Updated: Mar 1, 2020
I spent about a quarter century in the advertising industry – in various roles, including account leadership as well as learning and development. It’s been a great career, and anyone on the outside looking in would say it was a success.
But I didn’t really feel successful most of the time. When the inner critic or overachiever or some external force kicked in, I’d start to doubt my abilities and begin looking for a change. Only to find that this change didn’t look that much different from all the other changes I’d made in my career.
And so for nearly 25 years, I kept letting my past dictate my future. I told myself that this was the career I chose, and I was vested in it, and anyway, what else could I do? So I’d go into a new job with great hopes, thinking I’ve finally found the right one! I’ve finally achieved what I’ve been working toward my whole career. And then, a year or so into it, I realized it wasn’t all that, and I was back where I started. Or so I thought.
I kept trying to rewrite my story, and I kept thinking I was stuck on the same chapter.
And then I discovered something. All of that experience, all the life lessons, all the failures and missteps…they were not really my career. They were just parts of the journey. Important parts, for sure. But an even bigger lesson I learned is that there really is no nirvana or Holy Grail. No big pinnacle of achievement that I’d reach some day and know I had arrived.
Setting and working toward goals is an incredibly important and motivating practice. In fact, as a professional coach, it’s one of the most important things I do with my clients. But it’s important to remember that success isn’t measured by the actual achievement of any goal, but by the process of working through the goal(s).
Every moment you live defines you – not only professionally but also personally. You set your own bar for success. You know you’re getting there when you set and achieve goals, but it’s the process of getting there that really drives your success and, ultimately, who you really are.
And because of this, it’s never too late to change your story, because it’s in a constant state of being written – by you! So instead of thinking that you’re stuck in the same place, think of where you want to be, and start writing the story that will get you there.
If you want to change your story, start by visioning what you want in a set period of time (such as in one year). And then follow these three simple steps:
Create a vision board with images that illustrate what you want to achieve. Place this somewhere that you can see it daily, even if it’s an electronic image as your screen saver.
Write down your top three new “rules” for one year from now. These are statements about yourself that you are working to make true and should begin with words like “I am…” “I have…” “I do…”
Write down the first three steps you need to take to achieve these new rules. Make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and have a Time limit).
Now comes the fun part! You’ll need to hold yourself accountable for making progress against these goals. So establish clear timing around each mini step, and set dates in your calendar with these deadlines. Remember to respect your commitment to yourself as if these were assignments you owed some other important person in your life.
You’ll soon find that this new story is really easy to write! And fun! And if you get nothing else out of it, remember that it’s not the realization of the goal, but the process of getting there that is your true measure of success.
This blog post contains my interpretation of the copyrighted work of Bruce D Schneider and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).