What is your definition of success?

Over the last 25 years, I have worked for a lot of different companies in a variety of positions. My kids make fun of me for this.

My very first job was when I was 17 at a small family-run butcher shop with a big reputation. People drove from hours away to shop there. It is still open today, run by the next generations.

I have also worked at a pet store, a sporting goods store, a bank, an insurance company, McDonald’s, a men’s clothing store (which was the longest-held position – on and off for almost 10 years). I have worked for small family-run construction companies and large international engineering firms. I worked the front lines of customer service for over 20 years but also have degrees in Human Resources Management and Occupational Health and Safety. Currently, I work in HR for an international manufacturing company who is closing our local facility.

So, in addition to trying to deal with all the aspects of COVID-19, I am also trying to finish the last few stages of the plant closure. To say it has been an experience in an understatement. This is experience I never thought I would get, nor ask for. Yes, all of this adds to my stress as mentioned a few weeks ago.

When all is said and done, and while searching for a new job, the question is whether I consider this to have been a success. I will even go one step further and ask if I think I have had a successful career. The answer is yes. But at the same time, who defines success?

Have I always been employed? No. I was unemployed for 14-months when the recession hit in 2008/2009. Do I have enough money to retire in 20 years? No. As a single parent, often working minimum wage jobs and contract positions for so many years, I was so focused on surviving that I could not even think about saving for the future and retirement. Do I have a good, secure job with a possibility for growth? No. I am losing my job in three months and the prospects are looking pretty grim right now.

So how can I state that I am a success? Well, God has often provided me with opportunities at just the right time. He has never let me down. Here is a perfect example. I was laid off from a construction firm I was working for in 2009. In the spring of 2010, while I was still unemployed, my mom fell and broke her hand and was not able to fully do her job. Every day, I would drive the 60 min to her house and help her as she needed. The day she was cleared for full duty by her doctor, I got a call about a job and was hired the following week. His timing is impeccable.

There are many examples of this throughout my life, I cannot list them all.

The struggle I have right now, amongst all of the other challenges in my life, is whether I feel I am destined for more. People might look at my life and pity me because of all the struggles I have had to overcome to get to where I am. Others might look at me and see someone they want to be like. It is all about perception and frame of reference.

As I face the next transition in my life, I wonder if I am meant to do more, to be more. Is this all there is for me? Fighting to get a short-term, temporary job until the next one comes along? Fighting with 50 other candidates for the one or two HR jobs that become available in this small community? Or am I meant to find a new path that will lead me to more? More security, more happiness, more fulfillment, more success…

The challenge I have in my mind is the difference between godly success and earthly success. To want more for myself is prideful. So how do I know that what I am feeling is what I want or is it where God is leading me? Sometimes it can be very hard to discern the difference.

Some people will tell you that if it is from God it meets all the Biblical guidelines. Often that is too vague. There is so much out there that equates to earthly success and still meets what its says in the Bible.

And unfortunately, since I moved, I have not been hearing much of God’s voice so I don’t feel confident in my decisions. Since that is not a voice I have been hearing, I struggle with what will come next or where I will end up.

Part of it also comes down to this other question: what do I want to do for the next 20 years until I can retire? I don’t have the answer to that question either.

The other day I opened my Bible randomly and it brought me to the Book of Proverbs. This book full of nuggets of wisdom. It opened to Chapter 1 and I started reading.

First, I have to say the love that wisdom is identified as a woman! What woman doesn’t love the thought of that!

In Chapter 2, Solomon talks about God’s distribution of success on those who are ‘upright’. He gives them wisdom and guards the paths of justice, righteousness and integrity. If I have not lived a life of righteousness and without integrity, do I deserve to be successful according to God’s standards?

He holds success in store for the upright,
    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
    and protects the way of his faithful ones.

At the same time, all humans are sinful so with that logic, no one would be successful.

I have to believe God has a plan for me. He has been leading me down the path laid out for me since the beginning. I think what is tough for me right now is that I have no idea where I am headed. This is where true and genuine faith comes into play. I need to continue on this path until it comes to an end.

God will show me his vision for me when He thinks I am ready. What I do with His plan is the only thing I control of. I have to take what He gives me and roll with it; take it as far as I can. This will determine my success.

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come and will not delay. See, the enemy is puffed up;
    his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness… Habakkuk 2:3-4

I believe God wants all of us to succeed, in our own way. What that looks like is different for each of us. I may not know what it means for me yet but it does not mean I need to give up and throw in the towel. I will get there, or feel like I am there, when it is right for me. In the meantime, I am going to continue to work on what I want and where I am, where I feel like I am being called and head in that direction if that is where I am meant to go.

Do you feel like you are a success? What is your definition of success? How does your idea of success compare to what others might expect form you? Share your thoughts with me and share with your friends.

2 thoughts on “What is your definition of success?

  1. God has been good to you so far Janice. His guidance and timing are perfect, you’ve seen that. You’ve got a job during this pandemic, for example. Imagine if it had ended earlier and you would have very little chance of finding any job right now. He knows the plan. We just have a hard time waiting for it to become clear. But when you look back you’ll see it. I know that you trust him to lead you to the next job. I’ll pay for your patience and increased trust as well as his clear guidance during this time. And hopefully you’ll have a nice little summer vacation too!


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