How to Redefine Success in a Turbulent Time

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Status. Material wealth. Happiness. Health. Success can be defined in various ways.

Throughout your life, you may change how you view success. And right now, in these turbulent times, we may need to be especially open to altering our plans and accepting that success may look different than we’d planned. But how can you do that? Try these four steps.

1. Adjust your timeline.

Goals — and therefore, success —  are often attached to a timeline. For example, get a new job in three months, find an internship for the summer, complete a degree by the year’s end, etc. But right now, the deadlines you’ve set for yourself may not be as feasible. That dream job you were about to apply for? Maybe the  company has just laid off 100 employees, so you’ll have to search for another job. Or perhaps you had applied for a summer internship, but now the opportunity has been postponed, freeing up your summer.

2. Find the upside of virtual events.

We are being asked to work, learn and connect online more than ever before, and spending so much time in the digital world isn’t easy for everyone. But there are some upsides, too.

For example, maybe you were planning to start a degree program in the fall, but the university has announced all classes will be held online.  Maybe this is an opportunity to explore educational technology in depth.  And while most of the professional conferences and workshops you planned to attend throughout the year will take place virtually, consider this positive angle: You now have the chance to attend more fantastic events since you won’t have to pay for the expenses of airfare and hotels.

3. Prepare for an emotional shift.

It’s not just the pivoting positions of institutions and organizations that will affect your path to success. You have undoubtedly experienced a wide range of emotions as we cope with the pandemic and civil unrest. Even if you are not physically affected, the mental and emotional toll of living through and responding to this difficult moment is quite high.

If you’re worried about how you’ll be able to meet your goals in this uncertain time, think about this: What if the successes you achieve right now are visible only to you?

While you may not be able to achieve your personal and professional goals as quickly or to the full extent you had anticipated, your ability to be flexible and adjust your expectations during a difficult time will only make you stronger.

You will have more to offer to those who need you, whether that’s your community or your potential employer. Resilience is an achievement in and of itself, and now is the time to focus on what you can do — not on what you can’t do.

4. Acknowledge and pursue your changing priorities.

As you spend more time at home, review and reflect on the goals that you had set aside for another day or possibly even discarded. Your priorities may have changed in the last few months and weeks, so maybe some of those prior goals make sense to pursue in this season. Or perhaps you have new dreams and challenges to conquer. Think about what kinds of pursuits are more feasible for you right now. But above all, think about what is truly important to you as you continue your education or your career.


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