It’s one of those words that everyone assumes means the same thing to everyone. And yet nothing could be further from the truth – ask 10 people what they mean by success and you’ll get 10 different answers.
Not only that, but what success means for you early on in your career may be completely different to what it means 5 or 10 years later, or when / if you have a family. The concept of success if very individual, although society as a whole’s view is distinctly focused around material wealth, although this is changing in younger workers. Success is no longer (just) about the 6-figure salary, it can also encompass being able to pick up the kids and be there for concerts and sports days? Being able to work from anywhere? Being able to take daytime gym classes, or go to a gallery when it's less busy? A feeling of freedom, enjoyment or fulfilment?
Why does how we individually define success matter?
It matters because we can be so wrapped up in our daily work, and the career path we ‘should’ be on that we can forget to check in with ourselves and examine if what we are working towards is really going to gives us what we want.
I’ve worked with a number of clients who, by society’s standards are ‘successful’ and yet what they have is not giving them the joy and satisfaction that they were hoping for. By taking time to sit and work out what success looks like to them, and then working out how to flex what they have now, they have been able to enjoy their version of success and consequently, have higher levels of personal satisfaction and confidence and lower levels of stress.
So how can you work out what success means to you, and how to incorporate it into your career plan? Here’s my 3 top tips:
1. Look at the success story that you have been telling yourself – we often have a version of success that is inherited from our upbringing, for example, to be successful you need to sacrifice family time and work 70 hours a week, or being successful means being able to drive a new car or holiday in a certain place. Do you recognise any of these? What are some of things that come to mind when you think of the idea of being ‘successful’? And how relevant are they to you now – think about people you know (or know of) that you feel are successful - how is their version of success different to that which you have been telling yourself?
2. Think about what you would be doing and how you would be feeling if you were successful – now think about yourself and your work. At what point would you judge that you have been successful – having a financial goal is perfectly fine, write down that figure, but also think about how much and where you want to be working, how you get to spend your free time. Consider things like school / family events, holidays, material possessions, and also how you want to be feeling – and how you will judge when you have got to this point.
3. Think about how that fits with where you are currently – if you have the material side of what you deem to be success, then look at how you can get the more intangible side to balance out. Consider alternative ways to work, flexible working etc. And if you want to be financially more successful, consider how to do that – a different role, additional income streams etc. However, whatever you decide to adapt or modify, make sure you are not sacrificing success in one area of your life for success in another, especially without a plan to regain the balance. At this point, it can be a good idea to review the importance of the various elements of success for you – for example, if earning your ‘success’ figure in your current career is going to mean 70 hour weeks and no family time, is that worth it? Or do you need to re-think how to get to your financial goal without impacting on your family time?
The big take home point about this is that it is personal to you – what is vital for you may be completely unimportant to the next person. And that’s what makes it great – we can all be successful in our lives and careers, as we are the only ones who can define what success looks like.
If you’d like to learn more about how I help women build successful careers on their terms then click here to book a 20 minute chat with me, or here to join my free facebook group, The Returnity Lounge.