From childhood we are told we by others what we need to do to achieve success. Heck, they even tell us what success looks like. For the most part that seems to be financial wealth. I´ve rarely heard an adult tell a child (especially their own child) to “be whatever you want to be” when they grow up or “follow your passion” or even, “be an artist if that´s what you want to do!”
I feel that few parents encourage their children to do what they love if what they love is not a surefire moneymaker. I suppose this is normal if the parents grew up with financial struggles. Of course they don´t want their children to end up in the poorhouse.
But the times when college lead to a secure job that you kept for most of your life are over. And even then, a life lived toiling away a job that pays the bills and maybe even a lavish lifestyle but is a soul sucker, is not a life well-lived. Not by my midlife standards, anyway.
A friend of mine, at the age of 38, decided to quit his job as a pilot. He told me he quit when his mother died. He realized he had become a pilot for her, to make her proud. She loved to see him in that uniform, looking successful! But he wasn’t happy. He didn’t have a place to call home, and he really wanted those roots. After his mother’s death, he lost his reason to be a pilot. He changed careers and became a teacher. Less impressive to society at large, perhaps, but more fulfilling to him.
Choose a career that is aligned with your passions
No matter what age you are, I say follow your dreams because really, that´s what matters. By following your passion you will find ways to make money doing just that. You may not become financially rich, but you will be emotionally wealthy.
The older I grow – I will soon turn 53 – the more I realize that I won´t be taking anything material to the other side. So start paving the way to happiness as early as possible. If you have children, encourage them to be happy too. Help them discover what they’d like to do with their life. Allow them to define success and don´t let the pursuit of money rule their decisions.
Children are quick to pick up on what we expect of them. So let´s expect them to be happy and successful on their own terms.
A different perspective on the measure of success
That is what we should instill in our kids and our youth: Passion, focus and determination.
I am grateful that I was never told what to do. I just happened to fall into teaching since I was born into a family of teachers. I truly enjoy teaching. I am not financially rich, but as long as I can indulge in my little pleasures: Going to visit my family, running, exercising, writing, drawing… I am happy.
My measure of success? Going to work every day and loving what I do for a living. Making people happy and seeing others smile. Enjoying those moments with friends which I am honored to have. This is my measure of success. I don’t want to have to look back and regret a wasted a life, being miserable for the sake of a bigger paycheck.
What about you? What is your measure of success? What would you do if money were not an issue? What would make you happy? Deciding to pursue that is success. And don´t let the concept of midlife deter you. It´s never too late to course correct!