We all have a similar goal. We want success to feel meaningful, we want our work to matter.
But it doesn’t. And we feel stuck. No matter how hard we hustle and grind toward success, or how much we achieve it. That’s because the problem isn’t how we achieve success, it’s how we define success. We spend our lives positioning ourselves just so, reaching for the right college, the right internship, the right company, the right promotion, the right job. We fill all the right check boxes on all the right paths to all the right and generally accepted, externally definitions of success, and we still feel like something is missing. But sometimes it’s much more than that.
Years ago, I found myself sitting in a corner offer with a beautiful view of the park and a fancy title. I had gotten myself to the top. But, I found myself asking, “The top of what?”
I had done all the right things. I had wrangled my way to the fast track, I had demanded the spotlight, I had put myself smack dab in the center of the deal flow, and I had done it early enough in my career that the dividends would pay for years to come. And I had leaned in!
I was successful. But I wasn’t happy.
Whose Definition of Success Are You Following?
I was at the top of someone else’s definition of success. And that’s the problem. You can’t be insatiably hungry, or deeply inspired, or happily fulfilled by someone else’s goals. In order for your working life to feel right for you, it has to actually be right for you. Being limitless comes not from achieving externally defined success, but achieving consonance, where what you do matches who you are (or want to be).
That requires doing something different. The first step in becoming limitless is to ignore everyone else’s definitions of success and create your own, owning how much importance you place on, and from where you derive, the four elements of calling, connection, contribution, and control. Once you know that, you can decide whether you need to change your career, change your workplace, or change yourself.
Calling is a gravitational pull towards a goal larger than yourself—a business you want to build, a leader who inspires you, a societal ill you wish to remedy, a cause you wish to serve.
Connection gives you sightlines into how your everyday work serves that calling by solving the problem at hand, growing the company’s bottom line, or reaching that goal.
Contribution is an understanding of how this job, this brand, this paycheck contributes to the community you want to belong, the person you want to be, or the lifestyle you’d like to live.
Control reflects how you are able to influence your connection to that calling in order to have some say in the assignment of projects, deadlines, colleagues, and clients; offer input into shared goals; and do work that contributes to your career trajectory and earnings.
You can think of it in this way: until we are able to control how our connection and our contribution influence and are influenced by our calling, we will continue to be limited in the confidence we have in the choices we make and the chances we take. Understanding how these elements align for you, personally and professionally, will allow you to determine whether you need to change your career, change your workplace, or change yourself in order to become limitless.
This guest post was authored by Laura Gassner Otting
Laura Gassner Otting is the author of Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life. Want to live a limitless life? Take her quick quiz at http://www.LimitlessAssessment.com/ to see what’s holding you back, and what you can do about it.