Would you let an eighteen-year old choose your life, your career? Probably not. But that is exactly what most people do. We live with a quiet discontent until we can no longer stand to go to work for even one more day. Our company downsizes, and our job is eliminated; we are forced to reassess our career goals. Or, we suffer a health challenge that makes our current career impossible. In each case, somehow life is saying: “It is time to rethink success.” If this sounds familiar, here are five steps that can help you redefine success, your way.
Step 1: List at least five core values. Core values are beliefs that are non-negotiable. If you aren’t completely happy in your career, you can be sure a value is being challenged. Values can usually be defined in one word such as: integrity, security, authenticity, or spontaneity. Often we get our values from our parents and authority figures, but we are happy that we have them. They resonate with our true Self, and the world feels right when our values are honored.
Step 2: Fill in the blanks. I am a (blank), and I am successful because (blank). “I am a rock star, and I am successful because I have thousands of screaming fans.” Now do it again. “I am a mother, and I am successful because my children are happy and pursuing their passions. I am pioneer because I invent products that make people’s lives easier.” Do it again and again until you feel complete.
Step 3: Review the list from Step 2, and toss out any answers that have strong emotion or excitement connected with them. Now, choose the top one to two responses that feel the most peaceful and resonate with your heart. These answers must also honor the values you listed in Step 1.
Step 4: Get an image in your mind of what your Step 3 choices look like. Would you be working from your home in your pajamas? Would you be meeting with business leaders? Would you be dressed in drag on a Las Vegas stage? If you aren’t visual, imagine how you would feel or what words you might hear.
Step 5: Now comes the hard step. Answer these three questions honestly. Write as many answers as come to mind.
Who would be disappointed if you pursued this dream? Your parents, your third-grade teacher, or your ego. I met a man recently who talked endlessly about his love for flying. He was in his 70’s, and his body was severely crippled. I asked him when he last flew; and he said, “When I was twenty.” I had to ask why he quit. He said, “My mother was afraid of my flying. She asked me to quit, and I made her happy.” He justified the remark and then stopped talking. There was nothing more to say.
What do I believe that I have to do to fulfill my dream? That doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. You can change your beliefs. But for right now, this is your proposed action list.
What happened in my past (usually childhood) that caused me to ignore this dream? Often the answer involves humiliation, which is said to be a more potent fear than death for most people. This answer is about putting all of your cards out on the table. And when you’ve finished writing, just ask yourself if that remark or incident was worth giving up your dream.
They say the best revenge is a successful and happy life. Success is personal. We live in a world where money, power, and fame are considered the true definition of success. But if you honestly answered these questions, I’m sure you now see that success is much more personal and unique. You have to build your career just like Burger King builds a burger. You have to have it YOUR way!