Career Advice

Defining Success in Your Own Terms

posted on February 23, 2018 | by Amanda Holstein

Defining Success in Your Own Terms

Last week I had the opportunity to speak on a panel to discuss the topic of success. With four other female entrepreneurs, I got the chance to talk openly about the subject in front of an amazing group local professionals. Not every work event leaves you feeling inspired and empowered, but that’s exactly what I got out of this experience.

Three amazing companies, LinkedIn, WeWork, and J.Crew have come together to put on the @Work: Style Your Success panel series bringing together inspiring professionals and notable voices to talk about what success means to them and what they’re In It for — because we’re all #InItTogether. It’s all about defining success in your own terms and inspiring conversation around our own success journeys.

The @Work: Style Your Success series kicked off with last week’s event at the WeWork offices in San Francisco with a panel discussion that was truly one of the best conversations I’ve ever had at a work event. I’m excited to share what I got out of the discussion because I think it will change the way you think about success and even the way you look at your career.

You get to define what success means to you.

If someone were to ask you, “What does success mean to you?” what would you say? Well, as a panelist I answered exactly that question in front of a group of strangers. Sounds like a simple question, right? But when you really dig into it, everyone usually has a different answer. While one panelist defined it as having influence on decisions made at her company, another defined it as being able to help others in her community.

My answer? For me, success is about creating a life that I want to live. It’s about genuinely enjoying what I get to do every day and knowing that how I spend my days is a true reflection of who I am and what’s important to me.

Even though each of these answers is so different from one another, none of them are wrong. Rather, they’re all personal. There is no singular or “right” definition of success. You get to define it in your own terms, based on what truly matters to you. I find that concept to be so freeing! You mean, I don’t need to make a ton of money to be successful? You mean, I don’t need to be the best at what I do to be successful? Nope! You get to decide what success looks like and feels like to you.

You can change your definition of success as your priorities change.

Growing up, I would have defined success by my grades or by my parents’ approval. After graduating from college, I translated that to my career because I didn’t know any other way. For the past couple years, I found myself stressing over how much money I was making and how much I’d accomplished, associating that with how “successful” I was.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized this definition was actually hindering me. It was putting this unrealistic pressure on me to always have to make more money or to move higher up in my career path. But the problem is, there is always more money to make and always another level to get to. So defining success this way means you’ll actually never feel like you’ve succeeded. Isn’t that crazy? And so many of us think that way!

After having this realization, in therapy, of course, I felt excited by the idea of redefining success in my own terms, yet overwhelmed at the same time. When I heard the word “success,” nothing really came to mind. Happiness, I guess? Living a well-balanced life? But that felt a little too elusive for me. When I really thought about what was important to me on a daily basis — what I was in it for — that’s when I was able to come up with a new definition. Success, for me, is about living a life that truly reflects who I am and what’s important to me.

And, yet, that definition may change for me in a few years as my priorities change. And that’s totally okay. Because I get to define it for my life and you get to define it for yours. So take the time to think about what you’re in it for and let your mind open up to these new ideas of success. You may be surprised what you come up with and it may even inspire you to make some changes in your life.

View the full panel here and join the conversation using #InItTogether and #StyleYourSuccess.

Thank you to LinkedIn for sponsoring this post.