How Do You Measure Success?
By Paula Fitzsimmons
Working 70 hours a week at a job that may pay well but sucks the life out of you. Securing the bottom line at any cost. Clawing your way to the top of the corporate ladder. Doing whatever it takes to achieve a certain level of “success” isn’t working out too well for us – and especially not for animals or the planet.
Noted scholar and environmental educator, David W. Orr summed it up perfectly when he wrote: “The planet does not need more successful people. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
Don’t get me wrong. Earning a well-deserved promotion and enjoying the monetary benefits of one’s labor can be a sweet thing. It’s when we believe and act as if externals such as prestige, title, and wealth should define us; then use them as justification to exploit animals, the environment, and others. . . that it’s time to take a good long look at our reason for being.
If we’ve been approaching success incorrectly, then what is true success, exactly?
My ideals and definition of success will no doubt differ from yours. The following are not right or wrong, but what I believe are hallmarks of true success . . .
Fulfilling your potential
If you already know you want to work with or for animals, you’ve solved a big part of the equation. The other part is figuring out which specific career or job you would enjoy and excel at.
As Holly McNulty, Farm Sanctuary’s Director of Human Resources & Volunteer Programs told me . . .
If you haven’t figured out what you’re good at, don’t feel so bad. Some people instinctively know what their strengths are – you’ve probably heard of people who knew they wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, or writer since childhood. For the rest of us, discovering what it is we’re good at can be a bit more challenging.
Fortunately there are resources to help you decide on an ideal career path. One of the most helpful things to help you learn what you enjoy, is to volunteer at an assortment of animal welfare organizations.
Making a difference
Working at a job that makes a difference in the lives of animals and others, is perhaps one of life’s biggest affirmations. Ask someone who works in the field (provided they haven’t yet experienced burnout) how their job makes them feel about themselves. Even closer to home, how do you feel about yourself when you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, even if it wasn’t job related?
Whether you work directly with animals as a caregiver, vet tech, or animal adoption specialist; or indirectly as a fundraiser, writer, or administrator, you’re making a difference. And if you’re making a difference, you’re a true success.
Feeling good about what you do
How will you feel about yourself if the wealth you build or money you earn is gained on the backs of others? Feeling good about the work you do and being able to look at yourself in the eye are signs of true success.
TRUE MEASURES OF SUCCESS
- Working with integrity; either individually or collaboratively to achieve a greater good
- Building profits ethically, without compromising your values
- Working 60 hours a week to build a wildlife sanctuary; helping to craft animal-friendly legislation; or writing a grant proposal
- Taking a stand for the defenseless
Examples of true success versus standard “success”
Which would you rather strive for?
STANDARD MEASURES OF “SUCCESS”
- Clawing your way to the top by whichever means necessary
- Creating record profits with disregard for animals, the planet, and others
- Working 60 hours a week for status
- Being part of the status quo
Now weigh in. What does your vision of success look like?