I remember my very first performance review. I had sat nervously at my desk waiting to be called into my manager’s office, feeling very much like a student asked to meet with the principal. I watched as a colleague exited signaling that it was my turn. My boss slid a piece a paper toward me detailing his observations on my performance over the last few months. I ignored the positive comments and chose to focus instead on the weaknesses. Seeing them listed out in black and white (and there were more than a few) I suddenly wondered if I would still have a job after this meeting was over.
I am not a naturally quiet individual, but in this instance I held my tongue as I waited for my boss to get to the punch line. I could almost hear the dreaded words, ‘I’m sorry, but…” I tried to tell myself that it would be okay, at least I could say I now had experience, which was a quality lacking previously on my resume. Perhaps this time it wouldn’t take me quite so long to get a return phone call for an interview.
After several seconds of awkward silence, my boss asked me if something was the matter. My worries refused to remain silent a minute longer. I asked him if I was being let go. My boss sat back and laughed. “Of course not.” He then went over his positive comments again with me making sure I knew this time I actually read them, and that I understood that while I had room to grow, he definitely wanted that growth to be with the company. I have been lucky. He was a good boss.
I grew more confident and comfortable with my job and my performance reviews over the years. During one of these later one on ones, my boss asked me where I saw myself in five years. I believe I laughed and said something along the lines of “in your job.” I was only partially kidding.
Nearly five years to the day, I found myself seated on the other side of that desk with my own staff. I learned then that anyone can be an oracle, but before any prophecy can be fulfilled, it must first be either spoken (loudly) or shared (often) for the world to see.
I had unwittingly made a promise to myself that day. I said what I wanted and I did what I said I would. I declared I would be successful, and by most indicators I have been. I have experienced an upward career trajectory. I have a house on the edge of suburbia and cars in the garage. I even have the white picket fence.
But two years ago I realized that I had neglected one other truth. Success by other people’s standards does not necessarily equal happiness. I realized then that in order to achieve sustainable happiness, I had to treat it in the same fashion as one of my career goals. I had to issue a new prophecy. I had to declare I would be happy, and then say it over and over again. I had to make changes to my lifestyle and attitude in support of my goal. I had to pursue happiness just as hard or in some cases harder than I had ever pursued a promotion until my goal was transformed from raw belief to real possibility.
I may never become a household name, but I might. I may never become the CEO of a fortune 500 company, but I could. Those are prophecies for another day. Today, I am pursuing my dreams and not someone else’s. I still have work ahead, there are still things that send me into a rage or sorrow, but I am at peace with the choices I have made, and in this moment, I am content.
Or at least I am on my way.