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How to Create a Career Path Using Your Own Definition of Success

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Who's wall are you climbing? Take time to reflect on what success means to you and create a career path aligned with your values.

Photo of a person silhouetted against the sun standing on top of a mountain.

The American Trappist monk Thomas Merton once wrote, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” Clarity coach Keltie Maguire shared this quote with us at a Starling member-only event recently and it really resonated with several of us.


The truth is that we may spend our entire lives creating a career path and chasing success as defined by others. Money, titles, power, fame, etc. Society pushes these definitions of success on us from an early age. The pressure is so strong that we sometimes forget there are other walls we could be climbing.


The good news is that if you find you are climbing the wrong wall, it’s almost never too late to move your ladder. But we have to start by finding the wall that’s right for us.


One of our goals here at Starling is to help you be successful, whatever your definition of success may be (even if that definition is more money, power, and fame). But how do we develop our own definition of success?


It starts with knowing ourselves.


Keltie shared two key questions with us that can help us gain clarity on what matters most to us: Why do you do the work that you do, and how do you want to feel? When we take the time to pause and reflect on our purpose, our motivations, and our desired emotions, we can begin to develop our own definition of success.


Understanding Your Purpose

Why do you do the work that you do? Taking the time to reflect on our purpose helps us uncover what is essential to us and what we value most. Is your purpose to learn continuously? Connect others? Connect dots? Create things?

Many of us can quickly rattle off our skills and the things that we are good at. But I find that we are less able to describe why we do the work that we do.

By understanding our purpose, we start building the foundation of our unique definition of success.


Understanding Your Desired Emotions

How do you want to feel? The second part of developing our definition of success is to shift our focus away from material things and toward our emotional states. Connected, joyful, valued, and moral are emotions that come from within. By defining how we want to feel, we can ensure we are making career choices that are aligned with what we really value.


Developing Your Own Definition of Success

What’s your definition of success? Creating our own definition requires a deep understanding of our purpose and desired emotions. By reflecting on these aspects, we shift our focus from external validation to internal fulfillment.


It’s worth noting that, over time, our definition will probably shift. So be sure to revisit these ideas from time to time and make sure you’re climbing the right wall for you.


At Starling, we’re all about helping you develop your own definition of success through courses such as Knowing Yourself and our community and events. If you’re interested in learning more, come check us out!


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