When I was a young college student, my professional goal was to ultimately become an executive director of a non-profit organization, or reach a higher-level position in government. I also wanted to make a good income. Yes, I realized as I got older it was a bit idealistic and naive to think I’d make a lot of money working in the public sector. Over the years, though, what I have learned about myself is that money and prestige are not the main motivating factors in my life. I eventually recognized my original goal was not actually about position or money, but about being in a position with enough authority to make a real difference.
What is your personal definition of success? Is having a high-level position and a high income important, or is having a family and helping others your definition of success? Should we define a successful person as a well-rounded person?
Here are several suggestions to help you find your own success.
- Set SMART goals for yourself. Setting goals, along with perseverance, are the keys to success, however you choose to define that success. Recognize success won’t land in your lap; you have to pursue it using your SMART goals as a guide. Set financial, relational, career, and other goals for yourself. How do you see your life in one, five, or 10 years from now? Also, start saving early for retirement!
- Believe in yourself and your abilities. I realize this sounds completely cliche, but it’s really important. Often highly-proficient people suffer from what is called “imposter syndrome.” This is where knowledgeable and skilled people feel they are faking their knowledge and skills, when in fact, they are highly-competent. Embrace what you’re good at, and do it well.
- Take calculated risks. I’ve always been risk-averse, but I realized nothing great will happen without taking some risk. Starting my own business was a calculated risk I was willing to take. Just like in the stock market, the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward. Consider the possibilities and the outcomes of the risk, and make a choice with which you’re comfortable.
- Follow your passion. Don’t take a job simply because it pays well. You’ll be miserable, and money won’t make up for a job you dread going to every day. Find a job that pays the bills but is also something you truly enjoy.
- Network. I never recognized the importance of networking when I was younger, but as I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve realized networking is vital. Join trade organizations and attend related conferences. Connect with others, not for what you can get out of the relationship, but to work together with people who support your vision and have similar passions and interests.
- Help others and give back. Volunteer for a cause that is important to you. Mentor struggling students, help at the local food bank, visit home-bound seniors, or join the board of directors of a local non-profit. Much happiness comes from helping others.
- Have a good attitude. A lot of businesses would rather hire someone with a good attitude and train them for a particular position, than hire a qualified person with a poor attitude. Choose to have a positive mental attitude.
- See yourself as a lifelong learner. Learning can be formal, such as a college degree, but most of our learning is informal. Find areas in which you would like to improve, and either take additional classes, teach yourself online, read a book on the subject, or find a mentor who is willing to take you under their wing. Never stop learning.