There’s something about success that doesn’t hinge right for some. While achieving success is expected in today’s competitive world, once it is indeed achieved, how do you define it – are you an extension of your success or vice versa? Are you all about your success or are you an individual who has a clear well defined idea of who you are as a person?
For some, there seems to be no persona other than that defined by what they have achieved. Yet, for others, their success is only an achievement; they remain very much who they were before success came to them.
Beyond ‘non-me’ purposes
A study conducted among the Girl Scouts of America showed that only 14 percent of girls have any aspirations to build a power base for themselves. Over 60 percent preferred to reach out to others, impacting the outer world as opposed to the inner world – this included changing the world in terms of using whatever personal success or power achieved, to go beyond ‘non-me’ purposes.
Often, as children, we are taught to be modest about achievement and to assume that success will not, rather must not change who we are. Yet, we live in a world that worships success, places too much of an emphasis on getting the right education, the right job, the right looks, the right partner and the right house. Outside influence therefore can drive us into assuming – sometimes falsely, sometimes dangerously – that what we have achieved is what we are, inside and out.
How do achievements measure up with life’s mission and goals? Clinical Psychologist Joanna Foote Adler told Forbes Women that often times, a woman is likely to prize her standing in her family and her cultural grounding above personal success. It can happen even to the most competent woman, says Adler and it can and does throw spanner in the works.
Victory may, for some, equal decimating or threatening existing relationships. For an example, if the husband is employed at a lesser level than the wife, then it may become an issue between them no matter how high she will fly. If a career move upwards involves being posted to another country, it will once again involve complications of children and parents being left behind.
Seeing outside fish lens
Whether you choose to wear your achievements on your laurels or take it in your stride, success can never define what you are or what you can become. We all know the stories that stand testimony to those who let success ruin otherwise healthy lives. Sometimes success and a belief or a moral system within you may collide; especially when in order to achieve success, if compromising is called for. Where and how do you draw the line?
Major General Mary Saunders of the Leadership Institute, University of Texas says that involving someone in your career who will hold you to task and introduce a sense of accountability is one way of ensuring that success stays within bounds. Having a scale of balance will enable you to see outside the fish lens and connect with whatever that’s happening around you. This is important since sometimes, you can become myopic when in a high-powered career.
All too often, some of us develop that killer instinct that serves us so well in building a business or a thriving career. We know we can get it done and we can maintain a ruthless pace but what if that killer instinct, so admired in business, is also what defines you as a wife or a mother? Would the admiration be the same? Not likely.
Trouble is you cannot let your corporate or entrepreneurial success define who you are. Who you are is a blueprint that is already there; that in itself is a unique statement that ideally must not be tarnished by what you have or have not achieved.
Learning vs. fixed mindset
Emilie Cortes, who left a job as an investment consultant managing over US $ 7 billion in assets to head Call of the Wild Adventure Inc., an adventure travel company for women, told Forbes Women she found similarities between mountain climbing, her hobby, and working in corporate America. Small but achievable progressions help her in climbing some of the world’s highest peaks; yet in the corporate world, it’s the opposite.
We live in a world that worships success, places too much of an emphasis on getting the right education, the right job, the right looks, the right partner and the right house
Fortunately, for today’s young men and women, there are many careers out there that involve a great deal of adventure and challenges rather than sitting in the boardroom and going over the charts. With technology setting us free to work at multiple locations, we no longer need to define success that must be set along fixed parameters. Doing different things and doing them while interacting with the world, can set a new level of achievement that does not necessarily have to be one achieved making the right moves.
Acquiring a learning mindset is far more advantageous than a fixed one, as they say. With a fixed mindset, you either have competence and potential or you don’t—if you don’t perform near flawlessly for example, you are a failure. With a learning mindset however, intelligence is seen as a changeable, fluid characteristic that can be developed with effort. A learning mindset leads to greater persistence when faced with adversity and most important, greater resilience.
Who you are is a blueprint that is already there; that in itself is a unique statement that ideally must not be tarnished by what you have or have not achieved
What does it all mean at the end of the day? Put simply, it means that we are not what we have built ourselves as careers. We are and will be the individuals we are, human beings with needs and wants, who thrive in environments that foster great inter-personal relationships. We need to keep that mind at all times.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior writer, journalist and a PR professional, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)