For most of my professional life I thought of myself as successful.
Success is something I wanted from an early age, and it gave me drive and ambition.
That drive kept me going through school, 2 years of college and then 7 years of university to become an architect.
Then, during my professional career it pushed me to move around chasing higher salaries and more senior positions, which I was lucky enough to achieve.
For a long time I thought that my progress meant that I was successful.
It’s what I’d always been taught to believe success was.
But it never felt like enough.
I never quite felt that my income was high enough, and I didn’t have the freedoms that I thought I would have as I became more successful in business.
Over time, I began to realise the compromises that I was making in pursuing this definition of success. I saw the impact it was having on me and my family.
Rather than prospering, I was suffering from:
Lack Of Control Over My Time, Income & Future
As I became more successful and, yes, higher paid, I worked more.
The days became longer and I found myself getting into the office earlier and leaving later.
My duties meant early mornings on the road, nights away or spending my evenings (my free time) networking or attending events.
Essentially, it was taking me away from my family and I was giving away my time for my employers’ benefit.
If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s the ONLY thing you cannot make more of, is time.
There are always opportunities to earn money, start again or even re-invent yourself completely. But you can’t get back the time you’ve already had.
I became scared that if I continued on this path that it would only get worse and I would later regret the choices I’d made.
Lost Sense Of Self
The more I worked, the less time I had for myself, my family and my interests. I was devoting more and more of my life to work.
And when I was at home, I often didn’t feel present.
Worse, I began to feel like I’d lost my identity. I had become defined by my career rather than who I really was.
Conversations with new people revolved around my work rather than the things I enjoy doing in my personal life.
As a result I lost my drive and motivation.
I realised I wanted to be myself again, before it was too late.
Pressure, Stress & Burnout
I’m lucky that I never got to the point of burnout. But pressure and stress were normal.
In fact, I’d convinced myself that they were positive things, that I thrived on them and they helped get things done.
I still believe this to a degree, that some pressure is a good thing. After all, if we want to grow and learn then we need to push ourselves to some degree. We need to get out of our comfort zone - which in itself can be stressful.
But I’ve come to realise is that constant pressure and stress can be damaging, and they are cumulative. They build up over time.
As I progressed through my career I found that my role and interactions changed.
I was faced more with overcoming challenges, problems and having difficult conversations.
There were times when I felt my working day involved going from one difficult conversation or argument to the next.
I found my response to these situations becoming more intense. I felt constantly irritated and just didn’t want to be in those situations.
It’s fair to say, I had stopped feeling successful and wanted out.
Changing My Definition Of Success
It took me a long time, but I came to the realisation that my own definition of success had been completely wrong. More a growing sense than a lightbulb moment!
I started to think less about increasing my income or position and more about spending time doing the things I enjoy. Spending time with family and friends, travelling, pursuing my own interests and helping others.
Also, my wife and I wanted to start a family of our own and the thought of missing out whilst working really scared me.
My definition of success was changing.
For me now, success is about freedom.
And freedom is about living life on my own terms and being able to make decisions based upon the things that I want to do, and that will benefit me, my family and others.
My new definition of success has given me back my motivation and has helped me find a new path in life working for myself.
Now don’t get me wrong, work is still work, but this is work I enjoy doing.
I have the freedom to choose when I work and what I want to work on. I can be myself and hopefully create value for others in doing so.
I’ve always loved the thought of writing, now I get to do it in my business!
And the best part is, I’m not going to miss out as my family grows!
I’d love to know, what’s your definition of success?
If you’re going through the same experiences and want to make a change but don’t know how, why not read read my article on how to create happiness and fulfilment in your life by starting an online business.
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