Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are you pursuing your definition of success?

Since leaving Corporate America and becoming a speaker and a leadership coach I have addressed and worked with thousands of business professionals from all walks of life; from corporate executives, entrepreneurs, working moms, small business leaders, mompreneurs, MBA students and even recent grads.

But many of them often have the same question for me: "How did you do it?"

My answer usually is "Do what?"

And the response to that question is usually met with a dear-in-the-headlights look.

All kidding aside, I am often baffled by the use of the proverbial "it" they are referring to. "It" defines everything and yet nothing. While "It "usually refers to some measure of success or accomplishment, it's important that "it" be clearly defined, and most importantly defined by you.

But this rarely happens.

Most of the time, we are in pursuit of an "it" defined by a collective, societal view of success, not our own.

Also, part of this collective view of success is that we are at the mercy of others deeming whether or not we can have "it". As a result, I often hear people use the proverbial "they"... especially when "it" isn't happening. Generally, "they" are the ones accused of blocking their way, the ones keeping them from accomplishing "it". "They" could be a spouse, a boss, a company, a customer or even a parent.

There was a point in my career when I stalled out. I didn't get an important promotion and as a result I felt like I had taken a huge step backwards. I felt this way because, in the definition of success I was pursuing, the only way to move forward and to be of any value is to get that next promotion. So, at that point, there were many "they" that I was blaming.

When I hit that roadblock along my climb, I didn't recede; I just continued to push harder and harder still.

Sometimes the persistent push works and you make it up the next rung and then the next. But sometimes it doesn't. And you try again and again and yet again, growing more resentful with each push that results with no movement.

In fact, you can become so blinded at this moment that you can only see that next rung on the ladder in front of you. You can't even see that this ladder is no longer taking you to where you want to be. And so you hold onto each step as if it is the only one left; as if there are no other steps possible.

Many of my coaching clients that have come to work with me often have "get promoted" as their top objective. Over time, some learn that this objective is not really what they seek; it is just the only result they know because they are so gripped with fear for stepping outside of that common definition of success.

You see, our fear keeps us pursuing this common definition of success and makes us believe that someone can actually knock you down from that ladder and take those steps away from you forever.

But they can't.

No one can knock you off that ladder. No one can take away those steps you have laid so carefully before you to get you to where you are today.

Those steps you have accomplished are yours to keep. They are yours to take with you and to build new steps upon them, to create a new ladder.

A ladder that takes you to your newly defined "it", your definition of success.

And guess what? In your newly created definition for success, there is no one else to blame, no one else standing in your way, except yourself.

When you create your own definition of success you relinquish the blame you place on others because you have taken the first step of accountability towards creating your success by defining it.

We rarely take the opportunity to ask these questions:

Is the definition of success you are pursuing worth changing?
Does your definition of success need to be redefined?
Should you be climbing a different ladder to get there?
Can you make a bigger ripple, a bigger impact with an entirely different ladder?
For me the answer was a resounding "Yes."

So, what about you, what's your definition of success and is the ladder you are on taking you there?

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