Whenever I begin a new project — whether it’s a writing project, a business venture, or a personal challenge (like trying to exercise for an hour every day, for thirty days) — I usually decide on a particular “metric” that, in my mind, equals “success”.
“If I get 1,000 downloads, then this e-book will be a success.”
“If I have an opportunity to teach 300 students this year, then this workshop tour will be a success.”
“If I sweat at the gym for thirty hours this month, then I’ll feel like a success.”
There’s nothing wrong with setting specific, exciting goals.
Often, these initial goals are what motivate me to make a plan and get to work.
They’re clear and defined and it’s fun to make progress towards them — like “leveling up” in a video game.
But what I’ve noticed is that hitting my goals — “I did it!” — doesn’t always create a lasting sense of satisfaction.
That feeling of deep satisfaction — “Now I know that all of my efforts were worth it” — is a precious, sacred feeling.
For me, it’s a feeling that often arises long after (I think) the goal has been accomplished … long after (I think) the project is complete.
It’s a feeling that takes me by surprise.
It happens when…
: I get an envelope filled with origami hearts in the mail, written & folded up by teenage girls who were inspired by a video interview that I recorded. (Now I know that showing up for that interview … was worth it.)
: I get an email from a wife who says, “Because of your sexy novel, my husband and I just had amazing, beautiful sex – which hasn’t happened for a long time. Thanks.” (Now I know that obsessively fine-tuning that manuscript … was worth it.)
: A mom writes to me from across the ocean to say, “Your words are helping my daughter build confidence and make friends at her new school.” (Now I know that carefully crafting that blog post … was worth it.)
: A client writes to me three years after our last session to say, “I’ve changed for the better because of our time together.” (Now I know that slogging through that difficult client session … was worth it.)
: A student pulls me aside to say that before coming to one of my workshops, she had never written a single poem. In one day, she wrote three. And can’t wait to write more. (Now I know that being away from home for weeks on end to travel & teach … was worth it.)
It’s the moments of humanity and vulnerability — the unexpected rewards that I never anticipate — that make each of those choices “worth it”.
When you’re beginning a new project, it can be hard to predict what’s going to give you that sense of satisfaction.
But when the moment arrives, you’ll feel it. You’ll know.
Because any lingering fears and resentment about the project (“It was hard. It was expensive. Was it dumb? I don’t know…”) will melt away as soon as you can genuinely say:
“Now I know. It was worth it.”
PS. What makes something feel “worth it” to you?