After two years spent writing a manuscript (a brave step for an ex-math teacher) and then pursuing publication (with no contacts and no idea what I was doing), I signed a contract with a small traditional publisher. My book was published—there it was on Amazon.com! Success!
Or was it?
Even before the book went to print, I realized I had to market the book in order to get women to read it. I started listening to Michael Hyatt podcasts and learned how to create the perfect blog. I fretted about efficiently using my website in conjunction with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media that’s really too cool for me.
Was I still following God’s plan for me, or trying to succeed without Him?
By the time I reached the one-year mark for my book, it had garnered great reviews and honors… but had sold less than 1,000 copies. Despite all of my efforts, almost no one knew it existed. I cried in frustration. I prayed. I wrote myself a Jerry Maguire-worthy memo. And through it all I figured out what success means for me, and what I have to do to achieve it: way, way less than I’d thought.
Here are four things I learned that may help you to discover your own definition of success:
1. Forfeit the comparison game. Each time I experienced a little success, thirty seconds online reminded me that I’m actually a nobody. When my book received its tenth five-star rating on Amazon, I immediately stumbled onto a comparable book with a hundred of them. When I got a speaking gig in far-away Texas, I inadvertently saw the much more impressive itinerary of another local speaker. I hit 450 likes on Facebook; Grumpy Cat had 7million.
The Bible says to stay the course, not looking to the left or the right (Proverbs 4:25-27). If we compare our successes to those of others, we’ll inevitably see someone doing more or better. Instead, we can choose to celebrate our progress and enjoy our blessings!
2. Be you, for real. I’ve realized that I’m never going to be a person who’s great at tweeting, so I don’t spend a lot of time there. I’m enjoying Facebook as a way to communicate and encourage, but that’s the extent of my posting. I’m writing exactly what I want to write on my blog. And I know that experts would say that these choices are all wrong for my ministry.
We don’t have to do what everyone says we should do in order to succeed. Decide to do your best without trying to incorporate things that aren’t “you” in the first place. Discern what actually qualifies as Your Thing, then put your time and energy into doing that well.
3. Set boundaries on that time and energy. I spent way too many days with my eyes glued to my computer screen, frantically typing, worried that I was “doing it wrong” or “missing out on opportunities.” I was perilously close to making my ministry a full-time job when I had that reality check. Yes, I’m writing my next book, speaking at women’s events, and blogging, but I’m just as determined to play with Legos, dolls, and dinosaurs while my kids still want to play with me.
There’s no time limit on what God can do with our efforts, no end to the success He can bring. His timing will be perfect no matter how we try to speed it up, so we might as well relax and enjoy our work for Him—and our many blessings.
4. Look to God for your kudos. I spent far too much time looking for Facebook likes, blog comments, Amazon stars, and GigSalad reviews. In our instant gratification society, I felt discouraged between these small encouragements. I was looking to the left and right again.
God is the judge of our success. He’s in control of our opportunities and knows exactly how much growth and achievement we should experience, for our own good and for the good of His Kingdom.
Does any of this sound familiar? What new habits or systems you could set in place today to help you avoid these traps?
My friends, each time you touch an individual with your God-given talents, you are a success in His eyes.
In other words, you have succeeded. Don’t miss it!
Shannon has two books available for sale on amazon, check them out here.
By Shannon Upton
Hi, I’m Shannon, a Christian speaker, author, and blogger. I help women use a little organization to clear out their spiritual clutter of anxiety, so they can make room for peace and joy! I’d love to serve you through my two books, Organizing You and Building Your House. And stop on by my website to discover the great resources I have for you there!