A few months ago I walked away from the biggest paycheck I’ve ever earned thus far in my professional career. Funny thing about that paycheck. It was the sole thing holding me back from leaving a job that I knew, in my heart, wasn’t for me. At the time, it felt good. I finally made a decision for myself and I was off to pursue those things that filled my proverbial cup. Fast forward to a few months of living in the absence of that paycheck, I sit here contemplating…

What is it about money that makes us feel successful?

Don’t get me wrong. Of course I like money. Who doesn’t? But for me, at some point along my journey I had let financial gain become the measuring stick of self worth. Why? One might argue that the working world trains us to feel this way. The bigger the paycheck, the more significant you are. Others might say it’s common sense. Everyone needs money. Perhaps these reasons work for some (maybe most) people. But for me, I needed to find a different way to measure self worth.

In the midst of wrestling with this concept and working patiently on myself before jumping into the next gig, I came to the realization that, success is… what Y O U define it to be.

“What is it about money that makes us feel successful?”

To each their own as you embark on this journey (because you do you), but here is how I slowly started chipping away at (re)defining what success means to me.

Because I’m a lover of lists, that’s where I started. There’s something so powerful about putting pen to paper. So I wrote down, in no particular order, all the things that made me F E E L successful this week. They included:

  • Networking with complete strangers
    (my fav, and I SO wish I could do this as a paid gig) 
  • Sending a thank you note to someone who impacted me professionally
  • Starting a daily gratitude journaling
  • Updating my calendar
    (in color code, because color coding is like therapy for me)
  • Doing the dishes
  • Doing some user research testing, for F R E E

That last one, though.

As a reader, you might wonder if there’s something wrong with me given I started out by saying  how much I miss having a paycheck. Still true. And yet here I am taking on free gigs? Yes, I am. Because here is a little secret I will let you in on. One that took me years to realize.

Sometimes when something completely consumes you, cutting it out for awhile brings the true meaning of life and purpose back into perspective. 

For me, I spent years assimilating my worth with a paycheck. And I had forgotten how good “giving” made me feel. Giving my time. My talents. A listening ear, in some cases. Having spent a few weeks now “giving” and asking for nothing in return, I have experienced some of the most powerful responses from people. True appreciation. True gratitude. Being present. And strangely enough, it has made me feel just as good as that paycheck did a few months back. I feel like after years of searching, I have finally discovered a deeper, more meaningful sense of self worth.

Do I want a paycheck? Of course I do. Am I looking for my next gig? Every day. (Hint, hint.) 

But the moral of the story. My story. Is simply this… Don’t let your relationship with your finances be the driving force behind your WHY, or how you define success for yourself. Spoken from someone who traveled this aimless road. 

Trust me. It’s lonely and will only leave you feeling empty at the end.