What do running, sunshine and Seattle have to do with success? Everything for Sue, a former coaching client who, after a long search, was offered the role of CEO of a company she believed in and felt she was uniquely prepared to lead. Sometime after our work together Sue called to tell me why she took the job (which made sense) and why she changed her mind and ultimately turned it down (which also made sense).
So what happened? While this role was in fact a good fit in many ways, and certainly looked like success to the outside world, Sue turned it down because in revisiting her values and drivers, she understood that the city of Seattle, wonderful in so many ways, did not fit an essential element of the lifestyle she knew was a linchpin to her success. A dedicated runner, Sue knew she needed a 45-minute run—outside, in the sun, daily, to activate her superpowers. It was a non-negotiable lifestyle value for her. Running was part and parcel of Sue’s life and had been from the time she was a child. Upon reflection she realized that seemingly expendable run the in the sun fed her sense of authenticity, clarity and courage. She would need all three to be the leader she wanted to be and to activate her distinct version of success.
Part of why success is elusive to so many is that we’ve been programmed to believe that if we work hard, do the “right” things, and meet the “right” people; our lives will follow a relatively straight trajectory to success and happiness. We share an underlying belief system that doing those things ‘should’ result in being successful. But unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.
No one’s life is a straight line; the journey of life follows a path of mountains and valleys, successes, failures and everything in between. Sitting at the feet of your life and learning from it is the first step towards creating your version of success. The very definition of success is changing for so many of us. How you come up with success now may look more like a shift towards significance, more of an internal yardstick than an external one. In my 23 years as a coach, I’ve never had so many people reaching out for help and guidance in charting a new path towards a more substantial, more meaningful definition of success.
This article was originally written by Barbara Waxman and appeared on Thrive Global.