What does true "success" look like to you?
Wherever you are on the spectrum of success, I'm going to assume you’re a clever woman, ready to promote your potential and face the inevitable challenges ahead.
But, it's easy for me to believe in you and your capabilities. What I want to know is — do you believe in yourself?
Believing in yourself is far more than a nice, warm-and-fuzzy feeling you have. True self-confidence helps you choose how to best use your time, deal with others (and their expectations), and honor your own values.
Put another way — true confidence is essential to achieving success without losing yourself.
But first, you must get clear on your own definition of success and what it takes to achieve it. Then, it's important to appreciate your current levels of mastery and triumphs and recognize what does (and does not) light you up inside. For example: Do bigger deals, new projects, or more complex processes still engage you, or do they no longer satisfy you? Are your vacations eaten up by work demands or do they bring actual relaxation and rejuvenation?
Decide what success in LIFE looks like, not just career success.
And remember: Success rarely remains static. Natural shifts and changes in yourself, others, and situations keep life in flux. As such, your level of "success" will have its ups and downs. Clever women adapt, but stay true to themselves by remaining alert for inner feelings about what's right for them and what promises some pleasure and possibly joy.
Once you're clear on what you want, what you don't want, and the short-term and long-term path of how to get there, here are 9 ways to get ahead without losing yourself:
- Honor your commitments and work hard ... with purpose. Make sure your efforts are win-win, addressing the needs of others while also holding meaning for you. Combine your purpose with passion and perseverance to fast-track your success goals.
- Align yourself with people who share your values. Identify people you admire and situations you believe in and figure out how to plug yourself into both. Experiment with mutual mentoring, as well.
- Give yourself permission to fail. Just make sure you fail at something worth trying. Also learn the art of procrastinating creatively.
- Push your comfort zone constantly. Even before reaching the top of your game, start exploring alternative paths. This way you always have your hand in what currently inspires you. Weave these alternative paths into your life little by little. In the process, have as much fun as possible and note what touches your heart.
- Read at least one article per week that ignites your curiosity and offers delight. After that pleasure, try a different tack. Pay attention to an idea or person with whom you disagree in order to think against yourself. This helps you constantly stay tethered to what you truly think and believe.
- Take bold steps to reach your biggest dreams. Take a reasonable risk once and awhile. Identify someone your admire and approach them for help. Make sure you bring something to the table for them, giving mutual feedback for example. Just don't wait for big opportunities to drop in your lap; go after them. (If you feel nervous to talk to someone more successful than you, listen to Sherry Turkle's thoughts on the importance of reclaiming conversation: "The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.")
- Choose your thoughts. Challenges and setbacks will occur. But you get to choose how you relate to them. You can view those obstacles as threats or as opportunities. You can view problems as roadblocks or as resources. When you let challenges define you (or worse, derail you) you lose yourself. Decide how you want to lean into this uphill climb toward success that you've chosen.
- Adjust your path accordingly. Expect detours along the way. Your job is to stay true to your goals without becoming attached to ONE path. Baseball great Yogi Berra once said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Stay open and curious about unexpected opportunities that come your way as you aim for success. I've had six overlapping careers: diplomacy, management consulting, teaching at a college, writing, career & life management consulting, and foundation leadership. But the underlying theme of ALL of those careers aligned with my true success goal: Helping people realize their true capacities.
- Take the reins. Though you can't control many crucial aspects of your life as it unfolds, you can still make many important choices. The best way to craft a life that remains true to who you are is to make your choices count! Speak up. Honor your boundaries and your values. Ask for what you want.
I hope using and adapting these suggestions will help you take action toward your success goals. Implementing just one or two of these in ways that work for you can yield potentially marvelous shifts in your life. So, pick those that inspire you most and take action on them ASAP.
Ultimately, you won't lose yourself when you honor who you are first. Don't let external chatter, prejudice, insecurities, ghosts from the past, or questionable assumptions take over and steer your path.
Just make enough time to hear your own voice. Perhaps ask a key, centering question when you first wake up three days in a row to confirm your focus. Or, spend time imagining yourself in an actual situation that reflects your own version of success versus someone else’s.
Finally, believe in yourself and that you're worthy of receiving the success you seek.
Ruth M. Schimel, Ph.D., Career & Life Management Consultant