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2013 Success Rule #1: Get Clear

I am a big believer in the power of clarity.

I always tell my coaching clients that they need to clarify the purpose and direction for their lives and careers.  Tweet 1 in my career advice book Success Tweets: 140 Bits of Common Sense Career Success Advice, All in 140 Characters or Less, (you can download a free copy at http://budurl.com/STExpl) says it simply.  “Define exactly what life and career success mean to you.  It’s easier to hit a clear, unambiguous target.”  This can be easier said than done.  Regardless, it’s the very first step that you need to take in your career success journey.

As we approach 2013, I’d like to share the story of five people who chose their life’s work long ago and stuck with it.  First I want to tell you about my aunt, Sister Mary Eligia Dworkowski.  In 2013, she will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of her initiation as a member of the Felician Sisters Our Lady of Hope Province.  She took her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience 75 years ago.  She is the most spiritually centered person I know.

All those years ago she decided that her life’s calling was to serve God by educating young people.

For 70 of those 75 years she was actively involved with children, as a missionary, teacher, school principal and school librarian.  She ran the library of the school associated with the convent where she lives until she was 90.  She reluctantly retired when it became too difficult for her to walk to and from the library.

Her Christmas wish for Cathy and me was elegantly simple. ..

May you come to know a JOY that uplifts you, a HUMILITY that centers you, and a HOPE that guides you.

Sister is an inspiration to me.  She has lived her life with a quiet dignity and in a caring and compassionate way.  If ever there is anyone who was clear on her purpose on this earth and pursued it with a passion, it’s my aunt Sister Mary Eligia. She is an example to us all.

I will be celebrating 40 years in the human resources development field, and 25 years in business as a leadership consultant, success coach and motivational speaker in 2013.  40 years ago, I decided that my calling was to help other people flourish in their lives and careers.  I also wanted the flexibility of that comes with being an entrepreneur. I began my career by working in the Training and Development Departments of three Fortune 500 companies, moving up the ladder, taking increasingly more responsible positions.  I also got the education I needed.  I went back to school and received an MA and PhD.  All this was in preparation for that day in March 1988 when I resigned my job and struck out on my own.

All these years later, I’m doing what I decided I wanted to do when I was 23 years-old.

I’m doing some things that I didn’t imagine way back then – blogging, producing videos and writing books.  However, my life today is much as I imagined it in 1973.  My clarity of purpose was very instrumental in helping me become the career success – and career success coach – I am today.

Here are three more stories that illustrate the power of clarity of purpose and direction.

I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur.  He started a software business when he was 27.  He built it up and sold it to a major computer manufacturer by the time he was 35.  He has since started and sold four other companies.  His clarity of purpose lies in the challenge of creating something new, building it into a viable, sustainable business and then moving on.

I have another friend who recently retired as the Chief Human Resources Officer for a Fortune 50 company.  We were chatting a few days ago.  She told me that when she was in college, she decided that she was going to join a good company and work her way up the ladder.  She took an entry-level HR job with a company she liked.  It took her over 25 years, but she eventually became the most senior HR person in that company.  Her clarity of purpose and definition of success was different from mine and the serial entrepreneur’s, but she reached her goal.

My second friend told me that her son has yet a different definition of success.

He is not interested in climbing the corporate ladder, or in being an entrepreneur.  He wants an interesting job where he can contribute, but he doesn’t want to spend inordinate amounts of time at work.  He wants to spend as much time with his family as he can.  His definition of success is different from his mother’s.

I’ve just told you five stories about five different people.  All five of us – especially Sister Eligia — are successful, according to our personal clarity of purpose.

As a career success coach, I often tell my clients that there is no one correct definition of career success.  There are as many definitions as there are people in this world.  Your definition of career success is what’s right for you – not anyone else.  I would not have been happy in the religious life (no matter how hard the good Sisters encourage me to become a priest), building and selling a number of businesses in succession, climbing a corporate ladder or working for a large company in an individual contributor position.  However, as you can tell from all five of our stories success means different things to different people All five of us  knew what we wanted and went after it.

That’s why defining your clarity of purpose is so important.  Your clarity of purpose provides both a foundation and launching pad for your career success.  The old saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you get there,” is a cliché, but true.  Getting clear on your personal definition of career success is the first step to becoming a career success.  The beginning of a new year is a great time to think about your clarity of purpose.  How do you define life and career success for yourself?  Keep that purpose and definition of career success in mind as you move forward in your life and career – in 2013 and beyond.

Bud Bilanich, Ed.D., is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.