changing your definition of success


 Photo source: Arriane Serafico


I was listening to episode 53 of Elise Cripe's podcast one day about what success means. I'm not what it was, but I really resonated with the episode and the discussion about how your vision of success changes over time. Driving though farm country makes me think too much.

Ten years ago, I thought I would be making major bucks working as an engineer at NASA , traveling the world as a renowned international journalist, or kicking Russian butt in the CIA. Seriously, those were my three careers in high school and I totally thought I would have achieved all of my major career goals by 27 (ok, let's say 30 to give my younger self some credit). The common theme between them, besides being pretty difficult to obtain by 27, is that I always defined "success" by how awesome my future career would be.

And then a recession and adulthood hit and changed how I would view success.

I graduated college in 2010, in Florida no less. I thought I would have a full-time, high-paying job the day I graduated with my international studies degree (let's laugh at that), but I didn't have any job for six months after graduation. When I did find a job, it was tutoring math part-time in a high school. For someone who was so career-goal-oriented, this was a huge blow. Here I was, stuck in the middle of a recession not having enough experience to land even a secretarial job. Recessions suck. I know that first hand now. Every day I had to remind myself that I was pretty successful, despite the tough times going on. I was in grad school studying something I loved AND I was making some income on a reliable basis. In 2010, that was pretty damn successful for a social science grad who had made her first round of career decisions while living through a boom time. They weren't smart, but how is a 17 year-old in 2005 supposed to know that?

As I progressed through the early stages of adulthood I saw my ideas of success change from career-oriented to life-oriented. I settled into a career and into a stable relationship. I started wanting more than just the cool-sounding job title. Success for me looks so different than it did in 2005. In the short-term, success means finally getting that k2tog tbl stitch to work or to nail the cooking time on that rack of lamb. In the long-term, it means being able to contribute for my family. Yes, this is all a natural part of adulting, but coming of age during that recession really taught me to go with the flow and enjoy the small successes in life.

I still want to be a successful person (who doesn't?), but my vision is less about being a rock star and more about just being happy.

How has your idea of success changed over time? Let me know in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “changing your definition of success

  1. Great post. I, too, once defined my success by resume-type items. The things I volunteered for or jobs I held.Success is about so much more for me now. I’d rather do the right thing at work in a career I’m happy in than be making big bucks doing the wrong things for the wrong company.


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