Laura Gassner Otting is the author of “Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life.” She appeared on EverTalk TV on February 12, 2020 to talk about how you can start living a “limitless” life. Here, she writes about the ways to rethink how one measures success.
Back in middle school, you were taught to pursue the gold stars, get the good grades and shine across the board.
You had no say in the skills that got rewarded. Often what you were rewarded for was different from what you loved. And, of course, you had to be good at every subject, right brain or left brain be damned!
You were only as smart and as valuable as the average of your grade points across every subject. It didn’t matter if you loved numbers or if you were turned on by words, specialization was irrelevant in fourth grade.
Then, suddenly, at 17 or 18 years old, you were told to pick a college, pick a major, pick a trade, pick a life path. And you know what’s crazy about that? At age 18, your frontal lobe — the very part of your brain that determines good decision-making — wasn’t even fully formed yet.
So, rather than picking a path based on what makes us special — what we like, what we do well and where we shine — most of us are forced to pick our path early based on values attached by others and on interests that aren’t our calling.
Our teachers tossed out career path options based on not much more than anecdotal information gathered at a specific moment in time. They possessed no crystal ball and yet we internalized their notions as predictions rather than simply suggestions.
If you’re still operating on career assumptions arbitrarily handed out decades ago, it’s probably time to get your hands on the wheel, take control of the ship and start charting your own course.
Whether or not you are asking, it’s likely that every person in your life is telling you what success looks like — fame, fortune, status, marriage, children, bigger, better, faster, now. And while each of these well-meaning advice givers holds at least one of these metrics dear, these reflect only their own definitions of success, not yours.
It’s time to stop giving votes to people in your life who shouldn’t even have voices, because when we listen to everyone else’s definition of success, we fail to make room for our own.