I recently earned a great big promotion, and just moved into a beautiful house with my hubby and toddler. But the truth is, I am terrified of all the success I’ve had before 35.
However will I sustain it? How do I know I’ll be happy with all this when I look back when I’m 50?
Congratulations on your wonderful success! It is normal to feel anxiety as your responsibility grows – the more you have, the more you have to lose if things go wrong. Here’s the good news: research shows that 88% of the stuff you worry about will never happen, and that whatever does happen, you’ll deal with it better than you anticipate.
Let’s take a look at your concerns: sustaining your success and determining what really makes you happy. Here are a few big ideas that should help:
- Define what success really means to you. To sustain success, you have to be clear about your personal definition of that word. What elements of your current success—the big job, the beautiful house, the family—are essential to your definition of success? What’s missing? What’s optional? What do you want to see when you look back at 50? Paint a picture of the future and create a clear, long-term vision.
- Identify your values. To understand what will make you happy in the long run, you have to be clear about your values. Knowing your values also helps when you reach crossroad choice points, because you can choose what matters most to you. So—what is most important to you about your beautiful house? Is it the prestige of the address or is it the spaciousness it affords you and your family? How about your big job? Is it that you get to be challenged and leverage your strengths or is it that you have status and power? Values can shift as you move into new periods of your life, so it is a good idea to re-examine them regularly.
- Focus on personal sustainability. Next you will want to get serious about how you sustain your own health and well being – literally, your personal sustainability. The concept of life/work balance can seem like just another goal you are failing at. But you need to make sure you hold up over the long haul. Investing time in taking care of yourself will help ensure that no matter what happens, you will be healthy and clear-minded enough to make the best choices for yourself and the people you care about. Decide what your standards are for self care and stick to them tenaciously.
- Never compare. As your toddler gets to be school age, you will be rubbing elbows with other moms and have the experience of being judged and found wanting by what I have come to refer to as the Mommy Police. And as harsh as the Mommy Police may be, they won’t hold a candle to the way you judge yourself. At the same time, at work, you will feel the competitive pressure of young whippersnappers just like yourself who can put in the hours without feeling the Mommy guilt. Notice whatever impulse you have to compare yourself to others – any others, ever – and immediately counter it with a mantra that goes something like: “I am paying attention to what is most important to me and what other people are doing is not relevant right now.” Also helpful is Judy Ford’s “your opinion of me is none of my business.” Decide whose opinion actually does matter and listen to only those people. Decide what your priorities are, based on your values, and don’t let anyone but your designated posse pressure you into doubting yourself.
Breathe deep; try to enjoy the ride. Unexpected setbacks are inevitable, but if you keep your eye on your vision and values, take care of yourself, and trust yourself, you will look back with no regrets.
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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