Do you remember the movie from the late 90s Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion? If you haven’t seen it, it’s about two friends who haven’t really done much with their lives since high school but don’t want to be ridiculed by their childhood mean girls, so they make up a bunch of lies to get everyone to think they’re successful. As most feel-good movies go, they are exposed but still come out on top with some motivational speeches and fire outfits.
You know what the main thing I remember about this movie is? Lisa Luder, the suave, beautiful, extremely successful Vogue Editor who steps up with a cool “actually” and gives her stamp of approval to Romy and Michele’s outfits. People respected her and listened when she talked, her opinion was valued and everyone was impressed by her. This was glamorous to me, and I grew up wanting to be fictional Lisa Luder.
People gauge success differently- for some it may be a new car that signifies they’ve ‘made it’, for others it may be a corner office or owning your own businesses. At a young age, I started focusing on how to become Lisa Luder and I started to gauge that success by the same things most people do: money and power. I wanted to be top dog because others would respect me; I’d have the money to live comfortably and a dream job as a powerful, intelligent CMO. I looked at anyone who didn’t want to excel in their career as weak: harsh I know, but that’s really how I thought of it. These values drove every decision I made since, from where I’ve lived to the career moves I’ve made even to starting this site (hey).
Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a hippie alter-ego who wants to quit corporate America and work in a dive shop, or maybe it was a series of events in my life that had me open my eyes but suddenly I found myself asking: Is this really what I want? Is my career really what makes me successful?
Short answer? No. Success is defined by what we value and the problems we consider worth fighting for, but until recently I was with the majority in thinking success comes from my title and monetary value . Changing this mindset and realizing the things I’d spent half my life working towards aren’t truly what I value can cause an identity crisis, and trust me when I say it did. Turning the lens inward is scary, and it usually results in realizing things about yourself you wish weren’t true.
So, it was time for a change. Knowing deep down that I valued respect I knew I could never not care about the work I was doing, but what about life outside of work? If we break it down, there are 168 hours in a week. If you’re an average, well-rested American you sleep about 56 of those hours, and you work another 40 each week. That leaves us with 72 hours a week where we’re not sleeping or working, so what are we doing? Working more? Watching TV? Exercising? Cooking? Spending time with family?
What if we flipped this model on it’s head and measured success in those 72 hours instead of the 40 we spend working? I mean, if we gauge success by what we value, and we put all of our chips in that 40 hour basket, are we really leading a meaningful life? That’s what we all want, right? So what if instead of power, my values are family and making a positive impact on the people in my life and helping my community and environment? What if that is what I use to gauge success, and to drive the decisions I make around work and how I spend my days?
I’ll tell you what happens, life gets better. I started to value life outside of work more, not just the super fun weekends with friends, but the waking hours after work where I’d spend time bettering myself or with loved ones, or the early mornings before work where I’d do yoga or read a book. Suddenly I started prioritizing my life without my career in the drivers seat, and I found myself thinking “What if the impact I make doesn’t come from my career, but my career is what funds the impact that I make?”
Wild, right? This mindset has helped me properly allocate my fucks, as Mark Manson would say. Not obsessing over every little uncontrollable detail made me enjoy my job so much more, and helped me see the bigger picture which in return has helped me to do better at work. It has made me think more about what impact I actually want to make, and the (still slightly uncomfortable) truth is that I don’t need to be a CMO to have an impact or be successful.
During the 40 hours a week that I’m at work, I give my job my all because I care about the work I’m doing, but thats no longer the only way I measure success in my life. I want to spend my 72 hours making meaningful connections and having a positive impact on the people in my life, I want to remind them that they’re loved and valued and important. I want to help my community and environment. Realizing this is what pure freedom is; it allows us to choose what we want to struggle for and how we want others to remember us when we’re long gone.
Seldom do we turn the lens inward, and accepting that our values may be a little out of wack is the first step towards a much more fulfilling, meaningful existence. It may be a tough concept to grasp, but start by making a list of everything you value, big and small. Then be honest with yourself and prioritize them; if you’re anything like me you’ll have an ‘aha’ moment when you realize where some of these values fall in your priority list. Decide you want to live your life values first, and with every action you take over time this shift will occur. After all, I’d much rather be remembered as “the woman who was always there for her loved ones, enjoyed being active and outdoors, and was passionate about animals and environmental conservation” than “the woman who was passionate about her career.”
Have you re-evaluated your values recently? What did you realize? Share in the comments below!