Your Measure of Success Might be Why You’re So Stressed

by Lydia Johnson, M.S. (Certified Holistic Career Coach)

Back when I was in my corporate consultant burnout phase, I had an epiphany:

My measure of success at work was whether or not my clients and coworkers were pleased with my work.

black pencil on paper
Photo by Nik on Unsplash

At face value, this might seem mildly unwise but overall ok…

But then I did the math.

I worked with about 12-15 different companies at a time, each with client teams consisting of 2-5 stakeholders. Let’s call that about 40 people.

Then, I coordinated with an internal team of 3-8 people for each company account. Let’s call that about 52 people.

So, my measure of success was whether 92 different people were satisfied with my work on any given day.

Surprise, they weren’t! It was literally impossible to please everyone. Not only are humans fickle, each with their own opinions and big emotions, but some of them have exactly opposite agendas— my project manager measured my success by how few hours I spent on a project (they had a limited hour budget), but my clients cared about how extensive my support was, and my manager measured my billable hour ratio.

After I calculated that terrifyingly large number, I realized something had to change. I cannot have “Are all the (almost 100) people pleased?” as my internal ruler for my effectiveness and performance.

That day, I decided that from then on, my metrics of success have to be:

  1. Measurable— A way to be able to “check the box”
  2. Within my control— Focused on my actions, not other people’s actions or reactions.
  3. Possible in the real world on a typical day— You can’t be superwoman every day.

Here’s an example: Instead of trying to guess whether a client was pleased with my big presentation, I tried to reframe my metric of success to something like: “I estimated I would need four hours to prepare for this presentation, and I spent those four hours preparing and am now delivering a well-thought-out strategy by the requested deadline.”

Even if the only person you coordinate with is your boss, I strongly urge you to take on a similar metric…

Else, you’re setting yourself up for a work-life full of people-pleasing, constant stress, and imposter syndrome.

It’s impossible to please even one person all the time.

If you have a toddler, you know how fickle human emotions are! Imagine if you judged your parenting skills by whether or not your two-year-old ever cries. You’d feel like a failure all the time!

So, it’s time to make a new metric for your success at work and home.

Your Quick Tip Tuesday Homework: Redefine Your Measure of Success

Break out a sticky note, pen, and paper. Using the three rules above, write yourself a new metric of success for a few key aspects of your job. Then, stick it somewhere you see it all the time.

Hi, I'm Lydia Johnson, MS

Hi, I'm Lydia Johnson, MS

Holistic Career Coach & Founder of ThriveCulture Coaching

I’m a dual-certified career coach and Industrial-Organizational Psychology consultant on a mission to banish Sunday Scaries and help you reclaim your life from work stress. I specialize in helping ultra-busy people design a fulfilling and burnout-free career that leaves more space for the rest of your life. Whether you need to overhaul everything, find a new job, or make your current role work better for you, I’m here to help.

You can learn more about my holistic and evidence-based approach on my website or jump on the phone for a FREE 20-minute consult call to learn more about how career coaching can help you finally enjoy a fulfilling, burnout-free career.


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