over my goals once or twice a day in the hope that I could somehow make it all happen, I began to see that activity like this involved focus, energy and often effort—qualities characterized as masculine, or the yang aspect of life (whether expressed by a man or woman).

Instinctively, I felt that if I were to find balance in life—a natural desire for everyone but the number one challenge for women today—it would have to be by culturing the complement of that masculine drive, energy and focus: the so-called feminine, or yin aspects of nature (again regardless of whether expressed by a man or woman).

As I sought to learn more about the feminine qualities of receptivity, openness, and expansiveness, I became more and more intrigued by the possibility that these qualities are as much a part of successful, happy living as the so-called masculine ones.

I began talking to women and collecting their stories. And my discoveries were both surprising and life changing.

I discovered simple themes like honesty, self-love, forgiveness, integrity and surrender. You may look at some of these words and immediately think, Oh, I already have that one, and I’ve got that one down—and that one, too. Some of these words may make you react strongly. I understand because I, too, do not respond well to words like “surrender”!Even the word “feminine” is one that can push buttons these days, conjuring up images ranging from frills to submission.

But far more than qualities, these words are principles that, when operating in a person’s life, can deeply influence and enliven the soul’s destiny: intention, intuition, faith, courage, compassion, attention, self-expression. These yin principles are, simply, more about “being” than “doing.”

As many writers and speakers have pointed out, we are human beings, not human doings. When we combine the receptivity, the intuition, the healing and the humanity of the feminine withour ability to act in the world, life changes for the better. We get to relax. We get to feel at peace with whatever is going on around us. We get to tap into the magical river of life where our days seem to flow.

And we are able to know, with the deepest understanding possible, that these are the things that make life truly successful. This is the innate and authentic power of the feminine—the soul of success.

Don’t get me wrong; I care about money and being admired by others, too. But these days, I find that I care much more about other things—like spirituality, passion for living and trust in the never-failing guidance of my heart. I don’t want to lead a mundane existence. I want to feel that most of what I do is meaningful, and I want to explore new territory all the time. For some time now, my mantra has been: I want to be in the world in a new way.

I believe that most of us long to return to a more balanced way of living. We want a new barometer of success that includes inner experience. In fact, we hunger for inner riches along with outer ones, and we feel ourselves poised to break through to a different and deeper experience of success in our personal and professional lives—success that includes a sense of peace, freedom and deep fulfillment.