I have been to many a women’s conference where a central hot topic has been charging attendees with the task of defining success on their own terms. The logic goes as follows: once a woman identifies her own measures of success, she will live in accordance with them, and essentially have a happier, more fulfilled life.
I was at an event this weekend and had the pleasure of grappling with the concept—the act of defining success. I grappled with the concept because I was confused.
To be clear, I was not cognitively confused by the call to action. As women, we have to figure out what our values are, what our interests are, what our passions are, and then move in the direction of one, if not all of them.
Rather, I was confused by the rationale and validity of the exercise. I mean, how could I definitively know what success may mean for me five or 10 years in the future based on what I value now? Wouldn’t I be a different person?
At the conference, I stood behind a woman who appeared to be in her 40s who openly told me that she was voluntarily unemployed because she had yet to figure out what she wanted out of life. But I wondered if she were being fair to herself. Maybe she had outgrown her former measures of success and was in the process of identifying her new ones That is how measures of success roll. They evolve, predicated and are informed by experience.
In my 20s, I wanted to explore the world. So I did. My measure of success focused on getting as many stamps as I could on my passport.