Ask anyone the question and you are likely to get a different answer each time. We all find it hard to define success because, like with any game, the pieces are forever changing. What you see as success in your 20s is probably very different from in your thirties. If you try to empower others, are you reducing your chances of success? If you create more opportunities for yourself, are you making others less happy?
I read somewhere that: “Success is always doing your best. Success can be achieved when you try your best in all aspects of everything you do, even if that doesn’t lead to big results.”
Someone else told me: “To me, success means to have a goal, plan the steps to achieve the goal, implement the plan, and finally achieve the goal.”
Success to some is winning in the work place, while to others it is having the “perfect” home to return to.
As young women, we are led to believe that we can “have it all” and, when you think about it, we all strive for that dream. At 25, we think that by 30 we will be married, have had our first kid, have a successful job and be living in a nice flat in London – just like Bridget Jones. (How could she afford to live that life? Why did we never question it?) Of course, by then, we will have had our fun times where the gorgeous lawyer (Mark Darcy-type) will have fought over us against the sexy publishing boss (Hugh Grant lookalike), and now we will have settled down with ‘Mr Darcy’ and will be looking forward to balancing our well-paid senior role with the perfect family. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen!
As a generation of women, we have never had it better, with opportunities in the workplace and more women in positions of power for us to look up and aspire to. The problem is, I do believe we are all putting more and more pressure on ourselves to reach that glass ceiling. When we don’t achieve such great, and sometimes unattainable, heights, by no fault of our own, we feel we have failed; we feel the guilt of having not taken advantage of the opportunities achieved for us by women of yesteryears who fought so hard. Consequently, many of us work ever harder, with the result that this all too often leads to burnout.
The question of putting their careers or children first has been raised on a number of occasions during discussions with women of all levels. Whichever decisions they took – spend more time with the children when they were young or forging ahead with the career – seems to have left unresolved questions and a lasting feeling of a level of guilt.
The groundsman at ECCO, the Danish shoe company where I worked for three years, told me over coffee on the day he retired that the one piece of advice he would give was to travel, because no one ever sits in their retirement home and looks back on their life and says to their loved ones that they wish they had earned more money. He told me to travel while I could. To him, that gave him joy.
When I worked with professional rugby players, success was so heavily based on winning. In professional sport, there is a very fine line between success and failure, and winning and losing can feel like it defines you. No matter how hard you play, or whether you give it your best, there is only a 50/50 chance of success. As a woman playing premiership rugby for Wasps, but working as the head of PR at Harlequins (my job and what paid my bills), winning of course mattered, but I based my perception of success more on my work and the feedback from my peers than on the sport I played. The older I became, as a woman, the value I placed on work started to decrease and the weight I placed on my relationship status started to take the limelight. Now add on top of that my commitment and passion for this network [Sport Business Connected] and supporting the women working in the sport business industry, the importance of my friends, saving enough money to cover the deposit of my own house and having the best possible relationship with my family, keeping myself fit and healthy, along with keeping the dream of travel alive and trying to balance it all during COVID and we suddenly need to take a big pause…and re-evaluate and have that much needed second glass of wine…have you forgotten what the question was because I think I have… haha!
What I think I am trying to tell myself is that we all need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves. We are our own harshest critics. We need to take a pause and instead stop thinking about how we define success and what it means to us, but think about what we have and are grateful for.