Success is personal. I’ve always been one to follow the rules and adhere to traditions put in place before me. I love lists, I love routine and I love organisation. I was once extremely obsessed with Pinteresting (is that a verb?) images of weddings and bridal accessories and décor, because even though I wanted to make it big one day, I also felt I needed to wed by the time I turned 24. This now sounds dreadful to me, and it’s totally okay if you are 24 and married – not that you need me to okay it. This is just not my thing any more.
I used to love things that appeared to be meaningful because they were to someone else before I walked this earth. But soon, I began to realise that retracing this other person’s steps made me feel like a circle stuck in square casing.
You know when you put on a pair of nylons that used to fit but are a bit snug, and you run to the local store to buy a bigger pair so you can breathe easier? Like that.
Even better example: Trying on pleather leggings. Nope. No fits.
When I was applying to university, I didn’t get into my top choices, despite the fact that I was an A student. I was more concerned about what other people would think of this failure (one that I now know to be subjective) than what was in store for me, regardless of this bump in the road. I remember sharing news about where I had decided on for school and people laughed, dumbfounded. I even had a teacher mock my post-secondary institution’s name and ask me, “What the heck is that?”
Yeah well, Sir, look at me now.
I also have this very distinct memory of a young family member asking me why I didn’t want a car immediately after obtaining my driver’s license, an innocent question for someone who was simply just curious, someone who thought the rulebook said, “Get license, buy car.” I explained that I had bigger plans and that spending money on a car when I didn’t need one wasn’t right for me. There was a lot of confusion, because I was going against the grain. Also, crazy! Who is okay to take stinky, public transport? This gal right here.
Over the last five or so years, I’ve learned success is subjective. It is so, so deeply personal, like Beyoncé’s Lemonade pretends to be. For some, success might be announcing to all their friends that they’re getting paid double time for working on a holiday (though annoying to most). For me, success is getting all of my tasks done on an overflowing to-do list, one that definitely includes professional and personal items. Personal items do include, “Try not to fall asleep watching Netflix tonight,” and “You need to trim your bangs immediately,” if you’re wondering.
Success is not something you can achieve by following a step-by-step guide published on the Internet. Though you may feel successful and accomplished after checking off a lifestyle magazine’s list of “How to Make it” to-dos, will these feelings last?
Immediate success is very much like immediate gratification. You buy a new pair of jeans and you have a JLo Booty (yes, it is a proper noun to me) in them. You feel amazing. You wear them to work on casual Friday and everyone comments on how fabulous you are (you are obviously fabulous without the jeans, but the compliments are welcome). And then, you don’t wash your jeans before wearing them again and the JLo Booty you once had is kind of, um, saggy, because jeans tend to do that. No one comments on how great you look because, hi, saggy butt jeans! The gratification is gone and your itch to buy new jeans is back, and you now maybe get the urge to private message Kim K on Twitter for a referral. Resist the urge.
Let’s say you get a promotion at your job, and you feel amazing! You did it! Now, you have a more reputable title that can go on our LinkedIn. You. Are. Moving. Up. And. No. One. Can. Stop. You. You go out to celebrate and have a few glasses of vino with your closest ladies.
Then, the first week of your new role begins and you’re drowning in work (kind of like your butt was drowning in those jeans – though I am now regretting this superficial example because I promise I am body positive), trying to stay afloat and you feel like you’re day one on the job all over again.
Eugh, goodbye instant satisfaction! Don’t feel so successful now, do you champ?
However, as time goes on and you get used to your new role and accept the challenges that come along with it, you begin to feel more accomplished and powerful. You may think, “I did it!” after responding to a tough situation all on your own or getting to approach someone you may not have interacted with before.
You may not need to go out and celebrate getting through your workload that week – you may just be happy knowing you gave it your all and you totally rocked. You may not need to share this detail with friends, because knowing that you totally rock is good enough for you.
The point of this whole ramble is this: You have one life. You need to go and live it as per Drake’s “The Motto” (except maybe don’t buy a YOLO shirt unless your only intention is to wear it as you wash your bathroom). Living life to your expectations and loving yourself and feeling great about what you’ve done is how you should measure your success and well being – regardless of what your personal checklist entails.
Read what you wish, research how to be successful where you need to, and then throw all of that out the window. Make your own checklist based off what you know and what you wish to acquire. And hey, if you don’t get to check off everything on that list, it is okay. A change in plan doesn’t mean a failed plan.
You are your team’s lead, and no one can take that away from you.