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Redefining Success

  I recently had the privilege of writing an article for GLOSS, an online publication and after some thought, I decided to focus on the topic of “success” or more accurately – how can we redefine what it means to be successful.  My premise is that personal fulfilment that comes from taking a broader, more […]

Carol Yang

Success

 

I recently had the privilege of writing an article for GLOSS, an online publication and after some thought, I decided to focus on the topic of “success” or more accurately – how can we redefine what it means to be successful.  My premise is that personal fulfilment that comes from taking a broader, more holistic view of life (beyond work) has to be a vital part of achieving real success in our lives.

You can read the full article below.  I hope you enjoy it….and I would love to hear your thoughts on how you define success in your own life.

The article originally published in the July 2013 issue of GLOSS –

Redefining Success

There is no shortage of dialogue and expert advice around what it takes to be successful at business.  In fact, whenever the topic of “success” is discussed, it invariably centers around business and work.    It’s almost as if work has becomes such a defining area in our life that there’s an unspoken assumption that if one is successful at work, by definition …or it is assumed, that you are equally “successful” in life.  Which frankly, is hogwash.

In contrast, achieving personal fulfilment and success in our overall lives is rarely discussed.   And I would argue that in some corporate circles, even raising the topic will be perceived as being too “soft” and not demonstrating the tireless dedication and commitment required to succeed in the upper echelons of the business world.  This definitely applies to women and I believe, even more so for men.

Redefining and broadening my personal yardstick for success has been a personal quest of mine for a while now.   So I was thrilled to read that the Huffington Post has just concluded its first ever women’s conference to come up with a new definition of what it means to be successful.  In Ariana Huffington’s words …”Right now, the two metrics of success that drive the American workplace are money and power, but by themselves, they make a two-legged stool — fine for balancing on for a short time, but after a while, you’re headed for a fall”.

I couldn’t agree more.  How many of us have chased and successfully acquired the stereotypical badges of success – career title, status, money, power, all the fun stuff that money buys – and yet still feel as if something is missing.  Anthony Robbins states that all humans have 6 universal needs – certainty, variety or uncertainty, significance, love & connection, growth and contribution – that drive our behavior.  How much we value each of these needs determine our actions and what goals we pursue; and to get fulfilment, we need to satisfy our need for growth and contribution.

Perhaps I should pause here and challenge an assumption I am making.

Does fulfilment in life equal success in life ?   Or can you have real success in life without feeling fulfilled ?

What is fulfilment anyway ?!

The Oxford Dictionary defines fulfilment as “satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s potential”.   I love this definition as it gets right down to the crux of it – fully developing one’s potential.  Obviously everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we may agree to disagree.  My belief is that personal fulfilment is a vital part of achieving real success in our lives.   And I don’t mean deriving fulfilment only from our sense of pride and accomplishment at work.  Those definitely put a spring in our step and are important but it is not enough.   Morbidly put, our resume is not going on our epitaph.   I’m talking about fulfilment that comes from taking a broader, more holistic view of life (beyond work) and asking yourself “Is my Life all that I want it to be ?”

A lot of the debate around the hot topic of work-life balance is centered around time.  How we need to spend less time on work and more time on life.  First of all, I have to say that I find the phrase work-life balance a tad odd.  After all, isn’t work part of life ?  When did we elevate work to such significance that we have now marginalized and lumped all the other (equally important) components of our life into the ‘other’ category ?  And ‘balance’ always seems to connote that we have to take from one area to give to the other so we are constantly living in some sort of negative state in one way or another.  Not a particularly inspiring way to live !  But I digress….

My point is – wouldn’t it be more productive to shift the discussion to focus more on how to make the time we spend at work more fulfilling and nourishing for our overall lives ?   For e.g. why aren’t all companies organizing opportunities for employees to volunteer and give back so that it can help satisfy their need to contribute to a greater good.  And how about including courses on life skills that can help meet their employees need for growth and development.  Companies may be pleasantly surprised to find employee retention improving as a result.

So coming back to the 6 universal needs.  The key question is – do you know which of these needs motivates you and fulfils you the most ?  Which needs are not being met adequately enough ?  What’s missing ?  In short, how would you define real success in your own life ?   Glamour editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive, a participant at the Huffington Post conference, calls it “having what matters” instead of thinking about “having it all”.  An important and significant shift in mindset to re-frame how we go about setting goals for ourselves.  With the additional upside of being a little less exhausting.

And bear in mind, I mean what motivates and fulfils YOU personally.  As women, we tend to be givers and have a tendency to take care of everyone else’s needs first….often times at the expense of our own.   If you imagine that all the time, energy and attention in your life is a pie (and who doesn’t love pie !) that gets divided up into slices everyday ….  you would probably give a fairly big slice to your work/career, an equally large (if not slightly smaller) slice to your family, another slice goes to your friends/community etc.  At the end, I suspect the slice you give to yourself, to take care of your own personal physical and mental well being; is probably a small sliver….whatever you can squeeze out at the end of your long day.  Do yourself a favor.  For the next one week, reward yourself with some ‘me’ time.  And during that time, spend some of it thinking about those 6 universal needs and which are most important to you right now.  You might be surprised by what you find out !

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined  – Henry David Thoreau

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