Once upon a time I believed that in order to be a successful author I had to work eighty hours a week. I thought I had to sacrifice my free time, my health, and my relationships to make it big.
THE GOAL became everything. I learned how to function on four hours of sleep. I gave up reading for pleasure. I surrendered hobbies. I didn’t take vacations. I worked and worked and worked and worked.
I would look around at other writers who did not share my work ethic, and feel sorry for them because they didn’t have what it took to make it big.
And then I hit the New York Times bestseller list.
Friends and family were calling, wanting to take me out to celebrate. I got flowers and cards and presents. I had finally achieved the pinnacle of writerly success.
And it was the loneliest time of my life.
Because nothing had changed.
I’d spent twenty years chasing the dream, but I was exhausted, in physical pain, worried, and anxious. I could not celebrate. I was on deadline. There were revisions due on another book, line edits on a third book, galleys on a fourth. The dishes were stacked in the sink and the laundry hamper was full. I needed a haircut, a manicure and a massage but didn’t have the time.
And the money hadn’t come in yet. My bank account was shockingly low, even as family and friends assumed I was rolling in dough.
I was a hamster on a wheel and there was no way to get off. I had to keep running and running and running.
And then I crashed and burned.
No one besides the people closest to me knew what I was going through. From the outside it looked like I had reached the zenith of success. But my entire body hurt. I was an emotional wreck. I had a major new contract and six books due in eighteen months, and no way to live up to my obligations.
I had to do something to get my life back in balance or my health—and my career—was done for.
I went to see a doctor, and he gave me the greatest blessing. He took out a prescription pad and in big letters wrote: YOGA.
That man literally saved my life.
I’ve been doing yoga for eighteen months now, and I’ve done a complete one-eighty. Physically, mentally and emotionally, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I have hobbies. I’ve reconnected with friends. I took a yoga vacation to Costa Rica. I’m happy, healthy and invigorated.
And the writing?
I stopped thinking about bestseller lists. I stopped obsessing over reviews. I stopped working ridiculously long hours. Occasionally, I go out to lunch with friends and I make time for hobbies and to read good books. I’m no longer desperate and grasping.
Will I keep hitting the bestseller lists? I don’t know. At this point, I don’t care. The love of writing is back. I have a life. A real life I love. Not one chained to the computer. And all those authors that I used to pity because they didn’t have my work ethic? I realize now they were the ones who had it right.
True success doesn’t come from accolades, and buckets of money. It comes from finding that calm place within us. It comes from being healthy and strong. It comes from being kind and spending time with loved ones. It comes from being grateful for what you have. It comes from living in the moment.
Because that’s all we have. Right now.
My only regret is that it took me so long to understand this lesson. But at least I finally got there.
What about you? Do you feel like a hamster on a wheel that you can’t get off of? Do you have some limiting beliefs that are keeping you from leading the life you deserve? Are you sacrificing yourself for a goal that might leave you feeling empty and lonely? What yardstick are you using to measure success?