Yesterday I participated in a fun podcast interview 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 that chronicled my personal journey from broken to whole.
Towards the end of the interview, the host asked a zinger of a question.
He said, “Katherine, if you could go back in time ten years and give your younger self some advice, what would you say?”
I took a deep breath, quickly did the math and rewound the clock of my life to age 29. The bright spot was my marriage to an amazing man…the rest cloudy with a chance of tears on a regular basis. Back then, I put all of my time and most of my energy into my job. I was working at least 70 hours a week trying to collect enough titles and trophies to finally feel good about myself.
I knew I couldn’t ponder the host’s question too long, so I served up the one statement that I would have given almost anything for that 29-year-old girl to hear. My answer was simple: “Don’t wait so long to love yourself.”
Unfortunately, I was late to the party on learning to love myself.
That memo didn’t make its way to me until I was 35 years old and I finally stepped off the hamster wheel of life and started to get still. I started reading tons of self-help books and doing the math on why I was so damn exhausted all the time.
Looking back, it’s clear to me why I was so tired. Dr. Steve Maraboli said it best when he said:
If you fuel your journey on the opinions of other people, you are going to run out of gas.
Yep. That’s 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 titles and trophies I collected, it never felt like it was enough.
Looking back now, I can see that I had been both right and wrong my entire life.I was right to want to be successful, but I was wrong to accept other people’s definition of what that word meant.
Thankfully, three years ago during my self-help journey, my life coach helped shed some 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.
Trust me when I tell you that I stared at the blank page beneath that first question for a very, very long time. The idea of a definition of success beyond my career had never occurred to me.
I thought long and hard about the answer, and then 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, 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 load.
Success is doing for other mothers what I’ve done for myself: it’s helping them find inner peace; it’s alleviating the doubt they carry around every day of their life.
Success also means creating a work environment that allows me and other women to use our power and passion to do good by aligning our lives and our careers with a worthy cause.
Success is ensuring that everything we do is meaningful and moving.
I wrote those definitions four years ago, which is astonishing to me. I don’t consult them regularly, but I somehow seem to be following them wholeheartedly without even trying.
I think all 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, it’s my very own definition; 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 we don’t end up landing it, I’m disappointed but I’m not devastated, because I have something much bigger I’m working towards.
It’s called life.
Ten years ago I was in a very, very different place. If I could, I would tell my younger self that a key step toward loving yourself is creating your own damn definition of success and slaying it.
Maya Angelou once said,
Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.
And for the first time in my life, 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 exercise, but don’t shy away from the challenge. Your own words based on your own beliefs will likely be the key to finding your missing peace and creating a future with less friction.
Go ahead; have at it.