If you'd asked me 16 years ago, when I graduated from university, I wouldn't have really known how to answer that beyond, "A job that pays me well enough that I don't have to worry."
Those Early, Hungry Years
I worked two jobs until I was almost 25. And a constant thought running through my head was always, "Gosh... If I can just get to a salary of $XX,XXX, I'll totally be set and not have to worry about paying my bills."
I knew nothing about luxury goods. I had no interest in traveling. I was living Tucson - until I realized I could be just as broke living in NYC... And up and moved myself to the big city at 23.
I mean... If you're going to be broke, NYC is a great place to do it. Sure, it's expensive to live there. But there were endless cheap/free options for entertaining one's self. And the jobs were much more plentiful. Even when you needed two jobs.
Success at that early age was all about being able to afford the $5 Bloody Orange Margaritas at the local dog bar in barely-gentrified Williamsburg back then. Or a $10 bottle of wine to share with friends. And the indulgent three-times-a-week Tall Skim Caramel Machiatto from Starbucks.
Clothes could be found cheaply. The subway pass was only $59 a month, and it ran 24 hours a day - though slowly at times. My largest bills were my rent ($800 to live in a nice two bedroom in a very scary-looking but awesome Brooklyn neighborhood) and my cable bill ($55 a month). These two things ate up exactly half of my monthly salary after taxes.
So my idea of success was very much money-driven. And it remained that way for many years - largely prompted by my ex-husband.
Now, though, I am over a dozen years into my second career (digital marketing). I've had jobs in executive management at international agencies connected to publicly traded companies. I've managed millions of dollars in revenue, staffs of over 50 people across North America, and have received nice paychecks to do all of this. It exhausted me, but was a worthwhile experience. And now, my definition of success has changed. It started to change two years ago. And it hasn't really budged.
A successful life for me is beyond what I do for a living. My career is important, but at this point, if I can't make an impact or be productive for a company, I won't stay. I'm lucky that I seem to have finally found such a place. But I'm not there because of the paycheck. My idea of success these days encompasses all of this...
The blackboard wall in my home office.
You can understand why even though money may not be a driving factor in my career, it still is needed. A little. Because I like to travel. I consider myself successful if I can afford to head out and into the world a few times a year.
I'm working with a trainer for the first time in my life who is serious about planning for his clients. He's progressed me from dead lifting a minimal amount to much, much more. And squatting, benching, pulling-up... My biceps are starting to have definition! For the first time ever. I'm stronger than I've ever been, which is incredible, given that I am closing in on 40.
Writing Stories People Read
This one is a work in progress. And admittedly, I am shy about sharing my essays. To officially publish them in some way is going to take some courage. I guess I have some more shedding of my ego to do, in that regard.
Speaking of "shedding the ego"... More meditation. Listening regularly to binaural beats. Plant medicine journeys. All of these keep me connected to something larger in life... Love, and how everything connects to it. Finding time to prioritize and do these things is "success."
Appreciation for my Efforts
It's also defined by sincere "thank yous." Probably more so now than when I was younger and only chasing money and position.
If I'm laughing and smiling more than I am crying or feeling angry or anxious, that is success. Because there a few years where it was not the case. (I call that "My Marriage" and having to continuously argue with someone to feel guilt-free about choosing to go to a yoga class than be at home to make dinner.) So if I'm ever able to find someone who makes me laugh more than I make them laugh, I'll get married again. But it sure as hell isn't likely to happen. Because I am funny as fuck, y'all. (Or so I think I am, because people seem to politely laugh at my bits.)
Standing Head to Knee PoseThey say the yoga pose you find the most challenging is the one you need the most. I've hated Dandayamana-Janusihrasna (Standing Head to Knee) since day one in yoga class almost 11 years ago. And I still hate that fucking post. Can't do it properly. So if I do both sets on both sides in a Bikram class, I consider that a huge freaking success.
These will all likely shift again. But for now, they are what drive me.