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Kira Vermond: Success is in the eye of the beholder

What is success? A hefty paycheque? A corner office? For years they were both good indicators that someone was successful.
 
And why not? As benchmarks go, physical objects work. Especially money. The bigger your stash, the more successful you are compared to everyone else.
 
But there's an obvious problem here. Let's say you're a thief. A really good one too. In the past five years, you've stolen millions. So, you have a lot of money. But does that mean the rest of us would consider you a success? No. Probably not.
 
Others look at achievement in terms of whether our work has a positive impact on the world.
 
It was an idea a British think tank explored a few years ago. Its economists tried to calculate the real value of jobs in terms of how much harm they did to society and the environment.
 
What did they decide? Bankers destroy eleven dollars of value for every dollar they earn because of the financial damage they've created. Meanwhile, hospital cleaners create fifteen dollars worth of value because they keep patients from becoming sicker.
 
Using the "positive impact" lens, the person wiping down bathroom sinks is more successful than the banking executive. Interesting thought, but not many of us would think of success in that way.
 
Now what about work and life balance? Suddenly, that corner office isn't enough. Instead, success is about being at home with the kids by 5:30 and eating dinner together.
 
Meanwhile, young employees seem to define success in a different way. In a survey conducted by Levi's, ninety-six percent of women in their twenties said that "being independent" was their most important life goal. Last on their list? "Being wealthy."
 
Now, we are talking about a survey conducted by a jean company, but all these different responses to the question, "what is success" tell us something. Achievement is in the eye of the beholder.
 
And it's important to remember that. Because as we're exposed to many definitions of personal and professional success, it can become overwhelming. Not only do we need that corner office, we need to spend more time with the family. And not only does our job have to give back to society, we have to do it on our own terms.
 
In the end, the conflicting definitions result in exhaustion.
 
So, figure out what success means to you. Write it down. Set goals. And if you meet them, celebrate.
 
But remember. Over time, definitions change.
 
Just wait forty years and ask those Gen-Y workers how they feel about wealth. With retirement looming, there's a good chance they'll stick it at the top of their list.

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