This is a question that I often ask myself. Weekly, daily or on a day that I am just procrastinating and putting something off, or that I am just finding things a bit hard. You know how it is. The juggling – home, work, life, the stuff we all do as working mums and, indeed, parents.
But before putting this question out there to clients and in workshops, there is an even more important question which I put to you today: what does success mean to you? What does living a successful life mean to you?
I’ll come back to ways that you can set yourself up to succeed in your career in future articles, and indeed, that is a core theme for me in terms of career navigation. It’s about making sure that you are owning your choices and your career and not waiting for others to make decisions for you.
But today, I encourage you to take a few moments. Pick up a pen and a blank page, and ask yourself 'what does success mean to me?' Think about it in the wider sense of the word; think about work, family, life, relationships and your own well-being.
Twelve months from now, you look at your life and you can say, “Yes, I am living the life that I want to live, and the way that I want to live it”. Or it may be that you are moving towards an objective that you have set for yourself and your family.
When you are thinking about what success means to you, make sure that you are stripping away what others expect from you or have expected of you in the past. Delete the word ‘should’ from the equation. Don’t think about your sister, your friends, your colleagues or anyone else who may be influencing how you define success for yourself. Don’t think about what you should be doing; focus on what you want to do.
Once we have the clarity around what we are striving for in terms of success, then we can break it down into bite-size chunks and start to make the small changes, the little tweaks that will make a difference. Then we can start thinking about the bigger things – a career change, a promotion, taking the foot off the pedal for a little while in your career – or making sure that your foot is firmly on the pedal and you are in the driving seat of moving your career forward. Whatever works for you at this point in time is what you need to strive for. You just need to be clear about it and not hide from it.
For me personally, success is made up of two things at the moment. A sense of achievement is very important for me from a work perspective, but always in the context of a happy/balanced life. The balance piece is not always easy, and is something that we all strive for, which is why we put such high expectation for ourselves. Sometimes, if I’m particularly busy, I just have to step back and say that it’s okay; I’m doing well, and good is good enough. But I always have the big picture of what success and balance looks like. If I’m feeling stuck, or that we are living in survival mode, I step back and look at what’s not working and why I feel like that.
It helps to break down the various components of what success looks like for you. For working mums, things like being organised, being present when you are with the kids, having fun, having a social life, having a real uninterrupted conversation and time with your partner often come up in the picture of what success looks like. Other categories could be finances, exercise, travel, adventure, being creative, and well-being. And then there is work - what is success at work? Be honest. I always encourage women to make sure that they have something in there about looking after themselves. It’s so easy not to do, but so important to schedule time in to re-charge your own batteries. Practicing mindfulness and bringing increased awareness to slowing down are really working for me at the moment.
What works for you?
So, I encourage you to take some time, over a coffee, to ask yourself ‘what does success mean to me?’ Taking time to think is not something that we do often enough in our busy lives. Keep it real. Make it realistic – with a little bit of the aspirational thrown in, too.
Next time, we’ll look at some of the career-related areas where you can really set yourself up to succeed.