Defining What Success Means To You
I'm beginning to realise that many of the belief systems I have grown up with as 'the norm' no longer fit who I have worked to become, or the ever-changing modern world we live in. For too long we have been fed outdated ideas about success built in a corporate male-led working world. Success, we have been led to believe is equal to long hours, grafting, inflated titles... and for what? Huge salaries? 'Perks'? Annual holidays abroad? A fancy car? Awards? To be at the top of our game? This generalised version perhaps fits better for those who work a more structured J>O>B 9-5 for another company. But It's all too clear how these ideas of what success 'should' be, have trickled down into the world of creative business folk. It has influenced freelancers, the self-employed and creative entrepreneurs flying solo striving to do our own thing.
For women has it come to mean we can have it all? We fought for equality for so long and although we are not quite there yet we are at a point where we are still trying to prove ourselves in some way. Women can have it all... but there aren't enough hours in the day! Figures from Statista show that by 2017 the number of self-employed women in the UK reached 1.7 million. Which is amazing! But how many people do you know who are still striving for outdated ideas of success plus trying to run a creative business? And what does having it all actually mean?
This stuff is ingrained from a young age... even in those of us who view ourselves as creative and free spirit! Being 'the best' getting an A* going to a good college for your art degree, working long hours for free during your work experience, getting the top degree so you can go straight into a job/career in your chosen field feeling like you have done everything you can to be the best! But what if striving for the best means that we miss out on other opportunities, flexibility, living life!
Maybe it's the millennial rebelling in me but that societal structure has often held me back despite being someone who has never had a J.O.B
Thankfully there is a new conversation happening in groups of women who run their own business about taking ownership of what success means to them. There is also an emerging generation of entrepreneurs who were born on the right side of the generational gap who do not subscribe to this scripted version of mainstream success...
The idealised 2.4 children, house, car, 9-5, two holidays a year is outdated. The majority of women I have spoken to want something else. They want flexibility and to live life on their own terms! On purpose. To integrate moments of meaning as they go along, not just waiting until retirement age to enjoy the free time they have left. To create fun, meaningful careers that they enjoy. Who was it who coined the phrase - if you love your job you'll never work a day in your life - Though I'm not 100% sold on this idea because running your own business is still at times work. I do believe it's in our power to create careers that are filled with joyful moments.
How do we take ownership of our version of success? How do we separate from comparison to live a more authentic version of us?
I often work with clients who have set themselves mammoth goals that bring anxiety and stress along with them. They focus on the end point without thinking about the value that each step on their journey will bring. they focus on the outcome and lose sight of the learning and growth it takes to get there. Where's the creativity in that? Where is the space for different (perhaps even better) outcomes?
Something there is an internal battle here. Our heads and our hearts not working together. I recently worked with a client who was adamant during session goal setting that she wanted to make 6 figures because that was what her partner earnt and she wanted to be seen as equal. It later transpired that he worked long hours in a corporate job which she has escaped from as she was unhappy to pursue a creative career where the focus was on health and well-being.
There's also something to be said about 'unhooking from praise' Tara Mohr talks about this in her book Playing Big. That is unhealthy on any level to look for external validation as a measure of what is good or right. If you haven't read the book I cannot recommend it enough. You can find more in her article on unhooking from praise in Design Sponge here.
Why do we treat 'Success' as a barometer for a well-lived life? We get obsessed with things like how many followers we have on social media for example... when we know in reality engagement is the true measure.
One thing I do know is that no two people have the same version of what success looks like to them. When did you last check in with what success looks and FEELS like to you? Because I think that is the crux. How can we focus more on the feeling of success? Instead of relying on the external verifiers it's time we took success very personally and do some work on looking inward.
Sure the majority of us still have to pay the bills! But if we focus on personalising our experiences of success then what's stopping us stepping into our own power every single day.
Perhaps starting by breaking down your own beliefs about success could help with tailoring your own unique experience?
Here are a few journaling questions to try
List 5 things you associate with a typically successful person
List 5 things they do
List 5 key traits you believe them to have
Now it's over to you... When do YOU FEEL most successful in your business and life?
I feel most successful when I .....
How do the ideas you hold about other women align with your own reality?
Personally, I feel successful when I have completed most of the tasks on my to do list - or at least the ones that are part of a bigger project or goal - and then have time to sit and read, meet up with friends or go for a swim. Or when I get to collaborate on a project with someone else! Or to record a podcast interview with a peer who I admire for their individuality and unique ideas. I also feel successful when I have carved out time to make something with my hands without a commission deadline or using a pattern. I want to feel excited, a sense of achievement, slightly challenged, clear and unrestricted! In my mentoring work, I create a safe and calm container for my clients to feel empowered to dig deeper and challenge their issues at hand, to feel supported in decision making and excited to share their unique gifts and products with the world.
I know for me success means flexibility, learning & growth, having time to myself and connecting with other people. And ultimately freedom.
So looking back at the things you wrote down, can you focus on how you want to feel in your business and life from now on? And how can you integrate these things on a weekly basis? Pop them on a post-it note and stick that on your pinboard as a daily reminder and check back in with yourself regularly to see if these ideas still hold true.
We all strive to be loved and heard... It's time we started listening in to ourselves and working on what makes us HAPPY not what we feel looks like a success story.
I will leave you with this last question.
What makes you happy?
You can listen to our recent podcast all about what success means to you here. You can also book a free discovery call with me to discuss how you can work towards creating more of these positive feeling in your business and life with my Maker Mentoring here