I Googled ‘secret to success’ and I came up with over 617,000 listings! Some secret! In fact, I know I’ve written more than one article on the subject myself. Yet I’m still learning and still pressing the Universe for answers to the deepest questions, especially those that plague most of us at the midlife transition. Midlife, you know, is that time of life when we transition from doing what we were supposed to do, to doing what we were destined to do . If you are having trouble figuring out what I mean by that, then the midlife transition may not have hit you quite yet. But, be patient! It will!
Now, back to the REAL Secret to Success. After the life-altering experience that I underwent a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to write about something significant that I had learned . . . something that might be of benefit to others. I thought about the biggest obstacle that people (men especially) have to face at midlife. I know that ‘stopper’ very well: self-sufficiency. I also remember the one piece of important advice that almost every entrepreneur I interviewed on my former radio program (The Frazzled Ent repreneur) gave as his or her parting comment: “Get yourself a coach, mentor or adviser!” Seeking the counsel of others is of critical importance to anyone who is in pursuit of success. Yet, in itself, this is not the REAL Secret to Success. What is?
Before I answer that question directly, let me first reiterate the one reason I believe that many people delay the midlife transition unnecessarily and thereby cause themselves so much needless pain. I think that trouble with the midlife transition begins with the mistaken idea that we should know how to handle it. So long as we believe that without assistance we should have what it takes and everything we need to transform ourselves from duty-based to destiny-based decision-making, we will remain self-deceived. In fact, if you take just one step back from that statement, you’ll see the inner contradiction: the word ‘should’ is real give-away that we’re still dealing with a duty-based core values system. When we’re ‘should-ing’ on ourselves, we’re not operating in authenticity. We’re not accepting life on life’s terms. We’re not accepting ourselves just as we are. As a result, and out of fear, we find the need to pretend to be other than the people who we really are. We pretend that we’re capable and adequate, all the while dreading that others might find out the truth: that we’re frauds and that, if you really knew me, you wouldn’t like me at all.
What, then, is the REAL Secret to Success – and the REAL secret to a successful midlife transition as well? Get out your pens and papers (no stone tablets necessary) because here it is: the REAL Secret to Success is humility. Wait! Don’t stop reading yet! It’s true, and I’ll show you why! First, though, I’ll repeat here once again my favorite definition of humility (which I have so far been unable to trace back to its source): ‘seeing yourself as God sees you and acting accordingly.’
Now, I want to share with you the two greatest gifts of humility, and then I want to discuss how to obtain this elusive Secret to Success. The first gift of humility is honesty. In all the 12-step recovery programs, it is an often-stated (and well-demonstrated) fact that people can recover from addiction but only “if they have the capacity to be honest.” The kind of honesty that can lead to healing is only one that is willing to offer the unvarnished truth to one’s self, to one’s fellows, and to one’s God. Humility strips away the need for pretense. When your self-esteem no longer depends on what you think others’ opinions of you may be (and when those opinions no longer matter), then there no longer exist any reasons to hide behind dishonesty of any sort. You’re free to be the exceptional person whom you really are . . . without excuses.
The second gift of humility is courage. Cowardice consists only of giving in to the fear of facing overwhelming consequences. Yet, humility allows you to see yourself with both your limitations and your strengths. Self-acceptance and the honesty that it provides allows you recognize that you’re not a super-hero, you never were a super-hero, and nobody expects you to be a super-hero. You have incredibly valuable gifts that are uniquely yours and the universe stands in need of your courageous generosity. The universe (and the people who inhabit it) are also more than willing to provide you with whatever you need, once you summon the courage to ask. No consequences are truly overwhelming for the humble: they know that life is a gift that’s both given and sustained by a Power greater then themselves. Living life on life’s terms for them is a matter of acceptance, trust, and engagement.
Gaining humility is at once both an inside and an outside job. On one hand, it takes willingness to confront ourselves exactly as we are, without pretense, and it takes a specific commitment to do the work to make that happen. It takes a commitment to yourself, to your future, and to every person who either depends upon you right now, or ever will depend upon you in the future. It takes a commitment to become the person who you were destined to be without complaints or excuses. It means looking yourself in the eye in the mirror and telling yourself that you’ll no longer settle for anything less than everything you deserve.
On the other hand, you can never gain humility by yourself. Notice that, even when you look at yourself in the mirror, the image is distorted. It’s backwards. That’s why you look so strange when you see yourself in a picture or a video. It’s only then that you see yourself as others see you. You need others to reflect back to you the person you cannot see on your own – with all your strengths and your limitations. These people see in you everything that escapes you. They know (and very often play along with) your dishonesties. They silently step in when they see that you’re shrinking back out of fear. They know the truth about you even when you’re ignorant of it. These mirrors of your soul give you the gift that you desperately need: perspective. And, it’s not only those who like you who are your friends; the people who dislike you, who are your fiercest critics, are your best friends. They are the people who’ll show you things about yourself that even your ‘best friend’ won’t tell you. Listen to them: all of them.
You’re probably very familiar with the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” If you change one word, you’ll discover the Humility Prayer: “God, grant me the humility to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” What does that tell you? Only that, humility and serenity are interchangeable. If you want serenity, seek humility. Seek it in the eyes, the words and the deeds of those around you. Because, once you’ve found it and embraced it, you’ll discover that you’ve found integrity and courage as well. If that isn’t ‘success’, I don’t know what is. How’s that for the REAL Secret to Success?
H. Les Brown, MA, CFCC
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Copyright © 2009 H. Les Brown
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