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Your definition of success

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Two students sitting on campus

I often ask students who come to me with their career queries ‘what is your definition of success?’

The answers I’ve received are as different as the students I’ve asked – ‘earning over $X’, ‘work/life balance, where work doesn’t rule my life’, ‘I want to make the world a better place’.

How you define success tends to be in direct correlation with your values – those principles you hold about what’s most important in life. As a career practitioner, I encourage people to think about their values for a number of reasons. Regularly assessing your values can be a very useful tool for career decision making, e.g. which institution to study at, what professional field to enter, or whether to apply for a particular role.

Often we have a vague idea of what our values are, but it’s when you deliberately undertake an activity (say, one similar to this values exercise) that you can articulate what your top five priorities are and whether they align with how you are choosing to live your life.

For example, I can think I consider my health a high priority and classify it as one of my top five values, but if I’m consistently eating unhealthy food and rarely undertaking any exercise, then is it really one of my values?

Jay Shetty, appearing on the Feel Better Live More podcast, proposes a very practical way to determine your values – look at where you spend your two most precious commodities: time and money. Jay suggests doing an audit of your calendars and bank accounts to get a clearer picture of how aligned you are with the values you profess to have.

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to your values – they are unique to each of us. You won’t necessarily share the exact same values or place the same priority on those values as others. But they do shape the decisions you make and play a big part in how you define success.

Be mindful of the influence of others on the shaping of your values. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having your values influenced by your friends and family or society as a whole, as long as you agree with those values. Sometimes questioning whether a value you hold feels real and true to yourself, or is coming from other people, can be a healthy and necessary step towards crafting your own identity and deciding how it is you want to be in the world.

To put it somewhat simply, a successful life may well be one in which you can confidently state your values, reassessing them from time to time, and then go about making decisions that align with them.

You can explore concepts around self-awareness and your values further in the our online Explore Your Options Challenge.

This article was written by Career Development Consultant, Rindala Hadzic.

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