Most people do not feel better immediately after being let go from a good job, yet there I was. Driving home that morning I felt relief. I exhaled deeply.
My career goals were always focused on what I thought success ought to be: achieving a good salary, stability, and ‘moving up’. I should have been crying or angry or motivated to get another job as fast as possible. I wasn’t.
My career compass was broken
I knew deep down that I was not satisfied with the roles I had been doing for years. I made friends with my coworkers, loved my teams and truly enjoyed being part of an emerging field of technology. I also realized just how much time I had devoted to something that was not rewarding. I had fought battles that I didn’t care about, seen good people crushed by office politics. I allowed myself to become numb to the meaninglessness of all of this because my career compass was broken.
I built a dam to hold it all in while managing a career that wasn’t my own. The leaks started months before I was fired. Little indicators that something was wrong. Finally, the morning I exhaled, the dam burst and I found myself staring at a fork in the road. One route encouraged me to build myself up, dust myself off and carry on. The other option was to break myself down into pieces, figuring out how I got here so I could avoid repeating that journey a second time.
This was the beginning of my deconstruction.
What have I discovered about myself during this process?
My ego blindly pursued the ladder of ‘success’, not me. It was so ridiculous that I was determined to get promoted to a job I didn’t even want to be in. ‘How sad is that?’ I thought, ‘all that effort, the stress, the negativity – all so you could be even more miserable?’ That was the life I was living. How much longer would I have let that go on? How much more damaging could it have been to my health, my relationships? I laughed out loud when that realization sunk in and exhaled again. I had been way off course.
Speaking of laughter, it happens more often and more naturally than it has in years. I’m not drained at the end of a day. My energy is not spent achieving someone else’s arbitrary goals. I’m not focused on EBITDA, volumes or market share.
You could say my perspective shifted, but truly it is more accurate to say my perspective shattered.
Success is not what I thought it would be. I’m not the corporate climber I thought I wanted to be. I do not want to work 70 hour weeks for someone else. I do not want to tolerate the office politics; to smile and present the united front to cover up the messiness of the closed-door meeting; all done simply for that ever-important promotion.
What I’ve realized to be important is the ability to focus 100% on what really matters to me. Working for myself can mean long hours. It can also mean midday yoga breaks, long walks to start my day and running errands throughout the week so I can enjoy more time with my husband on the weekend.
It means freedom.
Freedom to choose how I present myself to the world. Freedom to devote my energy to helping others. Freedom to feel fulfilled. Freedom to tell my stories. Freedom to set my boundaries. Freedom to say no. Freedom to jump in with both feet. Freedom to redefine success.
Succeed or fail, this time it’s on my terms.