As I chatted with a girlfriend recently we got on the subject of second careers and setting out on new journeys. Even if you’ve only been working in your field for a few years you may feel a tug toward doing work that is more soul-fulfilling. And this is a trend I’ve been seeing more of recently.
Many people are abandoning the tenants of success that are focused simply on high wages, upper level management positions, notoriety or attaining a degree. What I’ve been seeing and feeling more of are the ideas that 1. Success is defined differently for each individual 2. Success has more to do with creating a living centered around your passions, convictions, talents, and for some, creating or promoting resources that may essentially change our world for the better.
I had my own revelation of sorts about this very idea a few years back when I was living in the beautiful beachside town of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. I arrived to the island dead set on completing my degree, applying to a prestigious medical school, becoming an OBGYN, and living out my days “serving” in the world’s most remote places. But what I realized was missing from this whole idea was the “why.” Why was I doing all of it? Why had I created these certain parameters and ways in which it all had to be done? How did this work fit into my life as a whole? Why wasn’t I enjoying life along the way?
I had somehow gotten sucked into an idea that wasn’t my own, but I don’t really every remember being told that success was mine to define. Yes, I have faith and personal convictions that guide me, but they are not limiting, they are ideals that help me in making decisions.
For some reason I’d allowed my academic surroundings and the western culture (at the time) to completely dictate not just my choices in education but how I lived out my life all together.
Once in Puerto Rico I took a full semester of classes, including Microbiology, all in Spanish– I don’t speak Spanish fluently. But I pushed through! I wanted so badly to be at a certain point in my career within a certain amount of time and I was bound to do anything I could, no matter how much it stressed me out. At the end of that semester I took a moment to evaluate things. I also had some quite profound conversations with the women in my life and came to the conclusion that school was not where I was meant to be at the time.
I have to admit, it was difficult. For 4 years I’d defined myself as a pre-med student. Someone who spent long hours studying, never had free time to just hang, and had completely abandoned my creative side. To then be without all of that, on this island where embracing each day, forming intimate relationships, and using nature as inspiration for life was more important, I was momentarily stunned.
What was I supposed to do next?
That time in my life was a schooling all its own. I was gently guided, by my faith in God and by the women placed in my life for that particular season. These are women that I completely revere to this day, and they helped direct me toward a path of contentment, simplicity, and community. Some of them have no idea of how they so greatly affected me. I remember the first time I was running late in Puerto Rico (which in all actuality isn’t really a thing there, but I didn’t know), my sweet friend Kelley said, “Oh don’t worry, take your time, I’ll see you when you get here.” I was sure she was just trying to be kind and that once I arrived she’d surely be angry, but she wasn’t! She was genuinely glad to see me and my tardiness was nearly unnoticed. This was one of my earliest introductions to the life I truly wanted.
I wanted a life rooted in authenticity, creativity, relationships, and meaningful work. I realized that becoming a physician wasn’t a problem on its own. The problem resided in how I was pursuing that path and the pressure I felt would be placed on me to keep up that rigor even once I’d achieved the “success” of becoming a physician.
Over the years since my early months in Puerto Rico I’ve had the privilege of reconnecting with my creative side, developing relationships with inspiring women, and developing my skills in order to still serve. But I’ve also held tightly to my values and new understanding of what true success is. I’ve recognized that no career or passion will truly mean success for me if it places profit over people, steals me away from my family on a regular basis, takes me out of community with women, or doesn’t provide adequate compensation for my work.
I’ve decided to define success for me (and only me) as well as work toward a life and career path that embodies those values.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and dialogue with you more about this.
How have you defined success for yourself? What values do you uphold but your employer does not? Do you find yourself constantly compromising in order to please or achieve?
Please share your experience below in the comments. I always reply.
p.s. I had the great pleasure of sharing my story and journey of success this past Friday at this powerful Guam Chamber Business Women’s Network Event. Video of my keynote presentation to come!