How often have you thought about what success means to you?
If you’re anything like my younger self, that would be almost never. It’s not that I didn’t want to be successful. It’s just that it wasn’t something I’d given much thought to. No one ever asked me about it or even encouraged me to think about success. I’d just absorbed it from the people and culture around me, watching how they lived and what was important to them.
From what I saw around me, I internalized a vague idea of success as looking like a decent job and a house with a dining room and a tidy green lawn. So that’s what I was going to do. I was going to follow that plan for success and live happily ever after. How could there be anything wrong with this plan? Who wouldn’t want these things?
I was going to make this dream happen. I went to college, got a good corporate job, and waited for happiness to rain down on me. It didn’t. I was miserable in that job and left it to try a different position. And then another different position.
Look at the old idea of success you’ve been living. Was the whole idea wrong for you? Or were only parts of it problematic? What parts did you enjoy? Your answers will begin to illuminate your new definition of success.
Dig deeper into what you value and what you want more of in your life. How do you want to spend your time? Where and with whom? Consider all aspects of your life, not just work, including relationships, intellectual development, spiritual growth, hobbies and leisure, and health and wellness.
I wish I’d known how to think about success back when I was zigzagging through different careers and dusting the dining room table. But it’s okay, really, because we can always start right from where we are and make choices that move us in a different direction.
We each have our own journey of discovery. Where we are isn’t who we are; it’s just a step along our path. It’s so important to keep in mind that we’re never too late, too old, or too stuck to change the direction of our lives.
Sometimes it can feel like the life we want is unattainable, always out of reach, and we’ll never get out of the rut we’re mired in. This is a big fat lie and I urge you to shift “I can’t” to “I can” (or at least “maybe it’s possible”) because you can choose to start doing something different. Even small changes toward your vision of success will start to shift your entire trajectory. It’s a process and a practice. Keep going, one step at a time, in the direction that calls you.
I now live in a different state, in a house that’s dining room-free and doesn’t have a blade of grass in the yard. It’s a life that’s so right for me. And I know you can find your just-right life too, when you define success for you.