They are everywhere—people who seem to have it all, but are privately miserable; people who get paid more money than most people dare to dream, still they do little more than complain; people who hold a very high-status title and all the trappings that come with it yet they’re obviously sad, aggrieved and unfulfilled. You’ve met these people. You’ve listened to them and know that all the money in the world, all their status and luxury items and even the accumulation of more power and attention hasn’t led to greater levels of happiness.
There are so-called successful but vastly unfulfilled people everywhere. You’ve probably tried to help and advise them, and—to make matters worse—you’ve likely listened to them complain over and over about how nothing ever happens for them and how life is somehow crueler to them than it is to anyone else. Maybe you, yourself, are secretly one of these people.
What is career success?
There is a huge difference between accomplishment and success. Many people are accomplished. They earn competitive credentials, secure high-profile jobs, build sought-after careers and earn top-tier salaries and incomes. These are several examples of the standards by which many in society define career success. But these items—degrees, job titles, desirable careers and great pay—represent accomplishments. And the problem here is that accomplishments alone don’t necessarily equate to career success.
Career success is a combination of achieving a reasonable level of financial stability while doing work you enjoy and then finding that you are also happy and fulfilled with your life and career choices as well. If you love your job but find that it doesn’t lead to financial self-sufficiency, career success is diminished, and if you get paid very well but lack joy or interest in your chosen career field, career success is diminished. True career success requires that there is alignment between the two.
People who experience meaningful career success recognize that money and titles aren’t the whole of it. They know that they must also experience inner peace and joy for it to really matter. If you get paid well and have a career that others dream of but the work causes you to become unhappy, unfulfilled and maybe even miserable, you certainly won’t feel successful. And if you’re happy, fulfilled and delighted with your chosen career but you find that you aren’t able to afford the basic necessities of life, you certainly aren’t likely to feel successful either.
Success calls for happiness and inner peace, but the rub here is that accomplishment doesn’t. Happiness is what occurs when you take charge of your life and align your purpose, passion and principles with your decisions, behavior and career choices.
Why so few people ever experience career success.
When you fail to intentionally become something, you unintentionally become anything and that “anything” often leads to huge levels of unhappiness.
There are many different reasons so few people ever actually experience career success, and it includes conflating accomplishment with career success as well as following a career path that is defined, imposed or driven by other people such as parents, friends, spouses, etc. Another reason that so few people actually experience career success is that they never take the time to define what success actually means to them. They neglect to assess what a life of joy, peace and happiness would even look like for themselves and certainly, then, never assess or define what career success would be either.
So instead of creating a successful career, many people just end up falling into one or finding a career that they believe will lead to happiness and then—after becoming highly disappointed—spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about their circumstances. People become disillusioned when the place they land professional and/or personally doesn’t bring the expected combinations of experiences (financial, professional and personal fulfillment) that they thought they would get.
Additional reasons why so few people ever experience career success are:
- They suffer from one or more debilitating fears and resist taking the kind of career risks that could open new opportunities.
- They feel powerless to change their circumstances, or they feel like they simply don’t have any good choices or options because every choice requires a sacrifice that they don’t want to make.
- They get stuck waiting around expecting others to create career opportunities for them whether it be their friends, boss or some other company manager.
- They worry too much about pleasing other people so they end up putting off their own needs and then complain about it later and, sometimes, too much.
- They lack grit and the ability to persevere in the face of life and career obstacles and challenges. They give up too easily and get overly deflated when presented with—and challenged to overcome—barriers.
- They try to mask insecurities and weaknesses by touting how much they don’t need anybody else, and this causes them to refuse to ask for help. As a result, people who might otherwise help them just get pushed away.
- They have a victim mindset that severely limits their ability to succeed. As a result, they lack the ability to learn where necessary and, even more importantly, unlearn when necessary.
Do this if you want to experience career success.
- If you want to experience career success, you first have to define what it is for yourself.
- If you want to experience career success, you have to resist the lure of tying your success to the admiration and approval of others.
- If you want to experience career success—the kind that is connected to inner peace and happiness—you need to focus on aligning your purpose, passion and principles with your decisions, behaviors and career choices.
- If you want to experience career success, demonstrate that you have the mental fortitude to be truly successful. Also, stop giving other people the power to decide whether or not you are important, worthy or successful.
Finally, understand that the most successful people aren’t the ones with the most money, largest offices or most popularity. The most successful people are those who demonstrate the mental strength to lead and own their power to make the decisions—personal, professional and career—that drive sustained inner peace and happiness. By doing these things, you can start to create positive change, and you can begin to experience real career success.
Everyone dreams of having a highly successful career that they enjoy and that provides them with the lifestyle they desire. Far too many of us, though, end up settling short when it comes to career success, working jobs we don’t enjoy for less money than we’d like to have.
The good news is that having a successful career is something that is largely under your own control.
If you would like to start enjoying career success, follow these six steps.