I have spent most of my life looking for the 'right' path. The most 'right' decision that would ensure success and ultimate fulfillment. I put undue pressure on myself that everything I did needed to be perfect. The trouble is, the 'right path' is what others project for your life. Most of us try to survive within the construct that others have defined. Today, I focus less on 'right' and more on 'my' path -- on the unique impact I am making on the world. I now measure myself against these questions: Am I bringing my best self to each day? Am I offering all I can give to myself and others? Am I living a full life about which I'll one day say that I have no regrets? Am I thriving or surviving?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area with loving parents. Growing up, my mom was very traditional in her views and values. I now appreciate the foundation of values she bestowed on me and have passed many of those lessons on to my own children. But growing up, those traditional views included the focus on meeting a nice man, embracing my femininity and being a great #2. When her agenda became clear to me by age 15, I began to spend more time with my dad. His priority was that my sister and I should not rely on a man taking care of us, but be able to stand on our own two feet if something should happen. My emphasis quickly became being a successful woman in a man's world. I still wanted to find a man, but one with whom I could establish a partnership, who wasn't threatened by me. (Not an easy feat, mind you.) Many countless nights were spent weeping to dad and questioning why this boy didn't like me or asking what's wrong with me, and him patiently listening, propping me up and urging me to move forward along my path. He was my mentor growing up. I feel proud to say that both because he was a man and my parent. He taught me a great deal of how to believe in myself, have the courage to make my own path and tips for how to be successful in a man's world in business. Needless to say, I ate it up from an early age. I am my father's daughter, grounded in my mother's values.
I entered the workforce after college and gave it my all. Every day, I would bring it and leave it all there. As an intern at an ad agency, I'd worked consistently until 11 p.m.. I realized that this schedule would not be good for my social life, so during this time, I also took on the goal of doing triathlons and marathons -- which were on my bucket list. Training was how I started and ended my day and spent my weekends. I'm an over-achiever, if you weren't able to tell. It's how I identified myself. It was what I was proud of. And being one of the best at everything I did was paramount.
Today's many slogans for women in the workforce -- leaning in, work-life balance, slow movement, hired help, finding the 'right' path -- are enough to make my head spin. I'm sure I'd still be searching for fulfillment in 'right' if I didn't receive a wake-up call on September 30, 2004. I was 26 when I was wheeled into the ER and a nurse asked if I knew what was happening. "I think I had a stroke," I muttered. "Ma'am, you are HAVING a stroke."
It was 5:45 on Thursday, and I had just been rushed from my office in downtown San Francisco to the hospital by ambulance. The events that day were profound and life-changing. If you were to meet me now, you would not know this about me as I have fully recovered, but that night, they were not sure if I was going to make it. My brain is so severely damaged from that event, according to doctors' interpretation of my scans, I should be deceased or a vegetable.
This event was enormous for me to process. The only way I could actually comprehend it is that this was a gift. A catalyst for change. An awakening. I was not going to ignore the second chance I've been given. So, from that day forward, I began to look at time as a precious resource vs. a commodity. I am now able to see my own beauty and the uniqueness of what I can offer the world and strive to bring my best every day to all those I meet and all that I do. I think we are all here for a reason. Living a full life now is less about living through others perceptions, ideals and metrics of me. I try to discover my path by nurturing and reaching my own potential so I can thrive every day for as little or long I am here on this earth.
I believe people should help each other find their unique paths to reach their potential. We need to set up systems that help people thrive. This is not a gender issue. I see this as a societal and cultural issue. We are currently not set up for this type of success. I want us to be. I believe if we work together and embrace our unique talents, we will have a richer fabric of life we can bestow on future generations. This is important to me because I want my two children to live in a world that embraces their personal best. At the end of the day, it's not about what we achieve; it's about who we become and how we use that to impact the world.
This post is dedicated to my life coach, my Dad. Thank you for sharing your love and wisdom. I will continue your legacy. June 1949 - May 2013
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.