Recently, one of my friends was doing a blog post on this subject, and asked me what success meant for me, and how it related to work.
It kind of freaked me out a little because I had been feeling anxious about my future, and wasn’t even sure what being successful meant to me anymore. A couple of months ago, success meant finishing my master’s thesis without going crazy. So, it changes every month depending on what I’m doing. What I realized during a brainstorming process was that my sense of happiness, success and work has taken a 180 degree turn in the past year.
Back when I graduated from college, I didn’t have a clear path and was unsure of where I wanted to go. I hadn’t thought about where my career would take me or what I wanted to achieve, but somehow I ended up exactly where I needed to be at that time.
After entering the workforce, I wanted to take over the corporate world. I loved what I was doing; I created meaningful working relationships; I was learning and I was having fun. My definition of success back then was being a young professional and having great responsibility in a big company, which allowed me to grow and learn a lot. As time passed, I started developing goals, such as, continued promotion, earning more money and having more things.
I am not saying that wanting all those things is bad, and I still want some of them. But when the time came and I didn’t get them, it was sort of heartbreaking, but as the Dalai Lama said, “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” Back then, I didn’t see it that way, but that realization allowed me to assess where my life was going and if I actually wanted to go there. I would have never done that if things had been different, and for that I will be forever grateful.
I realized that I had lost myself while trying to achieve it all. I could no longer see the positive impact of the work I was doing, in spite of actually having a great opportunity to impact people through my role. It mainly came down to me being tired, uninspired and stuck in a mental state of conformism regarding my own life and, of course, my work as well. My idea of success was so far off that it didn’t belong to me anymore.
All of this built up on top of my craving to travel more and have time to write; to get into the digital buzz of my field; get my master’s degree, and do all the things I once said I wanted to do. There was nothing else I could do but have a change of scenery. I needed to take some time and space to figure out who I was regarding work and success.
It was not easy to let go of all the things I had achieved; the life I had built; the person I was back then. It took me a while to make peace with the fact that everything must constantly change, otherwise we get stuck. But eventually I did; I quit my job, bought a plane ticket and enrolled in a master’s degree in another country.
Fast-forward a year, and my current definition of success is nothing like the old one, and importantly, it constantly changes. Now, I couldn’t be more proud of myself, of who I am and what I am doing. Today, success for me is living a constant adventure; learning things that I didn’t even know existed or could be possible; low-cost travelling; seasons (I just love winter!); getting to know like-minded people; and friends that have become family to me. Success is knowing that no matter what happens or how much time goes by, I can always go back home to my safe space.
What I work on now is putting my passion into everything I do – and I mean EVERYTHING. It also means working towards becoming the kind of person my dog thinks I am, building my creative writing career and expanding my corporate comms knowledge, or whatever comes my way, because one thing I have discovered is that the field I chose can take me anywhere (Yay!). My most important job right now is being brave and never allowing fear to ever stop me again.
But not everything is always rainbows and unicorns. Knowing what I want also means knowing what I have to lose in order to get it. I have had some rough times and have also had to let go of other things, like the certainty of a permanent job for example, although, now that I think about it, I don’t think anyone really has job security in today’s economy.
I had to let go of being physically close to my family and some friends; of belonging to the place I live in and knowing it like the back of my hand; of having a well-nurtured network; and I had to start building everything from scratch once again. But in the end, it is all worth it, I promise.
And probably, if you ask me next year, I am going to have a different definition of success. But for now I know that one of my major successes is being able to take a leap of faith in myself, and being able to live without any certainties at all.