Often, at a young age, we have a peak experience of freedom, aliveness, love, or fulfillment that occurs during an activity we're doing. And our young, child mind develops the concept that this feeling, plus this situation, plus the people around me who confirm this story, equal success.
The truth is that the activity is the portal, the context through which we experience that expansive feeling. And yet, as humans often do, we associate that feeling with the activity we're doing. Suddenly and unconsciously, it's not, "I surrendered my body and mind to my activity, and I felt alive!" it's, "I hit the winning home run, the entire crowd cheered, and I felt alive!" We begin to form a concept about succeeding at baseball as the source of our aliveness.
Perhaps, years later, you "awaken" feeling unfulfilled (hopefully not, but if so, keep reading!) Perhaps you have had a successful baseball career and yet never touched the heart of your original peak experience. Or, you may have struggled for both success and fulfillment. I often speak with comedians who are talented, funny, and accomplished (who also make lots of money at comedy and perform frequently), yet there is a lingering emptiness. Often in America, we shy away from looking at this emptiness and want to leave it as soon as possible. And yet, if we are willing to dive into the center of the "hole" in a safe context, we can come out the other side with our heart's treasure.*
One way you can begin to release of your concept of success is to invite yourself to play again. Set aside an hour with no interruptions and set out an open-ended activity that brings you joy. You could play guitar, paint, make a collage, sing, roll down a grassy hill, skip rocks… Find a way to re-create the joy, even for a few minutes, of a time when the activity was more important than the outcome. And before you go back to your day, write about what happened during your experience and what thoughts or voices arose for you.
"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get."
*For further reading: A. H. Almaas, The Diamond Approach