I’ll never forget my first day as a corporate lawyer. 5 long years studying law, followed by interviews with top law firms to see if I made the grade and had what it took to survive the dog eat dog world of corporate law.
Apparently I did have what it took. October 1995 – there I was, all dressed up in my newly purchased corporate wardrobe, sitting at my desk in the fancy office of one of Scotland’s premier firms.
I was nervous, excited and confident that I was going to be the best lawyer that had ever crossed the firm’s threshold.
That was day one.
Fast forward to day two and I distinctly remember thinking, what am I doing here? Is this really how I am going to spend the rest of my working life? With a mass of files on my desk that I would never really care about, far less understand, and a dictaphone in my hand, speaking gibberish that no one other than other lawyers would ever even hope to understand?
But I was living the dream, right? I had started out on what so many other people dreamed of – a corporate career that would give me prestige, status and a healthy pay packet after a few years of slave labour.
These memories came flooding back to me yesterday, as I stood on a busy corner of the CBD waiting to cross the road. And I looked around, at all the people, as I always do, scurrying to meetings, talking on their phones, with colleagues, or marching straight ahead all caught up in their own version of the corporate world with its problems, politics and constant posturing.
And again I found myself wondering, why do so many of us do this? Is this really a healthy model for a life that is truly fulfilled and allows us to feel like we have done something meaningful with our life?
What is success, anyway?
In my humble opinion our modern definition of success is totally screwed up. It is all defined by money, stature and what we have, rather than who we are.
What appears as success on the outside, does not always translate to happiness on the inside. The well-cut suit, the beautiful jewellery, the designer handbag – it’s often just an illusion, a distraction if you will, from the stuff that really matters.
I say this because not only have I been there myself – twice – in my career, but I also work with women every day who are successful, yet often deeply unhappy. Many aren’t ready yet to admit that they are not happy, but they have a nagging voice in their head, a constant stream of dialogue saying, “There is more than this you know. You were meant to do something meaningful with your life. Make a difference. It’s been great till now, but can you really go on for the rest of your working life like this?”
A few years ago I went on a 10 day silent meditation retreat. 10 days without speaking to anyone, meditating 10 hours a day. By far the most challenging thing I have ever done, there is one particular aspect from the teachings that really spoke to me. It’s the concept of right livelihood. Right Livelihood means pursuing a job, work, a career or a business that is good for you, good for others and good for the greater good. It means living in accordance with your values and not causing harm.
Now there are many ways we can pursue right livelihood. My partner works in sales – and he sells solar solutions which fits with his values of sustainability. He makes a decent salary doing it to support our family.
It’s no secret that I love what I do – empowering women to make choices in their career and their lives that allow them greater success and happiness – and in doing this I encourage them to challenge the accepted norms; to dig deep and determine what is meaningful to them in their life, and to pursue a business or career that is congruent with that. That to me is what pursuing Right Livelihood is all about.
My question for you is this: do you ever take the time to stop and put your career in context?
To look at the bigger picture of where it fits in your life, and where it fits in the world as a whole? If you were to do that, would you be happy with what you have chosen to pursue to give you the means to do what you want to do in life? Most of us work for money after all. But money is not the end product – it’s what the money gives us that we really work for.
As you cross the road today to go and buy your lunch, stop for a second and look around you. See the people caught up in their own sense of self-importance and make a promise. Promise yourself that you will question things a little more. Dig deeper and get to know yourself better, so that you can work out what this short life of yours is really all about. From day one sitting in my corporate law office I have asked myself the question: is this all there really is? And while it has taken me 20 years to figure out that no, it’s not, I am very happy that I did.
If you know anyone suffering from Corporate (Dis)Illusion, do them a favour and share this article.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can take ownership of your career to allow you to create a career you love, be rewarded for what you do and take control of your future, you might want to join me for a LIVE and FREE workshop, where I’ll show you exactly how to do just that. Click here to find out more.