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The best career advice I ever received was to…
“redefine success in terms of what makes you happy.”
It was like a lightbulb finally went off. I’d been on someone else’s path for years, trying to force myself into career situations that didn’t feel right, simply because someone told me that’s what I was supposed to do.
Before I jump into what this advice means to me, I want to talk a little bit about what this advice doesn’t mean:
This doesn’t mean that you can quit any job when the going gets tough.
This doesn’t mean that you re-define success every time you fall.
If we do either of those things, then we are just playing into the stereotypes of millennials, so just don’t do it.
Then what does it mean to redefine success in terms of what makes you happy?
It means taking the time for self exploration and discovery. You can do this by taking the time to watch webinars on sites like Forté Foundation, which have been designed to help women step into leadership roles and navigate their careers.
Personally I love the one on “Inside Out Discovery For Your Personal Brand,” because it explores your values, strengths, fears. Redefining success in terms of what makes you happy means having deep insights that allow you to invest in your strengths, let go of fears, and find a path that aligns with your values. That’s how our skills and self esteem can refine and grow.
It means getting intimate with yourself. It means realizing someone else’s dream for you versus your own—and being able to separate the two. It means unlearning all the limiting messages you’ve heard. You know the ones… they sound like:
You can’t do that because you’re a woman
This is meeting is for the men and will go over your head.
You’re too emotional to do this kind of work
You’re not emotional enough to connect with others in this industry
Security comes in the form of a steady paycheck every week
There aren’t enough clients out there to support you
Creative and business don’t belong in the same sentence
You have to be a b*tch to succeed or be taken seriously
Everyone is out to get you
Yeah… all of those things.
It means letting go of the aforementioned limiting beliefs, and setting our own mantras. I’ve always loved Lisa Sugar’s “Work Hard. Play Nice.” To me, this mantra means we support one another and lift each other up. It means knowing that security and money will flow freely when we reinvest in our strengths and talents and put good vibes into the world. It also means working ten times harder than the person next to you so you can have this new definition of success as a long term reality. And getting up that much stronger and wiser every time you get knocked down.
How Can You Start Redefining Success In Terms Of What Makes You Happy?
Here Are 5 Steps:
Step 1: Write out all the limiting beliefs.
Just like the list I made above. Get out a piece of paper and do a brain dump. I’ve tried to make this a regular practice over the course of my career, since these beliefs can evolve or come up at different points and hold us back. After a while, I began noticing a pattern when they would come up – like after a call with a family member questioning my career path or on the brink of a big deal. Now I can get ahead of them doing this practice before a big meeting.
Step 2: Counter the limiting beliefs
Write down a counter affirmation to each of the statements you’ve written. Make each of your affirmations a mantra that you carry with you. Personally, I like to choose one that’s my guiding mantra of the day or week. I set it as a silent alarm on my phone that pops up every hour as a subtle reminder.
Step 3: Draw strength from others
Connect with women through places like Forté Foundation, a career-centered community which has over 95,000 women, to learn their stories and how they got to where they are. You are not alone in your limiting beliefs or fears, and it can be helpful to speak with others about their experience.
If networking and one-on-one conversations seem overwhelming to you, I totally get it! I’ve been there too. I like to start off easy and check out webinars and Facebook lives like Forté’s to listen to other women’s stories and actionable advice. That way I can still benefit from their wisdom without getting consumed by anxiety of new interactions. I’ve also found it easier to reach out to people if I’ve been in the same community for a little.
Remember, we’ve all faced adversity and fear to varying degrees. By learning about others, we can feel less alone and pull strength from their strengths and experiences.
Step 4: Get clear on what boosts your self-worth
Are you an amazing problem solver? An Excellent people person? Do you love a good strategy puzzle, or are you a master of social media? Find the things that light you up; your unique skill set that inspires you. If you’re stuck on where to find this, try asking people what you’re good at, then list what you think you’re good at and see where the two overlap.
Also use this step to write down what your values are and any other information tied to your self-worth or the image of the person you want to be “when you grow up.”
Step 5: Put it all together
Look at everything from above and evaluate it. Start with your limiting beliefs and fears. How did those take you on a different path? What did you give up on in your life because the fears became to big?
Then look at what your values are and what you’re good at. All the things that fill your soul and makes you happy.
Find where the two intersect and redefine success based on that criteria.
I did this exercise out loud with my husband. I was too close to everything to see the connecting threads and figure out my next step. Having another person to sift through all this new self-awareness really helped me figure which of my strengths to integrate into my career.
What this new definition of success looks like:
When I put all of this together, it became clear that I wanted to help people. I knew that I really valued teaching, learning, and philanthropy. I knew that I wanted to define success in terms of leaving a positive impact on others on an emotional and personal development level. I knew I didn’t want to be a therapist, but that I loved giving advice.
So for me, that definition of success went from “a stable recurring paycheck that left me with more money than I knew what to do with” to “helping people grow, accept themselves, and live well rounded, purpose-driven lives” and “sharing relatable experiences and life lessons while still being able to pay my bills.” For me, success isn’t measured by the number in my bank account. Instead, it’s measured by emails, messages, and comments from you all about how much a post meant, which in turn gives me so much joy!
Explore, Learn, & Grow
Remember, most of us heard limited advice on the paths we can take in life while growing up. It’s normal to find yourself in your twenties feeling lost. Use this time to grow your network and expand your mind by joining communities like Forté Foundation, and learn about others careers in order to find the one that fulfills you.“Redefine success in terms of what makes you happy.”Click To Tweet