Ask Yourself: Am I Succeeding Or Thriving In My Career?
A lot of us spend quite a bit of time thinking about how we can achieve success in our careers. While everyone will have a different idea about what their success looks like, for most, it will have to do with reaching a particular goal – a job title, salary level, or perhaps a skillset. Whatever the idea of success may be, we probably don’t spend enough time thinking about what happens when we attain it. Sure, go ahead and bask in the glow, but eventually, you might find yourself wondering… okay, what’s next?
Here’s a suggestion: rather than focusing exclusively on being successful, think strive to thrive. What’s that mean? Well, the dictionary says to thrive is “to grow or prosper vigorously; to prosper; to flourish”. Unlike success, which we often associate with a specific achievement, thriving is about building the energies that keep us motivated; empowering us to pursue journeys that we believe will provide long-term fulfilment. So, try thinking beyond your career goals and allow for work-life integration. This balance and fulfilment should help promote longevity in your career.
How We Thrive
Thriving doesn’t happen by accident; it’s a highly individual process that requires a lot of thought and planning – think about what you find meaningful. Everyone has their own personal and professional aspirations, and we all gain and use our energies differently.
Don’t forget as well that the people around us play an essential role in our ability to thrive, so it’s important to identify those who influence and encourage us. If we take the time to self-reflect, we can then start to sketch a picture of what thriving looks like for us, and what we need to begin our journey.
Step 1: Set Your Direction
Figuring out your path and where to head is a critical first step – don’t worry about the endpoint, look at the start. Ask yourself: What are your professional and personal aspirations? Look at what gives you a sense of purpose, and where do you want to make an impact.
Next: what energises you? Some people are excited by fast-paced environments, while for others it leaves them feeling drained. You know yourself best, so start thinking about times you felt truly energised and productive. What did those times have in common?
Also start considering how you want people in your professional and personal life to describe you in 5, 10, even 20 years from now. You may find this unrealistic and feel uncomfortable thinking about it, but the truth is most of us have a sense of where we want to be in the future; the trick is learning to define it.
Defining that sense of direction comes from knowing yourself well enough to be clear on what gives you energy, and what consumes it. It comes from having an idea of what gives you purpose, and knowing where you want to have an impact, both in and outside of work. It comes from getting comfortable envisioning how you want others to see you in the future. The better you can articulate these points, the more intentional and in control you will be over the direction of your journey.
Step 2: Chart Your Path
Now that you’ve figured out your personal and professional aspirations, how will you reach them? The path to thriving is not universal. Many paths could enable you to thrive and identifying which ones and the benefits and trade-offs with each are key to charting your direction.
Now that you’ve set direction and started to chart a path, what about adding some “checkpoints” – a time to step back, reflect, reassess and check your route. A lot of things can change along the way, including you, so it’s important to take the time to ask yourself if you’re still on the right path. It’s a good idea to plan your first checkpoint. This includes setting a time and deciding what criteria you will evaluate. You might decide that your first checkpoint will be in a year and make a list of the things you’d like to accomplish between now and then. You can do this for any time period; a year, two-three years, five years, etc.
The things you would like to accomplish along your journey are your personal and professional itineraries. Your professional plan consists of the skills, training, and experiences you need to achieve your professional aspirations. If you don’t define them, chances are you won’t be on top of them. Your personal itineraries are the priorities and factors that will influence how you make decisions about how to invest your time and energy along your journey. It’s important to identify these priorities, because a lack of awareness of the factors that influence your decision making may result in decisions that do not align with your aspirations.
Step 3: Assemble The Crew, Your Wolf Pack, The Band…Whichever.
At some point, you’ll find yourself wondering where you are along your path, whether you’re on course, and whether you’re in control. There’ll no doubt be unexpected hurdles and opportunities along the way – that’s life. Dealing with these ups and downs is challenging, but it’s easier when you have the right people in your corner. Find a crew from your personal and professional life, and they’ll help you manage the twists and turns. Remember, you aren’t travelling alone.
When you have the right crew, you benefit from their experience and expertise (as they benefit from yours). And when you need a reality check and a different perspective, no doubt your crew will be there for you. Be sure to find people that aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions at the right times, even if they’re questions you don’t want to hear. These are the people who hold you accountable to your long-term priorities and goals.
Your crew isn’t only about tough love. They’re also a source of guidance and encouragement. They can help you tackle some of the tough decisions you’re sure to face along your journey, including work-life balance challenges. They offer the personal and professional support you need to be successful and to thrive. Your crew should help keep you energised and inspired.
Step 4: Keep Your Direction.
As you move forward, there’ll be times you may need to change course. When you do, keep your direction in mind, and try not to wander aimlessly – you might end up lost!
When adjusting your path, think about who you will travel with (your crew), whether it’s for part of your journey, or for the long haul. Think about how each of your relationships will contribute to your mission, and how they will be impacted by the experience. Your professional relationships may be a source of tactical or strategic advice, and both personal and professional relationships may be a source of encouragement and motivation.
Despite our different journeys, those who are thriving in their careers tend to adopt a similar approach. So, take time to reflect on these steps and what they mean to you. It’s not perfect, so do what’s best for you but at the very least, be honest with yourself. If you get stuck, talk with mentors or those who are invested in your career.
You cannot travel the path to thriving on autopilot; you must actively navigate, and course-correct along the way. You have done the work to define your direction and chart your path. You are in control of your journey.
Your journey won’t always be smooth. You will encounter unexpected forks in the road, develop new passions, and come up against new restraints. You’re going to encounter unforeseen bumps along the way – big and small. The “tough” bumps are not fatal – people you know, and respect have experienced bumps and grown as a result. The “good” bumps can be scary at first – the best opportunities usually are. Fear is natural, but don’t let it hold you back. Proceed along your path, remembering to assess your progress at your checkpoints. Be willing to adapt and evolve, and keep intentional about where you are heading and why!