Success is not defined by your career.

I have always been someone motivated and driven by my career results. I love the idea of working. I’m a bit of a workaholic, and I love it. 

Nothing wrong with being a working woman. I’m very passionate about what I do.

However, there are times when my career doesn’t always go the way that I plan it to. Which isn’t a bad thing. We should always look for the learning opportunity where we are currently planted. 

But, that doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated by my career outcomes. 

three women sitting beside table

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Success was once always defined by how well I performed at my job (or at school when that was applicable). If I was excelling and getting good remarks from my managers then I knew I was successful. Or, if I was handed a big project because there was so much trust for me to handle it, then I knew I was successful. Or, if I was consistently making A+ grades in all of my classes, then I knew I was successful. 

But what about the times when life kicks you? When you realize that you aren’t performing at 1000% all the time. Let’s face it….you can’t run at 1000% 100% of the time. It’s exhausting and burn-out happens.

I’m not saying you should be lazy at your job – always give your full effort and attention – but what happens when we define our success in the moments where we can’t give 1000% because…..

  • You are facing a family tragedy. 
  • You are struggling financially to pay your mortgage. 
  • Your credit card bill keeps rising instead of shrinking 
  • You just found out some terrible medical news. 
  • You start doubting your ability to be a good wife (or husband). 
  • Your kids aren’t living the life you taught them and are instead running away from it. 
  • You doubt your ability to lead because of what everyone is telling you. You let them inside your head. 
  • You are facing depression that you cannot pinpoint, and think it shouldn’t be this way. 
  • Your manager isn’t giving you the opportunities you deserve to show your 1000% dedication. 
  • etc etc etc…. and more.

It’s these small moments that seem to appear like mountains that frustrate our career. And the fact is – it WILL happen. At some point in our lives, one of the scenarios above (or others), will happen in our life.

sleeping woman in train at daytime

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

Then we ask the question…am I successful? Turns out, in those moments, we typically say no.

Because our focus has shifted, but our attitude has not. 

Basically, we are kicking our selves while we are already down on the ground. We are allowing ourselves to live a rollercoaster ride. When our career is successful then we are successful, but when our career isn’t successful then we are failures. 

But, there is something we must know. Our attention, in these life moments, will shift from career-mode to survival-mode. Work will still be important to us, but in those moments we are trying to make it through.

Because of this, you may, at times, be distracted at work from these moments. You can’t tell me for those 8 -to 12 hours (shout out to the nurses) that you never once think about what’s going on at home or in your life.

(And this is where I tell managers to allow some grace to their staff who go through these life moments). 

It’s a season. But, in this season we need to REDEFINE success. Especially for us workaholics. 

I cannot allow my definition of success to come from my career. Some of it – sure – but not all of it. I don’t want to stay on that rollercoaster forever.

So, I’ve started making a list of things that I’ve accomplished that are outside of my career/school achievements. And, to be honest, life got a lot brighter because of it. 

Some of the items on my list include: 

  • I call my parents every day because I don’t live in the same town as them. I am proud of the relationship I have with them. I don’t ever want to get so caught up in life that I forget my rock – my family. One day they will pass away – I don’t want to regret “not pouring into” that relationship for the sake of my career focus. 
  • I have been dating a wonderful and amazing man for over 8 years and we are about to get married. We have built a beautiful platform for open communication for both the good and bad discussions that I feel like we can lean on for a healthy stable marriage. 
  • I ate well today. I had a full serving of vegetables and lean meats, and some fiber for fullness. I feel good today. 
  • I was able to sleep ALL through the night and get the rest I needed to feel recharged. 
  • I got to do the yoga I wanted to do in order to stretch out my muscles. My body deserved it. 
  • I wrote on my blog today. My outlet for my love of writing. 
  • I got to spend time with my close and personal friends last week and have a thousand laughs – my belly is full of happiness. 

It’s these smaller, more human-like, accomplishments that we should shift our attitude towards. Our focus has shifted from career to life, but our attitude still defines success in a career even when our focus isn’t there anymore. We have to shift both. 

three women sitting by the table having coffee and smiling

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

And even if our career is going well for us how can we ever forget the life accomplishments that we face? 

We don’t live for our careers. It is a large part of our life and should gain our full attention and effort, but I can no longer base HOW I am doing in life FROM my career. There is much more to it than that.

40 hours (the typical work-week) out of 168 hours (a full week) is about 24% of our weekly schedule. 24% of our time is given to our career.

How can we forget about the other 76%? 

Yes, I know that out of that 168 hours roughly 33% is sleeping, but getting a good night’s rest IS an accomplishment because it has to do with our health. And, there is still 43% that still matters. Almost half.

I want you to evaluate your life and measure what matters to you. Make a list. Then detail how you would define success in those areas. 

It’s time we stop putting all of our “success” in our careers and start measuring the other 76%. 

This to do 1. Own today printed frame beside teal headset

Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

Cover Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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