Have you ever had that moment in your career where you had everything you thought you wanted...but then realized that you didn't want it anymore? How did you get here? And more importantly, how should you adjust your course so that your career is heading in the right direction?
Redefining success on your own terms requires you to examine your goals and values, identify what is important to you, let go of what no longer matters, and create a more accurate and honest definition based on who you are and what you care about today.
I recently spoke with an entrepreneur who loves what he is doing now. He grew up in France and spent most of his career as a young adult following his passion for learning new languages and travel by working in the hospitality industry. But at a certain point in his career, he did a short stint as a financial analyst at an investment banking firm because he wanted to "get serious" about his career path. He saw that the executives that he worked with all had finance backgrounds and thought that for him to get ahead he would need the same experience. But once he started working in finance he learned that spending 15 hours a day pouring over excel spreadsheets wasn't his idea of an enjoyable career. In less than a year and half, he walked away from finance and returned to follow his passion for learning and travel which led him to his current venture.
As a coach, I hear a common theme among my clients where they chose to follow a conventional path to success rather than follow their own judgment or intuition. The unconscious belief they held was that it was smarter to follow a popular or practical career path rather than one that was unique and personal to them. Following their own path didn't seem to have the same credibility that more common career paths offered. Yet time and time again what eventually happened was when the conventional path to success led to a dead end it was their intuition that led them down a path that was a better fit.
What Definition of Success Did You Grow Up With?
Where do our ideas about success come from? As a kid, I was obsessed with sports, movies, and music. As a 20 something coming out of college with a marketing degree, my dream was to work in the sports or entertainment industry. My definition of success looked like having a job as some marketing executive, movie producer, or sports agent where I could spend my days hanging out with celebrities and making lots of money.
As it turned out I got what I wished for and spent over a decade working with big brands and artists in the sports and entertainment industries. From Reebok and Def Jam to Jay-Z and Kanye West I got to work on fun and exciting projects. My workdays included things like pick up basketball with NBA Players, meetings about the latest Rihanna album, and private parties at NYC nightclubs.
So it was a little disappointing when after so many years of doing what I thought I wanted I never experienced that sense of fulfillment that I wanted from my career. In my case, I had climbed the ladder of success and realized that it was leaning against the wrong wall.
A conventional definition OF SUCCESS
How did I get to this point? Like many people, as I grew up I adopted a definition of success that was fed to me by my environment. By taking cues from family, friends, and the media I picked up on what they defined as successful and adopted that definition as my own, without questioning it. While this conventional definition of success got me pretty far according to society's standards at a certain point I could tell something wasn't clicking. By all accounts, I should have been happy with where I was and what I was doing but I wasn't.
AN AUTHENTIC DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
How do you define success when you don't really know what you want? When I reached my career crossroads moment I spent my time on typical job search activities like surfing online job boards and networking. But I also spent my time doing things just for fun like taking classes in public speaking and personal development. In hindsight, I now see that I was being guided by both my practical side and my intuitive side as I tried to figure out my next step. And it was actually the fun that I was having, inspired by an intuitive desire to pursue certain activities, that eventually got me out of my rut and closer to my ideal career path.
It was in these class environments that I began to form a new definition of success. One that was not influenced by outside forces but rather by internal experiences. I no longer cared about celebrities, job titles, or name brand companies. In these classes I got to experience what it was like to speak from my heart, connect with people on a deep level, and be part of a supportive community committed to each other's growth. These classes helped me define what success meant to me based on how they made me feel. They gave me a new sense of direction from which I could explore professional opportunities that felt like the right fit. The result was that I found a new career where I felt happier, more engaged, more productive, and like I was making better use of my strengths and talents.
intuition plays a practical role in your SUCCESS
When you reach a point in your career where the next step is not clear, relying on the activities that got you to this point may no longer be useful. In order to move in a new direction you will need new tools and methods. Had I limited myself to practical job search activities, I would not have discovered both this new definition of success and this new career path as a coach. Following my intuition taught me that while the destination may not be crystal clear, paying attention to what feels right can be the guidance that you need to navigate your career change more confidently.
From my own experience and from those of my clients and professionals that I speak to on a daily basis it has become clear that the path to a successful career is an inside-out process. Meaning that gaining self-awareness, understanding what we care about and what motivates us, must precede strategies like updating resumes and applying for jobs if we want to find the right job. Without knowing what we want, we are in danger of drifting aimlessly down the path of least resistance towards whatever opportunity happens to show up next.
What can you do today to take action on your intuition? What is something that you know you want to do that may feel scary but also exciting? What could you do today just for the fun of it? Who could you talk to that is doing something you find interesting? What makes you inexplicably curious? Leave your answers in the comment section below. I'd love to hear from you!
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