Stop Checking Boxes and Own Your Success


"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." - Maya Angelou Too often we get caught up in expectations. Expectations of what society or our families defines success as, what they believe will make you the best version of you. These societal pressures create a culture of folks who just want to hurry through life, trying to “check the boxes” on the to-do list to get to the next point of "success achievement". Generally speaking, people have check boxes such as:

  • College degree
  • Marriage
  • Kids
  • High paying or high power job
  • Home ownership
  • Advanced degrees

The equation shoved down most people's throats contain a combination of the above, if not all, in order to consider themselves a success in life. Many times if you don't fit in the mold that was created without your consent, but was pushed on to you, you might feel as though you aren't as successful as your counterparts who have achieved said milestones.

In addition to trying to check the societally-imposed boxes, we all too often play the comparison game in life, whether that is comparing salaries, single vs married, parent vs no children, etc. Growing up each of us had an individual notion of what our success looked for our own story. But sometimes those things don’t pan out. The quote commonly used is “Life is what happens while you are busy making plans” and those plans are usually what you see as your roadmap to success (possibly involving some of the check boxes)!

But life happens. The guy you dated for 7 years since college broke up with you (uh oh the married box isn’t checked yet!). You worked your ass off for three years to get to the next level at your office job, only to get downsized (AH! I didn’t get the high paying job with the fancy pants title!). You can’t save enough for a down payment on a house (Gasp! You might never be a homeowner!).

Guess what? Lighten up! You define you! Be true to yourself, and create your own path, that will be your equation to being your own definition of success. Sometimes taking the long road to success isn’t so bad, I hear it can be pretty scenic if you do it with it with an open mind, and positive point of view.

I have talked to my girlfriends, each of us at unique points in life that are different from each other: one unmarried and career focused, another owning her own business by the coast, the next is a mother of four unbelievably adorable children, another married living in the South running half marathons and traveling often. And you know what? Each of us looks at the other and thinks what a success her friend is , we are proud of our girlfriends– cause we know that success isn’t one size fits all.

To some, marriage and children are a measure of success, to others that sounds like a jail sentence. Jet setting around the world as an executive of a Fortune 500 company, constantly on the road is success, to others it is stressful and lonely sounding. If you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and are happy with the life you have built that is success. If you are still working towards your goals, even just a tiny bit each day, to live your definition of success – good for you lady! Be true to your definition, don't measure against others, because the version of success you have or will create is going to rock.


-Courtney Greenwood, MBA