In salaried employment, professional success is usually measured by the extent to which we meet the targets and objectives we are set. I considered myself to be pretty successful in my salaried career, largely because I found it satisfying to deliver on what was expected of me in my role. I got a kick out of acing the fundamentals and then going that little bit further with comparative ease. I was well-liked, competent and had a nice collection of qualifications to fall back on if ever I felt insecure about my credibility. I was happy in my work, with no real desire to strike out on my own. I had my ‘bad days at the office’ but fundamentally, life was good and my career looked rosy.
Or did it?
I’d just been promoted to the role of Operations Manager within a large training organisation. The learning curve was steep but worth the climb. I was experiencing new things, meeting new people, understanding my industry to a deeper level and seeing education from a different perspective. But it wasn’t long before I realised that I had moved away from the reason why I was attracted to the sector in the first place; to help the students achieve their goals. My career success had led me to spend an increasing amount of time in non-student facing functions. Compliance issues, improvement plans, budgets, appraisal forms, bid writing and marketing campaigns had all replaced my face-to-face time with learners. I realised that I wasn’t especially qualified for my new role, nor particularly interested in it. Salaried success started to feel like a hollow pursuit. Where was the joy? Where had my alignment to my vocation gone?
A decent sized, regular salary is a huge factor in our remaining where we find ourselves, especially when no other alternative has yet presented itself. I toyed with ways in which I might make my ‘successful’ career more gratifying. I focussed on supporting my staff in lieu of the student support. It was more rewarding than other aspects of the role, but the bits I didn’t enjoy so much didn’t go away. I began to look higher up the organisation for a job that I would like to aim for, but I found nothing that appealed. I had been promoted past the point of enjoyment and personal satisfaction and was I surprised to find myself feeling cheated and disillusioned.
I looked up to the heavens and asked, what am I missing? How do I find my way out of this?
I think it’s fair to say that sometimes we don’t know what we are asking for. We sometimes look for answers when we don’t even know what question to ask. We request something from life and we don’t fully comprehend what has to happen before we can experience it. I think I was asking for freedom. I was asking to feel aligned in my work and fully expressed. I was looking for ways to be in and of service to others. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself but less constricting than delivering objectives that felt meaningless. I wanted to feel alive, excited, uncompromised and able to shift direction when I felt called to.
Impossible in salaried work; maybe? Unrealistic under any circumstances? not sure, but I knew I had to find out.
Redundant and unexpectedly pregnant with my first child, I realised that I had received the unceremonious push that would lead me to become self-employed. I knew this was my chance to work the way I wanted to. Embarking on the quest for spiritual success that goes hand in hand with a soul led business is not for the faint hearted. Nonetheless, I got adventure and excitement in spades, learning and transformation by the bucket load and soon discovered that aligned self-expression is essential to attract even one client!
Is spiritual at odds with successful? I have concluded that the answer to that question is both yes and no. In my experience, salaried success went by the wayside a long time ago. I joke that I have become completely unemployable, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t operate within an organisation as a contractor. I traded the security of a salary for the adventure of ever-increasing self-awareness, but I still make good money. I invest in training that I enjoy, adding another modality to my client support toolkit, but my greatest CPD has been the inextricable journey of entrepreneurship and personal growth. My ambition for spiritual success in business delivers unexpected bonuses in my personal life too. I found my soulmate, let go of aspects of myself that weren’t working for me, learnt how to establish healthy boundaries, found ways to lean into the journey of motherhood, explored aspects of myself that I didn’t know existed and I wake up each morning on what feels like a tailor-made adventure holiday.
I’ll take that definition of success any day.
What about you?