Liz did a two part post this week about the question, “What is success?” I caught myself frequenting her blog to read all of the comments, but it took me a few days to come up with my own response. Liz is a college student and questioned, “How can you be successful in your chosen career without having a corporate lifestyle?” Comments on her first post about success centered around happiness, but defining happiness and the so called “balanced” life is tough.
After some thought, I finally came up with what to post as a comment on the second post:
It’s been less than a year since I graduated college and this is a question I wish I had the answer to. The one thing I have learned is that it’s okay to change your mind about your career, the lifestyle you want, etc. I majored in Economics, thought I wanted to go to law school, changed my mind, took a post-grad internship at a top PR firm that I thought would be perfect and didn’t like it. I ended up working as a web developer (definitely wasn’t in my plans) at the college I graduated from (also not in the plans) and LOVE it. The point is the definition of success and happiness changed for me many times between junior year of college and now. Luckily you don’t necessarily need a degree in what you want to do. I want the experience of the big “corporate” lifestyle at some point in my life, but not my whole life. For me, I think that’s how I’ll reconcile the conflict between wanting to have career success/challenges and also wanting a laid back, slower life where a career isn’t my focus.
Over the past day I thought about the balance I’m looking for in life a bit more. I figured this was an important thing to reflect on given that I’m 95% sure that I’m going to be quiting my job this summer and going to grad school full-time in the fall. Given the state of the economy, I’m lucky to have a secure, challenging job (even if I feel it’s underpaid). At the end of the day, I’m happy with my job, so I need to be 100% sure that grad school is the right step toward “success” and “happiness.”
Ten years from now, I want to have a senior or mid-level position (depending on the size of the company) in the IT industry doing a mix of consulting and actual development projects relating to knowledge management and/or web development. I want to be making enough money to be able to own a comfortable sized condo or home and have money to spend on fun stuff. Accomplishing these things would make me feel successful.
On the other side, I want to be married, have a kid or two and have time to spend with family and friends. I want to have time for a hobby or two and an occasional vacation. I think having these things in my life ten years from now would make me feel happy.
Beyond the next ten years, I’m less certain what I’ll be looking for in life. Currently, I consider my “dream life” to be one in which I work for myself/have a small company (something web development/business consulting related), have a flexible schedule with free time (I realize the first two don’t always work together), can work from home if I want to and live in the South and close to the beach. Accomplishing these things in the next twenty years would be the next level of success and happiness for me.
I try to make decisions about things like grad school based on whether they will get me closer to these goals. I suppose the challenge is that I’ve changed my mind a lot (as I mentioned in the comment I posted), so what’s to say I won’t change my mind again.
Do you have goals that you use to evaluate big decisions? Have they changed in the past few years? Do you feel them changing now?