How do we define our successes?

As I sit writing this in my new flat, I can’t help but question whether I feel successful. Indeed, a colleague of mine is fascinated by the question of defining and measuring success, which inspired me to think about what I consider to be my own personal successes.

What do I understand by success?

pen writing notes studying
From an early age, I measured my success against others. The best thing was learning success is NOT relative.

I think from a young age, my personal success was relative. Did a best friend get a B in an exam and I got an A? Was that how I measured my own success? Maybe.

But as I have grown older, successes are purely personal and not a relative phenomenon. Equally, how I view success, and what I understand by my success, has vastly changed and continues to change over time. I therefore view success as a fluid notion and not static.

At school, success for me was 100% about getting top grades, the same at University. I also felt as though I needed to be popular, a certain shape, have a boyfriend etc etc. Money was also a core feature of my idea of success when I was at school, although this became much less important at uni as I sought to have an impact on the world.

Yet now, as I am a year into my professional career, my understanding of success has changed again. Now I understand it as:

  • having a job that interests me, that I am good at, and in which I am having a positive impact;
  • smashing the gym and my diet to get the results I want;
  • being happy and finding my own sources of happiness; and
  • being self-sufficient/independent.

So my definition of success from school to now has changed from how others view me, to how I view myself. No comparison to others and no approval needed from anyone else.

The role of money in success

stack white business market
Money is too often viewed as a core marker of success. Changing this view is paramount in truly understanding success.

Of course, money has a part to play as being financially independent is, for me, a core part of self-sufficiency and independence.

In fact, I wrote a two year goal list in April which stated four goals I wanted to achieve over the next two years, they were:

  • help the growth of my employer’s company;
  • get promoted;
  • afford to rent own place; and
  • afford to buy new place.

And in seven months, I have ticked off two: get promoted and afford to rent my own place. And so I added another goal, get an MBA qualification in order to permit me to rise into a C-level position later on in my career.

So yes, money is key in two of these goals and I do not undermine that money permits goals to happen. Yet money is not an end in itself and having achieved the ability to rent my own place, I can safely say that yes money pays my rent and bills, but better than that it is the independence and self-reliance/dependance of living alone that makes me feel successful.

In the remaining two goals (company growth and promotion), I would argue money has little to do with it. My Boss has invested so much in my career and inspired me, that I am determined to help his company grow in the same way he continues to help me grow.

And part of me helping to do this comes from my promotion. I now have even more responsibility, and therefore the opportunity, to make positive things happen. It will be knowing that I did something to aid someone else and their goals that will me a core marker of my future successes.

What else fits into my vision of success?

A million things could go here, but these three came instantly to mind meaning they must be my most important ideas of success…

Giving back to my parents/family

My parents have provided for me my entire life. My successes are equally their successes – I would not be where I am if they had not done everything they had from the moment I was born.

And so part of me feeling successful is being able to give back to them.

I don’t mean paying them back all the money they have spent on me (soz’ rents), I mean being able to do things for them. For instance, this Sunday I have invited my family over to my place for lunch. And I cannot wait to welcome them into my home and show them what they have helped me achieve.

And then my Dad is coming to see my place of work and meet by Boss. Again, I am super excited and proud to show him the City, the buildings I visit for work, and what my London life is like. It’s showing him how he, and my Mum, have helped me get to where I am and that I could not have done it without them.

Knowing knockbacks are just a step to future successes

curve industry photography vintage
In photography, negatives are the first step to creating beautiful photos. The same applies to life.

Part of growing up is not only realising, but also believing, that without incurring negatives, future successes are limited. Mistakes are there to be made in order to learn and grow from them.

That doesn’t mean we should be complacent and avoid making mistakes. It means that when a mistake or a knockback hits you in the face, you have two options: 1) let it make you believe you are crap at life and can’t possibly do better; or 2) spin it into a positive and use it to create a future success.

Finding my own ways to be happy (self-fulfiness)

Lastly, for me success is the ability to solely rely upon myself for happiness which I previously touched upon but it is important point to reiterate. This is a lesson my Dad taught me a few years back after I had had my heart broken. And I think it is probably the most important lesson I have thus far learnt.

It required commitment and a couple of years to teach myself the lesson. Yet now I have achieved it, and continue to ensure I maintain it, is not only a great source of empowerment but also gives me a sense of success.

The future

close up of water
My crystal ball of the future…

Of course, if history is anything to go by these ideas I have of success will change in the future. Whilst the above three criteria of success  I would hope will always remain central, I have no doubt that I will have both material and non-material new criterion of success in the future.

But I hope that I will remember what I have learnt: that the material element is not what truly defines success.

Why? Because as I have grown up I have realised that independence and happiness, both non-material, have brought me more joy than any material possession. They have brought me a sense of inner empowerment, and that feeling my friends, is irreplaceable.

Z x

Tracking our macros: a necessary fitness tool which risks becoming obsessive

Today’s topic is tracking. Tracking our macros (carbs, fats, protein) and calories, most likely using the famous ‘My Fitness Pal’.

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My general thought is that tracking is important as it gives you a solid idea of how much you are consuming, which is crucial for anyone but particularly for those doing intense exercise. The issue is that it can become quite addictive and hard to stop…

Why can tracking be important?

Personal Example

I am the prime example of some who has benefited from tracking my food. As you will recall from a previous blog post, I was under-eating by about 1,000kcal per day.

How did I know this? From a fitness MOT, which showed my basal metabolic rate was 2,547kcal per day, and from tracking my food which showed I was eating between 1,500-1,750kcal per day.

This was a huge turning point as it explained my excessive tiredness amongst others. I was simply not eating enough to fuel my body when sitting around doing nothing, never mind in addition to the intense exercise I was doing.

Since this MoT, I have made a conscious effort to increase my daily calorie intake and with success. All of this is only possible thanks to tracking my food.

Achieving goals

Tracking is also crucial to attain a specific goal.

ball fun game goal
Tracking is crucial in achieving fitness goals – 90% of the work is done in the kitchen.

If you are looking to lose fat, you need to know your fat to carb/protein ratio, as well as your calorie intake. Similarly, if you are looking to gain muscle, you need to know your current carb and protein intake. Without knowing where you are currently at, you can’t know the correct route to take to reach your end destination.

I feel this is especially true for those new to exercise. Like anything in life, knowledge is (mostly) power. The more informed you are, the better you can utilise this knowledge to achieve your goals. People often wonder why they are not seeing the results they want aesthetically and physically. I ask what their macros are to reach this goal and they say they don’t know. I say they are silly as they are trying to achieve something blind-sighted.

The same also applies to new diets. For instance, my brother has just started doing a keto diet (very high fat and no carbs). He must absolutely track his macros to ensure he is getting enough fat into his body as his body is running off fats, not carbs. When your body runs off fats, this is called ketosis. If he was just guessing, he would not necessarily be in a state of ketosis, therefore defeating the point of the diet.

General Lifestyle

I actually do believe everyone should track their food once in a while to have an idea of what they are consuming. It is very easy to be eating more than we think, and equally very easy to be eating less than we need.

Foods have hidden calories. It is only when we start looking at the nutritional information in our food and tracking it, that we become aware of what we are putting into our bodies. Is this not something we should all be aware of anyway?

And why can it be negative?

Numbers
Constantly tracking food can lead you to see food in numbers and not its nutritional value.

I have recently discovered that tracking is addictive and I would go as far as to say it has become an obsession.

I recently tried to stop tracking my food as I eat pretty much the same thing daily so knew my macros well. I only lasted a few days and felt completely out of control of my life! So I have started tracking again…

Knowing what is in foods means you start to no longer see a food as a food, but as a bunch of numbers and nutritional info. Because of this, you are less likely to go for certain foods. Whilst this is positive if you are refusing to eat a muffin every day, it is less positive if you look at an apple and think, ‘actually, I shouldn’t have this, too much sugar so too much carbs’.

3 reasons why tracking can have downsides

I am guilty of this and it is not good, for three core reasons:

Fit and Fearless 5 Live Podcast
Highly recommend this podcast.

Firstly, we need to eat a range of foods. I was listening to a podcast by Fit & Fearless on Radio 5 Live, which if I remember correctly, stated that we should  be eating 30 different foods per week in order to benefit from all nutrients. If we therefore restrict ourselves to certain food groups, our bodies will be deficient in certain nutrients.

Secondly, viewing food as numbers can be the start of an eating disorder. As I also learnt from this same podcast, this does not mean anorexia or bulimia, but simply a negative view of food, the severity of which can vary.

Thirdly, knowing our macros means we feel guilty when we ‘cheat’ i.e. we eat something that we consider unhealthy. Normally this would be a pizza, burger, a piece of cake etc for which macros are (mostly) not available if we are eating out. We feel guilty as we know we have not hit our macros and not having the nutritional information is an extra annoyance.

Having said that, I will happily eat out (keeping it clean) and not worry about macros. Equally, if I do really fancy a cheat meal I will do it and not over-think it.

So there you have it, like anything tracking needs to be done in moderation. It has given me a great insight into the nutritional information of foods I feed my body and it has permitted me to make changes to my diet to ensure my body is sufficiently fueled.

Do I see myself tracking my foods forever? Probably not, but for the foreseeable future, probably yes.

Z x