Last week I shared a very important to-do item with my blog readers. I asked them to take a couple of hours to step away from the computer, think, and define what success means to them.
It's so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and sharing and working on and just forge ahead along a similar path without ever stopping to think if it's what you really want or not. Is your goal something that you even KNOW you want? Is doing things the way that a colleague does really the best route for you to get there?
When I was an undergraduate, one of my psychology professors mentioned something to me about working in marketing. I wasn't really paying attention to what he was saying at that point. I was just trying to figure out how he knew that I was walking by his office when there's no way he could have seen me. Answer: Because I reeked of patchouli. He confirmed this later.
My professor wasn't suggesting that I go out and get a marketing job instead of a PhD in clinical psychology. He was merely talking to me about my options. I blew it off because at that point, I only wanted to continue on my path to private practice. Later, I realized that a Master of Science in Psychology was as far as I wanted to go. I was sick of school and had already racked up enough student loan debt to outlive me. I was tired of preparing and studying, and I was ready to start living my life.
Fast-forward to what feels like a gazillion years later. I did work in marketing. I didn't take the same business route as some of my colleagues, but my listening skills and focus on motivation and human behavior sure gave me great tools. On those days that I pine for a time machine that would let me travel back to my early 20's and go to art school, I have to remind myself of all the awesome things I've experienced and learned about people, relationships and emotions that factor into every piece of writing, art and client plan I create.
When you find yourself looking at what another person is doing and thinking about all of her steps that you need to follow to be able to do that too, that's when it's time to take a step back. Look at your goal objectively. Tune out "the way" to do it and see what you come up with instead.
The path that we create for ourselves is filled with generous mistakes. Who knows what you might have missed out on if you hadn't gotten there the way that you did.
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.