When the Answer is Not 42
What does success mean to you?
Not such a difficult question really. But how you answer is revealing. Answered honestly, it provides a clear reflection of what is currently a significant value for you.
Paulo Coelho says that for him,
Success means going to bed at night with my soul at peace
Some might say this speaks to what is lacking in his current situation – is his life too busy, too chaotic, demanding or frustrating? You could say he therefore measures success by the opposite of these things: a profound state of stillness, fulfillment, harmony and acceptance. Or perhaps over time, these are the values that he recognizes as the key to his idea of fulfillment.
While our top values may not shift significantly over our life span, how we rank them at any given time can definitely change, depending on how our lives are developing.
At this point of my life, I would say success means the ability to create my life on my own terms.
And from this, the value my definition most clearly reveals to me is autonomy. To others, the same phrase might signify freedom or independence – words suggest slightly different things to each of us.
And what has this got to do with your career? I’m sure you’re ahead of me on this one – without knowing what success means to you, how can you measure your progress? Or adapt what you’re aiming for to different stages of your life? I know I’m definitely looking for very different things now than I did ten years ago – and I suspect if you cast your mind back a decade, you would find the same.
Snap our of your sleepwalk!
Knowing what drives you to succeed, and that this changes through your life, must surely be worth a few minutes' calm reflection. If you don’t hunt out your own measures of success, you’re in danger of adopting someone else’s. Do you want to lead another person’s life, walk in their shoes and then wonder why the prize you are sleep-walking towards feels like stale dust rather than Olympic gold?
Then let’s get back to values! And values are nothing more nor less than the pillars of our lives. When fulfilled, they give life worth, and when lacking, we can feel trapped, dissatisfied, frustrated, limited or bereft. So let’s get to it. It’s your turn to answer the question and reveal an important value.
In no more than 10 words, take a moment to consider:
What does success mean to you?
Without over-thinking it, just write it down. As things stand for you right now.
Then stand back and squint at your answer –
· Which values are hidden in these words?
· What significance do they hold for you?
· Are they demonstrating what’s missing in your life or what you are consciously trying to create more of in the next phase?
You’ve discovered treasure.
Spend it well.
P.S. For the literary fiends amongst you, yes, 42 is the answer the super-computer Deep Thought took 7½ million years to calculate in Douglas Adams’ ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. The question was of course the ‘Ultimate Question’: What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?
P.P.S. If this resonates with you, perhaps my Values Discovery Package will help you create a more purpose-driven life.