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Success Is Not A Number

The last post I published was my 100th post. I did not realise this until I actually published the post – and when I pressed that button I almost had a heart attack because I hadn’t actually meant to publish it at all. I’d meant to hit the preview button. I still felt that the post was a jumbled collection of thoughts that was littered with typos, it was far too long; plus I hadn’t actually decided if I even wanted to publish it.

That’s never happened to me before – the accidental publishing – and I found it quite ironic that just as WordPress sends me a notification that I’ve published 100 posts I’m scrambling to delete that 100th post, or at least block it so I have a chance to actually tidy it up.

I decided that these things happen for a reason (and it was definitely an interesting learning experience for me!), so I decided to leave it published – once I’d checked the spelling and straightened it out a bit.

But it got me thinking about creating milestones and targets for ourselves, and how they don’t always serve us.

Let me explain.

When I first started blogging, I had targets. Well, I thought they were targets. I wanted to reach 100 followers in the first three months. After that, I decided I wanted to reach a new  x number in the next x months. But then I began thinking – is that actually something I can actually decide?

I have no way to control who comes to my blog, and likes what they read and decides to sign up. The only thing that I have control over is my writing. I can control what I write about, how I write and how often I publish posts.

I can’t make people follow me, so why was I setting myself targets for followers? I also realised that I love it when every single new person follows the blog, because it feels great to know that I’ve connected with a previous stranger. I love making friends here! As I write this post, I have 497 followers. I’m getting really close to 500, but the number doesn’t matter.

I want readers who like what I write about, who want to engage with me, and feel inspired as a result of reading what I have to say. That is what success feels like to me; the numbers aren’t important. Of course I love getting more readers, and being able to interact with a wider audience, but the 500th reader will be no more exciting than the 498th, and 499th, or the 501st.

The same applies for post numbers. When I started blogging, I decided to commit to writing 3 posts a week. I was unemployed at the time and I felt this was useful to provide structure, keep my mind occupied and give me a creative outlet. Once I got a job I managed to keep this up for a time, but during the month when my parents came to stay I found it too hard.

The way I saw it, I had two options – either keep up the target and write shorter, less thought out posts; or reduce the number, but keep up the quality.

It was an easy decision. I want people to enjoy what I have to say. I don’t want to be writing posts telling my readers that I don’t have time to write posts. Or telling people that I’m having such a great time that I don’t have time to tell them about it.

People are busy, they have inboxes that get bombarded with all kinds of information (and often far too much) and the least I can do is have enough respect for my readers to only write when I have something worth saying. There is no point in publishing posts just for the sake of numbers.

So now I don’t have number targets.

Instead I focus on what I do have control over – which is the content. If I have lots to say, then I will publish three posts a week, maybe more. If I don’t have anything to say… then I don’t publish empty space. I wait until I have the time and content to actually write something worth reading. Which is why my 100th post wasn’t any more significant than the others.

So I thought it was fitting that I made a mess of my 100th post. It was as if the universe was testing me, saying well you said it didn’t matter – so let’s shake things up and see if it does matter!

And no, it didn’t.

But imagine if I had attached some kind of meaning to it? I would have been disappointed, or angry, or upset – over something that was actually quite trivial and insignificant.

We can’t measure our success by plucking numbers out of the air. By doing so we create unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and then we feel bad when things don’t pan out the way we’d hoped they might. Success is about doing the best that we can with the time we have and the knowledge we have. It’s about making connections. How many isn’t important, what matters is how good they are.