Redefining Success: One Size Does Not Fit All
How does success look for you? In fact, let’s try this out—think about how you envisioned a successful life 10 or 15 years ago, and compare it to your vision of success today. Did it change? While you think about that one, let me share mine.
Fifteen years ago, my definition of success wasn’t really mine. I borrowed it from my parents’, and it went something like this: “Success means finding a good job in a good company, making good money, and retiring gracefully after 40 years of job security.” And folks—‘good’ is always relative.
Today, my definition of success is lighter. It’s more flexible, it makes sense for me and for the life I’m building, and it can be summed up in four words: purpose, profit, peace, and joy. If the work I do today grants me these, then you’ll find me swimming in the pool of success. Scratch that – you’ll find me floating. On a rainbow-colored unicorn floatie, holding an ice-cold bottle of kombucha.
As much as I love me a Pinterest board, the inspiration I’m talking about goes beyond a mood or a vision board. If I ask you what inspires you the most, could you answer as quickly and automatically as Netflix plays the next episode?
Self-confidence inspires me. I’m especially inspired by women who believe in themselves with such conviction, that the only thing on hold is another call (you know, vs. their dreams). Some are entrepreneurs, some are side-hustlers, some are full-timers working a 9-to-5. And all are trying to find the kind of balance that will allow them to do everything to achieve their own version of success.
Because—you can do everything—just not at the same time. I learned this after over a decade of working in marketing and PR, holding my productivity hostage to never-ending to-do lists with boxes waiting to be checked, and non-personal goals to attend to.I wasn’t born with the this-is-what-you’ll-do-for-the-rest-of-your-life chip. I always felt like there was something more; that I wasn’t meant to do just one thing or stay in one corporate job forever. Most of my professional life I’ve been working the good jobs, at the good companies, making decent money, and following someone else’s definition of success.
Until I realized I could do anything. I could be anything. And still work the good jobs. Somewhere in the middle, I found the way to complete a yoga teacher training and get certified as a health coach. Do I make a living doing the latter? No. Do these practices bring me immense joy? Heck yes.
Staying True to You
There is not one way to live your life; not one way to do anything. Yet, there’s a shared misconception that every adult should have everything figured out by a certain age (ahem, 30). That there’s a sequence of events that need to happen before you’re too late, or too old but definitely not while it’s too early or you’re too young. It’s like we live under a predetermined, collectively accepted norm stating that if you specialize in one subject you must make it your life’s work. As if choosing to focus on one of your passions, instantly bans you from pursuing another one.
In case no one ever told you: You are free to fulfill as many interests as you can handle, regardless of what you do for a living. Neither your profession, job, title, nor salary define who you are. And above all—they don’t determine your value.
I had to pull over and stop my car mid-listen to playback and write down what I’d just heard. I was deep in Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability, having all sorts of ‘aha’ moments listening to Guidepost #9, from her “10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living.” Something in me clicked and my perspective was forever changed. The car-stopping, life-altering, relatable nugget of wisdom is called: “Cultivating meaningful work, letting go of self-doubt and ‘supposed to’.”
In case you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Brené Brown and her work, I’ll do my best to illustrate. She’s a researcher and storyteller who began studying emotions like vulnerability, shame, and guilt. This led her to shift the focus to what happens after we overcome limiting beliefs associated with the feelings above, and we start owning our story. Spoiler alert: We let joy in, and start living a wholehearted life. Through her research, Brown found that wholehearted people do work that they care about, that they’re passionate about and that generates a sense of purpose.
Recognizing Your Passion and Purpose
She mentions a variety of scenarios and groups of people, that I summarize below (I’m using my own terminology for naming them here):
The Side-Hustlers with Purpose: people with a 9-to-5 job that doesn’t necessarily have them bursting with passion, but it pays the bills. However, they have an on-the-side (a side-hustle, or passion project) enabling that feeling of joy and purpose for them.
The Unicorns: the fortunate folks who have that one job with which they feed their families, themselves and their souls. They are fulfilled.
The Naturals: People fulfilled by their job, who find some purpose and meaning in it, but mostly because it’s a good job and they do it well.
What I find interesting about the last group, is that on top of having a job that doesn’t make them miserable, they have an on-the-side something that fills whatever void is left by their day job, and it can either generate extra income, or—listen closely—not. Or, they do volunteer work.
Through a series of stories stemming from her research, Brené Brown argues that we live in a society where it’s frowned upon to invest your time in something that feeds your soul, but doesn’t thicken your wallet. I agree.
There are people who are fortunate enough to find their passion early in life, and make a living out of it, or who ditch their 9-to-5 to pursue what genuinely feeds their soul. And there are some who desperately dream of quitting a job that is not fulfilling, or following a passion out of pure enjoyment, but due to their current situation that isn’t an immediate possibility.
If you relate to the first group: kudos for the clarity. Rooting for you.
And if you’re relating to that second group, I leave you with what I consider is the most powerful segment of Guidepost #9:
“...So, if you’re on the fence about if you have the ability to feed your soul or feed your family or feed yourself with work you love, it’s worth whatever you have to do, to make that happen.
It’s really worth that leap.
If you don’t have that option, it is absolutely worth the leap of finding a way to express yourself, and work in some contribution that reflects who you are. And you have the right to do that even if you don’t make any money and you have to carve away time from the rest of your life to do it.
...It’s important, it’s part of who we are.”
May you continue believing in yourself, redefining your meaning of success, and doing more of what feeds your soul.
This piece was written and contributed by:
Jit is a PR & marketing person trained in journalism, health coaching and yoga—writing about most things wellness. She helps entrepreneurs PR the ef out of their superpowers, specializing in content strategy, copy makeovers and spotting PR-able angles.
She finds joy in a cup of coffee, in a nourishing read or an inspiring podcast, and in rediscovering paradise in her native Panama—where she lives with her husband, his son and their Shih Tzu, Valentina.