Success for me has changed over the years. Maybe it’s ages or experience, some wisdom that you gain or the more you see the world. It is not what it used to me for sure though I cannot tell you distinctively when that happened. The measurements of success also changed for me. My goals and dreams were still large and you would think simply accomplishment of those would equate to success but I found a different view that made earning something all the more rewarding.
Success to me used to be climbing that corporate ladder. We are trained to want that in our work. Moving up, getting an office, special parking spot or bigger title. It is hard earned for most of us. Certainly there are situations where it seems like someone just breezes in and has it handed to them but the truth is they too worked for it in one way or the other. It is not easy to get and even harder at times to hang onto.
The prospect of a bigger title and an office at work used to be big motivators for me. It meant more money for one thing, some extra benefits and incentives that made it seem like a good reward. The emotional side of it imprinted on me as well. I felt proud of my accomplishments, work, contributions that led to that moment. I did something great and was being recognized for it, that’s why we do what we do right? That’s what success looks and feels like when we win. Those are good things that make the world turn and our own personal situations better.
Success can mean a trip up the corporate ladder to high senior ranks of a company. Anyone who makes it there and more importantly stays there, has earned it. Having been there myself I know all of what it took to get it but what I found at the top was eye opening and something I didn’t want to be a part of. From any organization we are in we see the top leaders as having it all. In reality it is some of the most cut throat, backstabbing and lonely work you will ever do in most corporations. It wasn’t worth it to me and that’s when I started to see what success really was much differently.
When I left upper management and returned to a mid-level manager role I was forced to also redefine success. To many who looked at my resume, it was seen as a step down. I mean seriously who leaves top management? The perception there is only a one way street of success in working is what has given us this combative competition in work environments. Only those that truly win getting moved higher in title, position and responsibilities is not the only way to have success and yet many of us fall for that line of thinking.
The truth is success is when we have not only accomplished a goal but it is the effort we put into something. Success can be measured by the results and the effort that we applied to getting progress on that goal. It is not a one sided win or fail that determines outcomes. In corporate work however, we too often only see the results that get included in the measurement because of it’s impact to profits and returns on investments. I find this to be a shortsighted view of success that while important certainly does not account for the human element to what made that possible.
I think the disconnect is we have stopped seeing each other as humans at work. Our focus is purely on the outcomes, results, productivity and numbers. Again all of that is important but we’ve displaced our focus to zone in on this only in too many cases. It is this inability to see the whole picture that gives the impossible demands, unrealistic deadlines and competitive bite to corporate work. The outcome of that is the dog eat dog environment we find in too many cultures. Success gets whittled down to a number on a spreadsheet and we base decisions and plans around that forgetting the non-tangible elements that make it possible to achieve those numbers.
My own success is still measured by the numbers and performance of results at work but they are also something deeper personally. When I stopped chasing the numbers I started to realize a deeper meaning to success in m life. Chasing the numbers, titles, offices, special benefits and perks did not equate to success in my physical and emotional health. It also did not make me a better person, my family more connected, or the things I actually work for more possible. It simply filled a bank account; which is great and makes a lot of things accessible but it doesn’t fulfill your soul.
The old adage money doesn’t buy happiness should also say it doesn’t buy you time either. I found I was forfeiting too much of the important things in life when I only defined my success in terms of my corporate job. My success was being measured and folded into someone else’s , some entity, where I was just a number and my productivity numbers were some factor to determine overall profit and success. They were numbers that in the end did very little to the results in my own definition of success. We forget that, or at least I certainly did, when we are wrapped up in the goals and demands of our jobs a lot of the time. It is what I realized when I saw climbing the ladder was not all I thought it would be when I got to the top.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to climb that ladder. It is ambitious and can be rewarding, maybe I’ve just been in the wrong companies when I did it. However, if you only measure your success in life as that job, your house, car, what’s in your bank account or some other number and status symbol you’re missing what success really means. Success actually means when we strike that balance between the numbers we are chasing and the feeling it gives us that expands to every corner of our lives. Natural success is when we win everywhere in our life. It is not just more it is the right more.
As I started out building my own business and growing in my natural journey I stopped counting my success by the numbers alone. Success was now the creation of time freedom, family and friend relationships, lives directly touched and how I felt emotionally and physically. It was my effort that I put into something and how it made me feel. Those aspects of success are so often not even considered in a corporate setting. It is what gives striking out on your own as an entrepreneur the appeal and motivation to try it.
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