Define Your Own

When I was younger, I had a very strict definition of what success would look like: Me living in a great big house with an indoor pool. As with most things, I thought I had it all figured out. As a matter of fact, I even went so far as to try to buy that great big house at one point. Luckily for me, it didn’t work out. Later, I owned more house than I needed and realized that bigger wasn’t always better, but it took a lot longer than I’d like to admit for the idea of the indoor pool to finally find its way out of my head.

Almost all of us start with that personal status symbol we have in our heads to define success. For you, it might be a certain car, that big house, a boat, a camp, or the corner office on the top floor. Whatever that thing is, think about it, recognize it, and invest some time and energy into researching it. That dream might be totally possible with the job and momentum you have if you set the right goals early.

I can still say that there’s a tangible item, a symbol of me knowing that I’ve done well: Not having to scrape ice off the car at five in the morning. I know it sounds silly, but you can question a lot of your life’s decisions while clearing your car off before the sun comes up just to go to work. So, I guess it starts with the pipe dream you think will define your success. Do you have one? I hope so, because there’s something healthy about dreaming.

I always wanted to live on a boat. Back when I was nineteen, one of my peers lived on a small sailboat when we were in San Diego. It was nice to go there, tune out, and be on the water. I promised myself that I’d live on a boat if I ever got back to San Diego, and now I do. That decision wasn’t due to some personal status symbol, which many people think it is. It was about being happy.

I don’t recommend owning a boat to most people. It’s a terrible financial decision, but the cost of marinas in San Diego and maintenance aside, I can tell you it was the best choice I ever made in my life– not for my wallet, but for peace of mind. Even on the bad days, I could go back to the boat and be content. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve figured this out.

At some point, I defined something quite different from success. I defined happiness, which is being happy where I am right now and content with the decisions I’ve made and their outcomes. I’m happy with what I’m doing and happy to work towards more of the same by setting goals for something that will be great later.

It’s important to be able to define both success and happiness, and to be able to tell the difference between the two. Define what success looks like for you and do some research. When the time is right, you’ll have a chance to define what happy looks like, and it might not look much like what you thought success would.

Sooner or later, we all have to decide if the day job we have right now is making us either successful or happy. One or the other is good, and having both is like winning the emotional lottery. Being in a day job that moves us towards neither, well, we’ve all been there. Once you know what both look like, only then can you find the balance between the two. When you have that, amazing things can happen.

– When you were younger, what was that one item you thought would be your symbol of success, and has that changed over the years?

– How do you define happiness?

Have a great week out there.

– JTDay Job Final_Web

James Tinker

About James Tinker

James was born and raised in Bangor, and left home at 18 for the Navy. Twenty-five years later, he retired as a Command Master Chief, the highest enlisted rank on a warship in San Diego. His popular blog series, The Day Job, shares personal and professional lessons learned through his career.