I am sure that some people are in search of a different summit, but for me, making it in the real world has always come down to certain successes in my career.
However, I do think that many men and women my age are feeling the same drive to achieve a respectable status in their chosen career path. It is just so hard to distinguish when that ultimate career end-point is reached, or if it ever is, if we aren’t quite sure what we are climbing towards.
I recently took a step back from my daily routine and realized that I am genuinely happy where I am at in my career, and it made me wonder what I had really been aiming for, and why I feel like I have succeeded now. Because I did not have any specific goals set out to reach, I wasn’t even aware that I had achieved success. There is nothing wrong with choosing to continually climb the next peak, but I think it is important to create some markers that will lead to a sense of satisfaction along the way. So, what does making it mean, and how do we know that we have reached that point individually?
A Measure of Success
There is an obvious danger in measuring success by a specific income level. Making money is fine, but the type of success that I am looking for is more than one that my bank account can alert me of. At the end of the day, I want to have enough money to live comfortably. The key word there is live. I have no desire to make more money if I am miserable in the process. I spend more hours of my life working than I do anything else, and I don’t want to be unhappy for such a substantial portion of my life. No matter how many pairs of shoes it could buy me.
However, I am sure that the dollar amount is the biggest factor in measuring success for some. To others, the higher income could be an accompanying perk of finally gaining the title of CEO of a corporation. In the same right, the ambition to set your own hours and have a low-stress work environment could mean becoming a popular neighborhood dog-walker. Obviously, financial security is an important part of making it. There is just a different dot on the career-trajectory line for everyone between finding a ‘dream job’ and making enough money to save for retirement. My dot is somewhere in the middle; the enjoyment of the job is just as important to me as my salary.
Even if you separate ‘making it’ from an income amount, there is still a notion that we should be getting somewhere impressive and proving that we have what it takes in the workplace. When you are starting out in the working world, it seems like there is a need to justify whatever job you have at the time; “I’m working as a receptionist, but it’s great for now because it gives me some time to study and figure out my next step.” Or “I know that this job isn’t my end game, but it just works for me right now.” We all start out somewhere though! I have done it countless times, but the need to explain ourselves to others when we are not where we would ideally like to be is strange.
I am sure that my individual drive to further my career was (and is) based on my fear of not being good enough unless I found success. I am curious if this same pursuit of self-worth is what carried highly successful individuals like Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, or Bill Gates into their victories. If so, is finding self-worth in financial and professional accomplishments more damaging to our souls than it is worth the accomplishment? Perhaps, is it that extremely successful people ignored the pressures of a career field and did what made them happy and ended up making it big? There is a big difference between continually being in search of the next mountain to summit, and continuously feeling inadequate.
Journey or Destination?
I asked one of my friends if she feels that she has ‘made it’ in her professional life. She said this:
Being successful and ‘making it’ are two different things. Success is the journey, and making it is the destination. Once you feel like you’ve made it, you could always change your goals and make it again.
This insight is huge to me. Maybe we spend so much of our energy on landing a big job when all the little jobs that we were making excuses for along the way were actually the most important pieces of defining our careers as successful ones.
I encourage you to take a few minutes today and tell yourself that where you are at right now is okay! Then I want you to ask yourself what you really want out of your job or your career in the end. More importantly, what do you want out of your life and how can your career help you get that? This world could use a lot more people who are pursuing bigger things because it brings them joy, not because they don’t feel worthy enough if they don’t. Celebrate your successes, and celebrate the road that is bringing you to them.