The first way to be successful is to have a healthy relationship with your family. I know that everyone doesn’t have a Brady Bunch family, but our family is our root. If we can have a healthy connection with at least one person in our family, it helps us to feel grounded and more securely attached. Life will be tough at times, and having family we can depend upon helps us to be more resilient and feel cared for no matter what comes. So, valuing the love of family is my first suggestion for redefining success.

Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Laura Giles.

Laura Giles helps people to create meaningful lives by learning how to belong to each other. Her holistic work starts with building a stable foundation, getting to know yourself, then connecting with others and the universe. She believes that when you are the best version of yourself, you’re never lonely because you always have the best company.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

I was definitely an overachiever. In elementary school, I was in a reading class all by myself for the entire 6 years because I was so advanced. I got a lot of opportunities for special programs that other people didn’t get.

My father never said, “You have to be a doctor” or anything like that. My parents told me I could do anything that I wanted, but I perceived that to mean that I had to do something big. I had to make a splash in the world somehow. I may have put this pressure on myself because I was a daddy’s girl and wanted to make him proud.

On the other hand, I also grew up with this idea that a woman’s most important work was to be a wife and mother. The woman was the caretaker of the family, and if the home life is good, everything that flowed from there would be good, too. So, “success” for me had two very different faces that didn’t necessarily support each other.

We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?

There is a saying in the South that “you can’t hide money.” I was like everyone else. I learned that success showed up as a high profile, being recognized by lots of people, having lots of money and bling. When I did a life review, there was always this bar that I hadn’t hit that urged me to keep moving in the direction of a higher profile and more money.

I’m sad to say that I grew up believing that the person with the most toys at the end wins. If anyone had asked me about that, I would have denied it. That’s not how I was reared, but the social conditioning sinks in anyway, doesn’t it? I think our culture is permeated by this message.

How has your definition of success changed?

Yes. I think what changed was covid. All of a sudden, mortality hit me in the face. I didn’t know anyone who was seriously sick from covid or anyone who died, but the message of death was in our faces day and night. Life changed, and we were on lockdown. I started missing things that I had taken for granted, like family gatherings and outings with friends. I missed walking around freely in nature. When I began to think about how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, it just seemed silly to grind away at making money or building a brand.

It became very obvious how precious time is. I started to see success as having the freedom to spend time doing the things that I love with the people that I care about. If I die having lived fully, then I will die happy and successful.

The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?

You know the saying, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Well, I heartily believe that, and I started a group, probably a decade ago, to help people learn about holistic living and to connect to each other. Since the pandemic, we’ve been meeting mostly virtually, but we are still cultivating connections and building platonic intimacy.

I host events like moon circles, talking circles, cuddle parties, dream groups, Stitch and Bitch, drum circles, and bonfires to give people a safe space to relax, connect to each other and nature, and be themselves. The group has people aged 20 to 60, of all skin tones, and different religions. So, rather than having a very homogeneous group where everyone looks and thinks alike, it’s very diverse. I love it.

All that is to say that I think that the biggest change that we need to make as a society is to encourage love and connection with everyone. There were so many wonderful stories of neighbors helping neighbors during the lock down. It would be a pity to forget it all now. When compassion is a lifestyle, everyone benefits.

When we were all in lock down, there was solidarity. We were all in the same boat. And guess what? We still are. It’s the boat of shared humanity. We shouldn’t have to have a crisis to embrace that.

What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.

I don’t have little kids at home, but one of the huge benefits of the pandemic is that parents were able to be at home with their kids. Being in the same space at the same time gives us the opportunity to connect. Families that eat at least one meal together are less stressed. If everyone is home, they are more likely to cook a meal and eat at home, and that’s generally healthier and more affordable than eating out. So sitting down with your family to eat has so many benefits, and the pandemic made the more possible.

Another game changer was the idea that a person could work from home and have the same level of productivity. I think the necessity of having to work from home loosened the grip on the 9 to 5 so that some people can have more flexibility for doctor’s appointments, childcare, and engaging in self-care or leisure things during times when they used to be at work. This has led to better work/life balance and more happiness.

A third benefit is that people have rediscovered nature. There really is no way to spend time outside and not be in awe. I hope that translates into wanting to protect the environment so we always have a healthy place to play.

We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?”

Sure. The first way to be successful is to have a healthy relationship with your family. I know that everyone doesn’t have a Brady Bunch family, but our family is our root. If we can have a healthy connection with at least one person in our family, it helps us to feel grounded and more securely attached. Life will be tough at times, and having family we can depend upon helps us to be more resilient and feel cared for no matter what comes. So, valuing the love of family is my first suggestion for redefining success.

There are two people in my life right now who have been hit hard with bad news. One went through a death, the other a health crisis. Those are the kinds of situations where you really see who cares about you, and their families came through for them. It made a gigantic difference in their ability to get through, so connection with family is my top way to define success.

Another way to redefine success is to use health as a measuring stick. When the pandemic first hit, if you actually got covid and didn’t die, that was a huge success. I think the focus that we all put on health during the height of the pandemic ought to continue. Nobody is promised health, but if you have it, it means the difference between a vibrant life with lots of options and living with lots of limitations.

I have led spiritual tours and retreats for over twenty years now, and I am always amazed that there are always elderly people at the top of a remote mountaintop. I’ve seen it in the Andes, Appalachia, and the Grand Canyon. Anyone who can still do what they want to do without aches and pains is a success in my book! That’s something worth preserving if you have it, and pursuing if you don’t.

I believe it’s important to our self-esteem to have something meaningful to do. That’s my number three. That’s not a new belief. We’ve all seen this in the coaching world. Coaches are selling people on the idea that they can turn the thing that they love into a million dollar business and play at life. This is not what I am talking about at all. I think when money becomes the measure of success, it all goes sideways.

No, the meaningful thing that you do could be a hobby. It could be taking care of your kids, coaching softball, taking care of your dying mother, or having an amazing garden in your backyard. If your thing feeds your soul and you go to sleep every night feeling fulfilled, you’re living an amazing life.

The Surgeon General recently released a report on the loneliness epidemic. It was a stunning look at how meaningful it is to have heartfelt connections with others. So, another way we can redefine success is by looking at our relationships. If we have healthy, deep connections, we’re healthier and happier. Life means something. What’s the point of being here if we’re not loving others and being loved?

I think many of us focus on romantic relationships, and that’s an important connection. However, if you take sex out of the equation, there are still many other options for satisfying connections. There are friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers! I’m not talking about followers or virtual friends from social media. I think some of us do look at those numbers and use them as a measurement of success, but those are superficial relationships. I am talking about real relationships with real people. If you have those, you’re a success in my book.

Finally, for my personal sense of success, I ask myself how true to myself am I? Am I showing up? Am I being authentic? Do I lead with my values? If I am doing that, I am living my life consciously and with integrity.

Success is being who we are. If we do that, our gifts will shine in the way that we are meant to serve. I don’t think it matters if we are here fifteen minutes or a hundred years. It doesn’t matter if we impact a thousand people or just one. If we are our true selves, we can’t help but succeed in doing what we came here to do.

I think chasing wealth, power, and beauty are life stealers. I don’t think they bring a lot of happiness or fulfillment. Ultimately, death will take it all away, but if you love, that lives on in the people that are left behind.

How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?

I think we’d all be kinder and less stressed. There would be more cooperation and less competition. We all want to feel valued. We all want to see our value reflected in the eyes of someone else. When people have to drive a particular car, wear a certain size, and have a certain title to be seen, a lot of people are be invisible. I don’t see how that enhances our society. But when the yardstick for success is authenticity, meaningful work, healthy connections, and health, well, now there is room for all of us at the top.

What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?

Perhaps a lack of courage. We’re all indoctrinated into this idea that we have to do everything to “get ahead.” From pre-school, we’re pushed into getting good grades, getting into the right school, doing the right activities, all so we can “succeed.”

Kids attempt suicide because of this. They drop out of society because they don’t think they can keep up the pace.

We really need to rethink the unconscious programs that drive us and what we are accepting as “normal.”

If anyone is struggling with a lack of courage to be authentic because the pressure to conform and succeed is too great, my advice is to get some perspective. The first time I went to the third world, I saw a lot of poverty and a lot of happiness. My heart filled with generosity and kindness from people who had nothing and forever changed my drive from being achievement oriented to connection oriented.

I’ve worked with many young people who were willing to die to escape the pressure of being beautiful, popular, and have all the signs of success. It’s in every aspect of our culture. Trying to hit that bar is a never ending battle because there is always someone prettier, richer, thinner, or some exciting than you. There is always another mountain to climb on that route, so whatever you do, it’s never enough.

If we redefine success, we set the bar in our favor. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to decide how to live. It’s also up to us to determine the worth of our time here. When we value connection, peace, and harmony, it is easier to allow ourselves to have that.

Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?

One of my favorite coping mantras is, “Fifty years from now, will this matter?” Almost none of what people get upset or stressed about matters. No matter what humans do, the sun comes up every morning. The tide goes in and the tide goes out. Seasons change.

Nature is my ultimate teacher. She inspires me daily to maintain perspective and stay grounded. When we all die, we will return to the earth and become dust once more. None of the titles, fancy trips, or number of viral posts we create will matter then.

I strive to be like nature. I do what I do and let go of the outcome. I try to give as much as I receive. I show up as I am. People forget that humans are animals. I don’t think nature is calling upon us to do much more than that. I don’t think that lions or cacti are unsuccessful because they don’t draw a lot of attention or leave behind a legacy.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.

Elon Musk. Clearly he’s a visionary whom I have heard works sixteen hours a day. Based on that, I’d say he probably has a different perspective than I do, and I am open-minded and curious. I’d be interested to see another side of the question.

The world benefits from the contributions of powerhouse people. Many have revolutionized society through arts, sciences, business, and technology. I’m grateful for that… and I hope they all go home to dinner at night with people that they love and have emotional success as well as career success.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.