Recently, I redefined success for myself. You see, growing up, I was bent on a few things:
Living in a mansion
That was my definition of success. Obviously, as I kept growing, this definition evolved a bit. Here’s what success looked like to me in my early 20’s:
Living in a mansion
So, I gave up my Brittney Spears dreams and settled on a life of anonymity, as long as I could be happy. Seems like a reasonable trade-off, right? And then I started working from home, and quite honestly, my definition of success changed entirely.
I’ll preface this by saying that how I define success has nothing to do with the ability to work from home. There are days when working from home can feel isolating, and I fully recognize that it’s not for everyone. There’s a vitality found in working in community that I definitely miss. But what working from home has afforded me that I didn’t know was possible was flexibility to do what I love.
My new definition of success is being able to do the things that fill my soul when I want to do them.
We hear over and over again that money can’t buy happiness, so if you can’t buy it, how is it obtained? The answer is found in balance.
My first production job out of college was as a production secretary on one of the most successful network dramas of the time. For those of you unfamiliar with production crews, a Production Secretary’s job is pretty much what it sounds like – I was in charge of most all of the show’s paperwork and distribution. It was up to me to make sure that everyone had all of the information they needed when it came to schedules, rules, changes, meetings, etc. My hours were horrendous. I worked on a sliding schedule because production crews work on sliding schedules (they may start at 7AM one day, 9AM the next, 11AM the next, etc – but it typically gets later each day of the week).
I didn’t start work until after the crew started, and I was, on many occasions, the last person in the office. It wasn’t abnormal for me to work until 3AM or 4AM on Friday nights. Even though I was technically “off” in the mornings, I was still on call – if any important paperwork came out, I needed to be available to distribute. I was essentially on call for 24 hours a day.
I think it’s fair to say that job depleted me. I didn’t have time to do any of the things that brought me joy and kept me balanced.
I remember being so desperate for a haircut that I went to whichever salon could take me in the hour I happened to have free one Sunday and wound up with a chop that would have made even my 5th grade self cry. Yes, I was making decent overtime, but I was totally unhappy.
When I started working from home, I got my life back. This is MAINLY because I took on a new role, and work slowed down. All of a sudden, I had time to infuse my life with the things that had been missing. By no means was I making life changing money, but the time I got back in my life allowed me to cook meals, and start a blog, and get a dog (and avoid fog. Just kidding – I was enjoying the rhyme). These things never would have been possible when I was working 18 hours a day.
I’ve come to realize that success isn’t defined by the number on your paycheck – that number is useless if you aren’t able to live your life with it. Success is defined by your ability to do the things you love doing while still being able to support yourself. If the thing you love happens to be your work, then double win. Without balance in my life, I wasn’t happy, and my life wasn’t full.
If you’re looking to redefine success for yourself, here are some questions I would ask you:
Do you enjoy your work? If yes, why? If no, what’s missing?
Create a budget. How much money is needed to meet your financial goals. Are you able to meet these goals and manage all of your expenses with your current pay? If not, where can you cut back?
Do you have time to do the things you enjoy doing? If yes, what are those things, and do you do them? If no, how is most of your time being spent?
Are there ways to redefine or renegotiate the parameters of your job to allow you more time do to the things you love?
Is there another way in which you might use your skill set to profit while freeing up some of your time?
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase time is money. Recently, I’ve felt deeply connected to that phrase, but not in its traditional sense. Rather than interpreting it as “time means the opportunity to make money,” I’ve realized that it can also mean “having time for myself is valuable.”
If you’re rich but burned out (read my account of burnout here), it will eventually take a toll on your soul. In my eyes, success isn’t just being rich in pay, but rich in balance. Success to me is meeting financial goals while maintaining a balanced and flexible lifestyle.