One of the speakers I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with at Discover is Jullien Gordon, a professional career coach and speaker who’s been featured in Forbes and Under 30 CEO. Jullien has some great lessons on developing your personal definition of success and going after what you want, rather than copying someone else’s definition of success – which may or may not make you happy.
When I went through the Discover program a few years ago, Jullien’s message really resonated with me. Even though I was doing things seemingly for myself at the time, I realized that I was actually doing things that I thought would make me seem successful in other people’s eyes – not because those activities were truly important to me. As I’ve defined what’s important to me and tried to let go of that “expectations” baggage, it’s really changed my priorities and made me a lot happier. Sure, my job is the same, but the way I approach it is completely different, and I feel like I’ve totally changed the way I look at balancing life.
During the Discover program, Jullien uses several analogies about cars; one of his key points is that “your life is your vehicle to design, drive, and maintain.” One analogy in particular compares driving a car to striving for success. If you want to go somewhere, you put the destination into your GPS and then you follow the directions your GPS gives you. But Jullien points out that many of us aren’t first taking the step to define success and decide where we want to go – an omission that he compares to getting in the car, pointing it in any random direction, and just flooring the gas to go as hard as you can, hoping you’ll eventually bump into success along the way. I love that example because I think so many of us can relate to it. It’s really simple to just keep working your butt off thinking that it will help you be successful, but all the hard work in the world won’t help you succeed if you’re ultimately going in the wrong direction for you.
As much as I love that concept, though, I have to somewhat disagree with that analogy. Sometimes, you don’t know where you want to go – and that’s okay too. Maybe you have a general idea of what you want, but you need to head in that direction before you can see what that area looks like and really decide.
Or maybe you have no idea what you want – in which case, driving in a bunch of different directions is actually a great way to try new things and figure it out. I wouldn’t suggest flooring the accelerator during that exploration, but I think that just because you don’t have a final destination in mind doesn’t mean that you should stay put. How are you going to know where you ultimately want to go if you don’t explore your options?
Our society focuses so much on knowing your five year plan and your ten year plan – and we think that the ability to articulate those is a sign of someone who “has it all together.” Well, I will be up front and say that right now I have no idea what my five year and my ten year plan is. I am incredibly happy with my life right now and the opportunities I’ve made for myself – and while I don’t want to be lazy, I’m okay with staying put for a little while. I’ve worked hard to get to this place, and I’m in no hurry to move on to the next thing. Is that so wrong?
I said in December that I wanted 2015 to be the year that I engaged in order to figure out my next goal, but I’ve realized that I’m actually pretty content right now with who I am without a master plan. For once, I feel like I can just take life as it comes instead of worrying about the big picture and where my actions are going to get me. I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t, and I’m getting better at saying no to the things that don’t make me happy, or otherwise figuring out a way around them. Maybe soon I’ll want to go explore, or even set a new goal and go after it full-force, but I take the fact that I don’t want to do that right now as a sign that maybe I’ve already reached my happy place destination (at least for now).
So, maybe I don’t know what direction to put into my GPS next… but I am having one heck of a great drive around town.