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Could-a Would-a Should-a

September 27, 2010
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How do you measure your successes?

Do you have career remorse regarding your accomplishments (or lack thereof)? What's your benchmark and how do you measure success in the roles you’ve had over the course of your career? Is your yardstick based on the accomplishments of some rising star co-worker? Has nepotism played a role in catapulting a peer to a higher elevation on the corporate ladder, making you feel inferior? Do you constantly compare yourself to others and wonder how, what, and when exactly your career started to derail?

Why do we seem to prefer charting our mediocrity by measuring our failures instead of feeling good about what we do?

Believe it or not, many of us think about this stuff constantly and unless we change the way we look at ourselves, we're never going to be satisfied. By comparing the achievements of superstars and over-achievers to our own, we're establishing an artificially high watermark that can never be realistically satisfied. With today's speed of information, the emergence of social media and the hunger of the global audience, there’ll never be a shortage of information on other people's accomplishments that you can gauge your career’s successes or failures by.

Want to be happy? Here's a fresh idea- STOP measuring your success by what others are doing or have achieved. You're a unique individual- there's nobody else like you and there never will be. Follow these simple guidelines to avoid self-deprecating behavior:

  • Be yourself and march to your own music - enjoy every step along the way

  • Stop measuring yourself against unrealistic expectations or you'll never like the outcome

  • Love what you do
  • Be a life-long learner
  • Have passion for your career – love it or leave it
  • Make a difference in the lives of others - leave your mark
  • Set realistic goals and targets based on what you can control (add stretch goals)
  • Be proud of your accomplishments
  • Find balance in your work and personal life
  • Have fun (this is an absolute must!)

    Learn to know your talents - what do you have to offer? - and don’t worry about the accomplishments of others. At the end of the day, it just doesn't matter.



Thanks Tim and Gwen. You both used the term mid-life or middle-age, which reminded me of this February 2008 HBR article:

I just returned from a conference exclusively focused on helping physicians through the prospect of transitioning to non-clinical careers.  These are almost always the work of midlife.  To your point, Tim, it requires positive self-awareness.  Definitely not a given!!

Tim, Is there a back story to this post?
Most of your other wonderful posts appear to be clearly related to the folks you help during your day job. This post seems different somehow. What's up?

Thanks Joe:

Good stuff. Thanks for the HBR reference!


I've tried to impart similar wisdom to my college-aged daughters, but these lessons are definitely learned through experience, and I agree - with middle-age comes reflection!

Thanks for the reminder!



Perhaps this sort of reflection is somewhat magnified as we all deal with this (painful) economic situation. It's fairly safe to say that FUD - fear - uncertainty and doubt is dominating the thoughts of many Americans these days...

No real story to reference here Joe - I felt compelled to write about this topic. Over the years I've had discussions with multiple HCIT professionals that have pondered the should-a, could-a would-a questions in a casual conversation. The one common thread I've noticed is that most seem to be in the prime of the "mid-life" when many people go thru this self-evaluation of where thet are in multiple categories, including their career. So - no I do not have a specific "back story" that this post is related to. Just thought I would write about it.