Personally and professionally I have a bittersweet relationship with the month of May! Yes the entire month of May. In review of my career and life many major milestones and changes occur. It’s exciting to embrace change, but scary. These are normal feelings experienced by anyone in any phase of transition. As I’ve learned (whether I wanted to or not), is the universe has a way of trying to help you achieve your desires and the lessons you’re supposed to learn… whatever you think about, whatever you need, happens or appears. It’s how you respond that dictates your next phase.
I recently met a friend that I hadn’t seen in close to 17 years for drinks. It was honestly like no time passed and we readily fell into old jokes and stories. It was great! Then I asked “Are you happy?” While, there had been a long list of accomplishments, joys and successes experienced by this dear friend… the response – a timid quiet pensive “yes” caught me a bit by surprise. I was expecting a booming “hell yeah!” I sensed this longing, like something was missing. I share this with you because I felt it was echoed in the powerful messages Arianna Huffington shared in her commencement speech at Smith College. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/arianna-huffington-smith-college-commencement-speech_n_3299888.html I encourage you to read it in it’s entirety as the entire speech is entertaining, insightful and inspiring. Here are some segments I found to be especially impactful:
“But it’s time for a third metric, beyond money and power — one founded on well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back. Money and power by themselves are a two legged stool — you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. And more and more people, very successful people, are toppling over. Basically, success the way we’ve defined it is no longer sustainable. It’s no longer sustainable for human beings or for societies. To live the lives we want, and not just the ones we settle for, the ones society defines as successful, we need to include the third metric.”
“What adding well-being to our definition of success means is that, in addition to looking after our financial capital, we need to do everything we can to protect and nurture our human capital. My mother was an expert at that. I still remember, when I was twelve years old, a very successful Greek businessman coming for dinner. He looked rundown and exhausted. But when we sat down to dinner, he told us how well things were going for him. He was thrilled about a new contract he had just won to build a new museum. My mother was not impressed. “I don’t care how well your business is doing,” she told him bluntly,” you’re not taking care of you. Your business might have a great bottom line, but you are your most important capital. There are only so many withdrawals you can make from your health bank account, but you just keep on withdrawing. You could go bankrupt if you don’t make some deposits soon.” And indeed, not long after that, the man had to be admitted for an angioplasty.
When we include well-being in our definition of success, another thing that will change is our relationship with time. Researchers have come up with a term for our stressed out feeling that there’s never enough time for what we want to do — they call it “Time Famine.” Every time we look at our watch it seems to be later than we think. I personally have long had a very strained relationship with time – more in line with a certain PhD from Oxford, in English Lit, actually — Dr. Seuss.”
I was blessed with a mother who was in a constant state of wonder. Whether she was washing dishes or feeding seagulls at the beach or reprimanding overworking businessmen, she maintained her sense of wonder, delighted at both the mysteries of the universe and the everyday little things that fill our lives. And whenever I’d complain or be upset about something, my mother had the same advice: “Darling, change the channel. You are in control of the clicker. Don’t replay the bad, scary movie.”
One of the gifts this attitude to life gave her was the ability to cut through hierarchies. One night, when I was in my twenties and still living in London, a Tory member of Parliament I was dating at the time (it might have been one of those decisions brought on by sleep deprivation) had brought the Prime Minister Edward Heath to dinner. My mother was in the kitchen, where she could be found most of the time, talking to the plumber, who had come to fix a last-minute problem. She asked the plumber what he thought of the prime minister. “Not much,” he said, “he hasn’t been good for working people.” “Let me go bring him here so you can tell him directly,” my mother replied. And that’s how the prime minister ended up in the kitchen talking to the plumber.”
“So please don’t settle for just breaking through glass ceilings in a broken corporate system or in a broken political system, where so many leaders are so disconnected from their own wisdom that we are careening from one self-inflicted crisis to another. Change much more than the M to a W at the top of the corporate flow chart. Change it by going to the root of what’s wrong and redefining what we value and what we consider success.
And remember that while there will be plenty of signposts along your path directing you to make money and climb up the ladder, there will be almost no signposts reminding you to stay connected to the essence of who you are, to take care of yourself along the way, to reach out to others, to pause to wonder, and to connect to that place from which everything is possible. “Give me a place to stand,” my Greek compatriot Archimedes said, “and I will move the world.”
So find your place to stand — your place of wisdom and peace and strength. And from that place, lead the third women’s revolution and remake the world in your own image, according to your own definition of success, so that all of us — women and men — can live our lives with more grace, more joy, more empathy, more gratitude, and yes, more love. And now, Smith College class of 2013, onward, upward and inward!”
Great stuff!!!! We all have that place, no matter where we are in our lives, no matter what stage, what history, what hardship… we all have the power to “Change the Channel” and to connect to that place from which everything is possible.
Believe and be happy!
Feel free to reach out to the Career Yenta- let us help you shorten your time in transition or make that move to the career that inspires you. Join us for the Career Yenta BootcampTM!