Five steps to success: having it all – your way

I am a goal addict! As a working mom you’d think trying to get through a day in banking and still fit in mothering a tween and being a wife to my gorgeous husband would be enough – but yet I’m constantly cooking up new challenges to throw into the crazy mix of my life. Let’s be honest my day really has no space for new pursuits but throw them in I do.  Right now I’m completely failing in my goal to master French, I’m scratched and bruised from my new obsession with farming in my yard and I’m battling my evil, impossible to tame, piano (why did I think taking up music at 40 was a good idea?)!

Compared to men, women view professional advancement as equally attainable, but less desirable”  This according to research by Francesca Gino, Caroline Wilmuth, and Alison Wood Brooks from Harvard Business School. Their findings concluded that:

  1. Compared to men, women have more life goals, but fewer of them are focused on power.
  2. Women perceive professional power as less desirable than men do.
  3. Women anticipate more negative outcomes from attaining a high-power position.
  4. Women are less likely than men to jump at opportunities for professional advancement.

Oh thank you Fran and Caro & Ali, It’s not just me!! We do this don’t we? We want to be inspirational leaders and value adding employees and gorgeous and elegant and earth mothers and the world’s best friends and brilliant bloggers and home cooking gurus and do our 10 000 steps a day (ok 6000 whatever) and be able to play an instrument and and and and and and…

So what on earth does success mean? “Success” səkˈsɛs, noun: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.  What does success mean to you? Really…what does it really mean? Last week I was challenged by a colleague as we sat discussing women at work, she asked me directly whether I felt successful.  Gosh! Do I? Do you? I am the greatest preacher on the theory of career life-cycles and the importance of planning for a scaffolding and not a career ladder but when faced with a direct question I felt a bit of a fraud!

With all those goals it’s no wonder I faltered.  It’s true that in my crazy mix I hadn’t listed professional power, but even so, I do include my career in my long list of life goals. So now, a week later and after some serious reflection (and wine); I think we need to take more than just a ladder or scaffolding into account when we define our own success.  Our success will need to include a mix of our goals, our values and the complexity of our personal reality.  It will need to include which, in our long list of goals, are satisfying our core, our soul and our purpose; and exclude those which we just throw in because we are compulsive goal addicts who believe that we can have it all. It will need to recognize that we may have multiple ladders and that our own success will be on a different rung depending on which ladder and depending on who we are.

So Amy, do I feel successful? Yes! Even though I’m nowhere near to being a home goddess or the CEO or a musical genius or multilingual.  I do manage to have it all – well let’s say I manage to have most of my all.

There is of course more to this research than just recognizing that women and men have differing goals. We know that to get more women in leadership, we need more women to aim for top roles.  To achieve this, we need to encourage women to take time to define their own success; to include leading as one of their goals; and to have the courage to make it work…their way. Here’s the thing – leadership does not only equal power. Leading can be a way to create meaningful value for organizations and for people; and maybe when we stop confusing leadership with power, more women will start wanting to get on that mythical ladder or maybe they’ll add the leadership ladder into their own mix.

Maybe we need to redefine the five steps to success? Maybe they should look something like this:

  1. Have as many life goals as you need to feel alive.
  2. Take time to discover which of those goals feeds your soul and meets your life purpose (your personal ladders).
  3. Define what success means to you (the rung you wish to reach for on each of them).
  4. Measure your success your way (your success is different to mine or to hers or to his).
  5. Celebrate! Be proud of your successes and keep reaching and aiming for more.

And maybe then we can have it all, as long as we know what our “it all” is.


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One thought on “Five steps to success: having it all – your way

  1. What a great article Liesl! Thank-you! I especially love your last step: Celebrate! I, too, am a complete A-Type (with a piano in need of taming!) and, all too often, I start work on the next goal without celebrating the last. Time to pop the champers and enjoy this moment before starting on the next goal! xx


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