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I remember a few years back when I was reconnecting with an old friend and learned about  her love of corporate culture. She is one of those people who thrives in the corporate environment and works hard to work her way up. She’s great at her job and, although it’s not always a slice of pie, she’s happy and content to commute every day, put her time in and go home. With a great salary and awesome health benefits, she’s got it made!

At the time I had no idea what I wanted in life and thought of myself as a failure, that I was in my mid-twenties and had not a clue as to what I wanted to do (yup, mid-twenties and thought I was a failure because I didn’t have my entire life laid out before me – oh the idealism…). My friend’s enthusiasm for career dreams and her job in general transferred over to me and I started to feel that all I needed was a bit of a push and I could work up in my own job (data entry for a small business) and get myself a career!

There was just one little problem: I hated my job. I was working for an independent company with two offices and I was the only person in my office aside from the sales manager. There was literally no where to go in that company and I didn’t even like the company! But I threw all that aside and felt that I wasn’t getting any younger so I might as well stick with it so I could be “successful.”

Well let me tell you that my “enthusiasm” for getting a career in the data entry industry quickly waned and instead of just going through the motions like I was before, I got worse. I went from hating the job to loathing it and getting frustrated at myself in the process. Frustrated because I thought there was something wrong with me that I clearly didn’t want a career in the traditional sense. I thought that to be successful in life you needed to have a high-paying career and mean something in a company and then you could provide for you family and that was all there was to it. My dislike for corporate culture and working for “the man” seemed to be at odds with the norm. When I expressed this to my then boyfriend, he seemed to have a similar attitude towards success and said it was because I had a “small-town mind.” No worries, we broke up!

No, there wasn’t anything wrong with me. No, I didn’t have a “small-town mind” (whatever that even means). All I had was a different definition of success!

There is no static definition of success. Even the dictionary defines it as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” It doesn’t say “work up the corporate ladder.” What I thought success was to my friend (and to be honest, I was projecting her definition of success as working her way up the corporate ladder, I had no idea what her idea of success actually was) was certainly not success to me. When I sat down and asked myself to define success I came up with “Success is living my life on my own terms and not what others think I ought to do or what I think others feel I ought to do.” Success, to me, is knowing that I’ve lived my life honouring my values and with integrity. It has nothing to do with status, financial means or my career title. As long as how I walk and talk are in congruence with my values, that is success to me.

What is success to you?

Photo credit: Tyrone Shum

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