Good morning SOTGC readers. This is another post inspired by the Summit (A View From The Top) I attended discussing Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article “Women Still Can’t Have It All.” During the pre-panel mixer, at the breakout discussions during the session, and after the event, I took note of several resounding themes that kept getting brought up. I have decided to write, and ask other women to write, posts on these issues as an ongoing theme.
One of the themes that kept coming up was the ever present issue of “defining your own success.” There were women who had let OTHERS define what success meant and consequently made choices they might not have, in order to achieve this definition. Others let the societal definition of “success” steer them for a time, and then once they looked deep within to create their own definition (and followed it) they found peace and true career happiness. Yet others find themselves in the earlier stages of their careers and are either struggling to create their own version, or had come up with it already and were struggling to be at peace with how others would view their choice (since it wasn’t the standard societal definition.)
While re-reading Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article, there was part in the beginning that jumped off the page at me. “But it was thesecond set of reactions—those implying that my parenting and/or my commitmentto my profession were somehow substandard—that triggered a blind fury.” This made me wonder…if instead of the judgmental or condescending responses, Ann-Marie got from some of her female peers, there were congratulatory comments about having been the first female Director of Policy and Planning at the State Department, or of admiration for coming home to her teenage boys who were displaying signs of needing her with them…would she have written a different article?
Part of me laments the circumstances which turned a once gung-ho believer in “Women Can Have It All” into a more cynical “here is WHY we can’t have it all and it will take momentous changes to GET it all” to write an article such as this. Then part of me wonders if she wasn’t more intelligent than the lot of us and thought “hmmm. For years we have all said we CAN have it all and there haven’t been as big of strides towards the goal as we would have thought. What if someone were to put out an article stating the contrary? Would that get people up in arms enough to bring this discussion to the forefront and help incite the tipping point towards much faster advancements for the cause?” I can’t say that either of these suggestions are true, but it leads me to wonder…
I found an article from The Atlantic on Henry David Thoreau’soutlook on defining your own success, which I have pasted (in part) below. More and more I notice that each time I speak with someone (male or female) who is TRULY happy with their career, it’s partly due to the fact that somewhere along the lines they ditched the constraints that other people’s idea of “success” put on them…and instead found peace, happiness, and gratitude with moving forward with their own personal facet of success, no matter how similar or different it is from the “societal norm.”
How to define your own success, find your purpose and do what you love:
If one listens to the faintest but constant suggestions of his genius, which are certainly true, he sees not to what extremes, or even insanity, it may lead him; and yet that way, as he grows more resolute and faithful, his road lies. The faintest assured objection which one healthy man feels will at length prevail over the arguments and customs of mankind. No man ever followed his genius till it misled him. Though the result were bodily weakness, yet perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to be regretted, for these were a life in conformity to higher principles.
If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal—that is your success.
Then, in nearing the conclusion:
I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.