Yesterday, I was interviewed on a fun podcast, as part of a series put on by a global organization called, CreativeMornings.
The interview was a follow-up to a provocative speech I gave at a CreativeMorningRVA event back in June. It chronicled my personal journey from broken to whole. Toward the end of our talk, the host asked a real zinger.
He said, “Katherine, if you could go back 10 years and give your younger self advice, what would you say?”
I took a deep breath and rewound my life clock. The bright spot was my marriage to an amazing man, but the rest was cloudy with a chance of frequent tears. Back then, I put all my time and most of my energy into my job. I worked at least 70 hours a week to collect titles and trophies in an effort to feel good about myself.
My answer? “Don’t wait so long to love yourself.”
This lesson didn’t make its way to me until I was 35 years old, and I’d finally stepped off the hamster wheel, read tons of self-help books, and figured out why I felt so tired all the time. Dr. Steve Maraboli said it best: If you fuel your journey on the opinions of other people, you are going to run out of gas.
And that’s exactly what happened.
I ran out of gas when I was 35 years old, because I finally realized that no matter how high I climbed and how many accolades I collected, it never felt like enough.
Looking back now, I can see that I had been both right and wrong my entire life. I was right to want success, but I was wrong to accept other people’s definition of it.
Thankfully, my life coach helped shed light on the “success” situation for me. She gave me a challenging but rewarding homework assignment: write one paragraph outlining my definition of success in my life. And then, and only then, write a second paragraph describing my definition of success for my business.
I stared at the blank page for a very, very long time. The thought of having success beyond my career had never occurred to me. Not once. So I wrote this:
Success in Life. Success is about being happy. It’s about having a family and a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. It’s about breathing deeply and knowing that my family, my experiences, and my life are well-lived.
Success is about being able to drop everything and go see my grandparents for lunch; it’s watching my kids giggle; it’s sitting on the front porch at the river with my parents; it’s walking down the street holding my husband’s hand. But most importantly, success means having the presence of mind in each of these moments to recognize that I have everything that matters in life. Success is taking a deep breath, looking around me and feeling full.
Success for My Business. Success is making the lives of mothers easier and more fulfilling. Success is finding innovative ways to lighten their loads.
Success is doing for other mothers what I’ve done for myself: it’s helping them find inner peace and alleviating the doubt they carry around every day.
Success also means creating a work environment that lets me and other women use our power and passion to do good by aligning our lives and careers with a worthy cause.
Success is ensuring that everything we do is meaningful and moving.
I wrote those definitions several years ago, which is astonishing to me. I don’t consult them regularly, but I seem to be following them without even trying.
Too often, we limit our definition of success to the workplace. Being forced to create my own definition of success in life changed everything for me.
First, this definition belongs to me; it’s not fueled by the opinions of other people. Second, having two different definitions is critical because now my world does not revolve 100% around my career. If we go after a big project at work and don’t end up landing it, I’m disappointed but not devastated, because I have something much bigger I’m working towards.
10 years ago I was in a very different place. If I could, I would tell my younger self that a key step toward loving yourself is creating a definition of success and slaying it.
Maya Angelou once wrote, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
And for the first time, I finally have her wise words of wisdom in the right order. Try the exercise yourself. What’s your very own definition of success in life?
It’s a challenging practice, but your answer may help you create a promising future.