“I believe that human beings are desperate, always, to belong to something larger than themselves.” David Whyte
The traditional idea of success in our organizations has everything to do with playing the game, dressing the part, and doing what’s expected. You work hard, you climb the ladder and make oodles of money that can buy you all the trappings of success as defined by external forces rather than your own internal calling. If you’re not careful, you get swept along in the definition of success as defined by everyone else.
You aren’t everyone else; this becomes clear the minute you declare yourself a leader.
If you don’t spend some time reflecting on what success means to you, you allow powerful forces of to take you for a ride when you’re not in the driver’s seat. After years of travel, you may come to the end of the journey and find that it wasn’t your own. It might be too late to change course.
You will have a chance at success when you can define what it means for you, putting the external forces of society, the organization you work in, and how others define it aside. Resist the pull of external sources of success and reflect on:
What puts you in flow in the sense of knowing what puts you into a state of clear focus and happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes that flow happens when the challenge and skills required to do a task are high. For many of us, this occurs when we feel as if we’re contributing something to world. The tasks that put you in flow will move your spirit. When have you felt a sense of flow? When this happens you may have an indication of what you need to be doing to be successful. The beginning of the journey!
What’s important to you. As Stephen Covey has wisely said, start with the end in mind. At the end of the journey what can you say about your life? One of the best ways to think about what you’ll leave behind is to consider what you’d want others remember about you when you’re gone. If you articulate that, you can work backwards to define where to begin your excursion of self-defined success. (p.s. It’s no small thing that a side benefit of clarity about what’s important to you is that you become able to set boundaries that point to what you’re willing to do and what you aren’t).
Real success as a leader can mean not listening to what external forces think defines it for you. Instead, listen to that inner voice, with reflection and silence, and follow it. This kind of success can be difficult, lonely, and risky. Yet it’s the beginning of the journey that can impact your ability to lead at your best in ways you can’t imagine now.