How to Define Success on Your Own TermsJan 24, 2020
“If your success is not on your own terms,
if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart,
it is not success at all.”
- Anna Quindlen
I really don’t know when I lost my passion for my role as an internal consultant at Walt Disney World. When I landed the job, it was the realization of a lifelong dream. Once hired, I threw myself into my client work, which was always interesting, always complex. I want to attribute my loss of passion to the sheer exhaustion of parenting two children under the age of three while holding a highly visible and responsible corporate position. But I know the truth.
The source of my discontent took root when my Dad died of lung cancer way too young. When we was in end stages, I flew back and forth from Orlando (where I lived) to Chicago (where he lived) on a weekly basis. To pass the time during many hours on planes, I would listen to music. That Tim McGraw song “Live As If You’re Dying” was big at the time and as I pondered the lyrics a disturbing and unsettling realization came upon me. My whole identity as a person was intertwined with my job title. I started to worry that if I died and all my epitaph said was, “Here Lies Betsy…she was a great consultant” no matter how high I climbed on the Disney ladder, I would have failed to live the life I was fully meant to. Everyone thinks I left Disney to start my own consulting practice but I am going to let you in on the truth. I left my job at Disney for the potential of achieving my potential.
Years later, I can now describe what was happening to me. It was the classic wake up call. My discontent (and what was later diagnosed as burnout) was an invitation from the universe, from God to me in disguise. The invitation proved to be a critical course corrector that rocked my world and shook up all the ways I was defining success.
Like most high-achievers, I linked success with my paycheck, title, office size, job perks and the credibility that came with working for a world-class Fortune 100 company. And like most high-achievers, the consequences of this success definition was killing me. I felt the constant pressure to hustle for my worth because let’s face it – the marketplace is fickle. Since I was always hustling, I had organized my life around my career and who I was was inextricably tied to what I did.
The 4 P's Of Your Highest Potential
My wake-up call forced me to redefine success to be what I am now calling the 4 P’s of your Highest Potential. Let me be clear. Pursuing your highest potential is not another term for pursuing a thriving career. It is the pursuit of a career that supports your life purpose but doesn’t define your life. The 4 P’s of your Highest Potential provides metrics of success that go way beyond how money and power:
- Purpose: Living a life that is congruent with values, gifting and passions. Purpose is not about about advancement but meaning and satisfaction.
- Presence: Fully alive and present in all aspects of your life. Presence is about being authentically you wherever you are. You ARE and HAVE more of YOU.
- Peace: Daily experiencing inner contentment. This state of harmony is characterized by a lack of negative conflict, interpersonal healing and inner healing. It also includes a sense of tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness of others.
- Personally powerful: Having a sense of self that comes from an internal source of authority. Personal power is when your actions are balanced with your internal reflections. You are someone who approaches the world from a win-win, co-creation point of view. You don’t need to be better than others to feel good about who you are. Your inner world is settled and from that place of security you are freed to go out and genuinely help others.
4 Reasons Why Success on your Own Terms Is an Act of Integrity & Service
Having your highest potential as your career destination is far superior to other definitions of success for myriads of reasons. First, achieving your highest potential is fully within your control. Your highest potential is hardwired into your DNA and I am confident that the universe, God or however your envision the Divine is far more committed to you achieving that highest potential than simply making money or earning a living. This is what you are here for. The universe will conspire with you to make it happen when you have the faith to step on the path towards this higher vision.
Second, it provides resilience in the face of the ups and downs of a very fickle marketplace. One day you could be the “golden child” and the next minute on the chopping block. There traditional employee/employer contract no longer exists longer and being a top performer does not protect anyone anymore from being laid off. If you tie your identity to your job, you’ll always be hustling for your worth.
Third, it is customizable to your own terms. There are a lot of different career options that can provide income, satisfaction and aligned to your potential. The highest potential career path is not a ladder. It is a mosaic. The beauty of a mosaic is how broken pieces of glass and other objects are brought together to create a unique work of art. EVERY SINGLE aspect of your life is in your “Highest Potential Career Mosaic.” The pain of your childhood and other parts of your life is carried forward and transformed into your passion to meet needs that you see in others. As you move forward in that service, you heal yourself. Your inborn gifts and talents are in this mosaic, along with your failures, successes and every single experience along the way.
Fourth and finally, highest potential is the space held by those who make the biggest impact on the world. Author and spiritual teacher Janet Hagberg writes, “The end points of leader is not just the position we reach, but the continual change and deepening we experience that makes a difference in our lives, our work and our world.” Consider how we all benefit from those courageous individuals who rejected the typical definitions of success for these new ones that I am suggesting. Where would our world be if Martin Luther King, Jr, and Mother Teresa did not align their lives to their highest potential? Imagine the void if Oprah did not take the bold risk to start her own TV station and introduce life changing programming.
Now imagine the void that the world might be experiencing right now if wait one more minute to say “yes” to your highest potential? “Ultimately we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves,” writes holocaust survivor and author of An Interrupted Life Etty Hillesum, “the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world.”
The first invitation I am holding out to you is your highest potential. The second invitation is the journey itself. The journey to your highest potential is simply another way of describing the path to spiritual maturity or personal empowerment. The real transformation takes place on the way to your highest potential. But it is not easy. Author Sue Monk Kidd explains, “The truth may set you free but first it will shatter the safe, sweet way you live.” You will experience pain because your ego will not let go of your old definitions of success easily. Consider thought that this pain is good pain – the type of pain that heals but not harms. If you go to the dentist to remove a rotting tooth, that will hurt, but it will not harm you in the long run. Doing nothing on the other hand will.
To navigate this journey you need just four things.
- A willingness to go and say “yes” to the reality that there is so much more for you - that you have a calling on your life and gifts to offer the world and you are ready to go after those things.
- An acceptance of the unknown and the grace to be kind and gentle to yourself as you face fears, fall down and get back up.
- A embracement of pain as your greatest teacher. Pain is a gift because it tells you what is not working and what needs to change.
- Connection with others who are on the same path. The community of sojourners provides the support and encouragement when things get tough. And a wise guide helps show you the way.
- Are you ready to own the fullness of who you are and what you have to offer
- What will you choose?
- Are you ready to say yes to your highest potential?
You know what I think you should do because I am convinced that the world needs you to soar. And more importantly you need you.
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