My definition of success has changed a lot since the last time I thought about what would
make me a successful person. Really, maybe it hasn’t changed so much as importance has
shifted to the components of success that were implicit or expected behind the larger, more
flashy ideas of success that I used to have. Instead of requiring a high-paying, powerful job
fearlessly leading my underlings through difficult situations, a fancy house, and a salary
that could support a small country to consider myself a success, I have learned that it is
more important for me to find fulfillment. Being fulfilled will make me happy and therefore
feel successful in my life’s endeavors.
While at one time, I may have thought that these feelings of success and fulfillment would
follow from the fancy job and belongings, I have learned that it is not the case for me. After
spending a summer at what was considered an “ambitious” and “important” internship,
I did not feel that I made a difference in a way that was meaningful to me or to my work environment.
Sure, I did a research project, presented my work, and was told that my work was well done
and would help the company in the future, but I wanted to do something that would more directly
impact peoples’ lives in deeper and more important ways than applying statistics to develop
a new system to project estimates of financial services for the Balance of Payments. I needed
to find that human contact that was more important to me.
When I volunteered in Peru the following summer, I realized that I could attain fulfillent
through giving of myself. My skills were appreciated and the work that I produced had a direct
impact on peoples’ lives. I felt extremely worthwhile and like I had both a purpose and
a place in the world. I could actually make a difference, which to me, was worth more than
any paycheck that I earned the summer before. So now, my definition of success is one that
may not be exactly in line with the generally accepted idea of success, but it is one that
I feel confident about and one that will shape my future decisions.
As I realize this newfound sense of self and its relevance to my career and work life, I feel
that it is important for me to apply it to other aspects of my life as well. To actually be
fulfilled and successful, I need to give more of myself to my family and work harder to mend
and rectify the relationships that I have allowed to deteriorate over the years.
Applying my ideas of success and what is important to me both in my career and in my family
life is going to be both very hard and extremely rewarding. While I definitely have not figured
out my life, I feel better knowing what I need to be fulfilled and it makes me excited to begin
my life after Smith, something that I was uncertain about prior to rethinking success.