Despite the mountain of controversy and publicity around Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In”, I’ll admit that I enjoyed reading it. I liked the author’s accessible style and the generosity with which she shared personal stories and experiences. Many of those stories revealed a different, more human and less perfect, face of Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. I liked the humility of her writing style as she shared her insights.
Ever since the book’s launch, the biggest take-away seems to revolve around the question/title: Are you leaning in? That’s the question that a lot of young ambitious women seem to be pondering, courtesy of Sandberg. Sheryl’s message is often interpreted as the pressure to figure out how to ‘lean in’ more and harder, ie work harder and faster to succeed. Is that really true? To me, her book is about being smarter and more pro-active in seeing, grasping and taking advantage of opportunities that come along in all areas of life. I interpreted Sheryl’s message as more about living life to the fullest, at 100 percent, and leaning into life in general.
“What would you do if you were not afraid?” – I loved the title of the first chapter of the book. I think we all need to make a point to ask ourselves that question regularly.
So few of us are able to articulate what we want out of our career or life. Lack of clarity leads to lack of ambition, and the end result: we feel managed by our careers, rather than pro-actively managing our careers.
That’s why I think it’s useful to regularly re-evaluate one’s definition of success.
We define success differently at different stages of our professional and personal development, when we are single and just out of university, when we have a child, and when our offspring are bigger and we have more energy on hand. Our personal values evolve too, as we grow and mature, and will affect our definition of success.
First step to your success Sandberg-style (or not) is to get clear on what you want and need. Lack of clarity is the biggest hurdle to achieving your dreams and goals. If you don’t have a direction and goal at hand, any path will do.
We often think we don’t know what we want but if we tap deeper into our desires and dissatisfaction, we will see that the answers have been sitting there all along.
An artistic mom who seemed ready to go back to work asked me recently:
“What if I don’t know what I want to do?”
“Ok, let’s assume it’s true. You don’t know. Now, let’s fast forward 5 years from now, what will you regret NOT having done?”
She paused for a second or two, and then she had the answer.
“I will regret not having created art and not having used my gifts to feel recognized and appreciated” she said.
I was not surprised because this question rarely fails to get some kind of meaningful reply. Another person might answer: “I want to be a CEO of my own company, the kind of company that makes people’s lives better and offers an environment that everyone wants to be part of, like Google or Goldman.” For the third person, it will be about spending more quality time with her/his children and working less.
So, here’s the question again: “Five years from now, when you look at yourself in the mirror and look back at the last 5 years, what will you regret not doing, not being and not having?”
Pause and connect to the truth in your heart. And if you don’t have an answer, it is time to… yes, meditate. 🙂
Now that you have a vision of what will feel like success to you, it’s time to come up with a strategy and start moving forward. I’ll take you through next steps in that direction in my next blog post.