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For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always been taught to work towards my next goal. As a graduate of an all-girls school and the daughter of a female CEO, it is baked into my DNA to constantly reach higher – to fight for the next promotion, the next raise, the next title – to always be moving in an upward trajectory. Even the language we use to talk about careers and successful women has always indicated that we should be moving up – climb the ladder, break the glass ceiling.
And at every stage of my life, I’ve never questioned this. I’ve always been able to clearly see the next rung on the ladder and had every ambition to get there. First a good college, then grad school, then my first job, and from there coordinator, specialist, manager – each step made sense. The next step was always staring at me, and I was always eager and motivated to plant my foot on it. Until now.
Nearly a year ago, I started a new job, Marketing Manager, at a company I’ve been eyeing for years. I’ve spent that time learning, adjusting, settling in, and I have finally hit a cadence that feels challenging yet sustainable. And for the first time since I joined the working world, as I near the one-year mark at a new company, I feel oddly… comfortable. Not complacent or unmotivated, but comfortable. Usually by now I’m antsy, eager to move up or on, trying to convince myself to at least make it to 18 months or two years before I start reaching up for my next rung on the ladder. But those feelings are nowhere to be found, and, truth be told, it feels almost like a betrayal – like there’s something wrong with me.
I’m supposed to lean in! I’m supposed to move up! I’m supposed to move so high I hit a ceiling and have to shatter it! So why don’t I want any of those things right now?
Over a recent coffee with one of the most badass female leaders I know, she challenged me to sit with this feeling and really examine it, reminding me that some of the most successful business people had not followed a career path that started at point A and shot up to point B in a straight line. Rather, many of these people’s paths snaked upwards and sideways, zig zagged and ricocheted until, slowly over time, they eventually found themselves on the top of their ladders.
It got me thinking. What if our goals didn’t have to move us linearly upward? What if I could create goals for myself, professional or otherwise, that built upon my skillset or expanded on my interests, helping me maintain that feeling of comfort in my role but motivating me still to work towards something? What if we stopped demanding of ourselves that we constantly be growing upward and instead allowed ourselves to grow outward?
There are dozens of growth areas, both personal and professional, that I have neglected over the years in my constant fight for the next rung of the ladder. Things that, in all honesty, would not only help me get up the ladder faster but also would help equip and qualify me when I get there. How effectively could I expand my value in the workplace if I spend my time in data science and analytics trainings or leadership forums? How deeply could I enrich my personal life if I focused my attention on better understanding investing or teaching myself a new recipe or how to tile a floor? How much stronger could my friendships be if my goal was to watch less Netflix and spend those hours telling stories over homecooked meals? I’m still figuring it out, but it feels like we’re on to something here.
This hasn’t been an easy adjustment, and there’s part of me that still feels anxious by allowing my roots to grow deeper before I allow myself to shoot upward. But as I look towards the next six months, I am committing to embracing every zig and zag, every bend and swirl in my path and trusting that I’ll get there eventually. And when I do, I’ll be more equipped to occupy that space.
So here’s my challenge to you. What goals will you set for the rest of this year that broaden and expand who you are? And what steps will you take not to frame this growth as a failure but instead as a champagne-worthy success?
Cheers to that.
Amanda is a proud daughter of Cuban immigrants. She lives in a charming fixer-upper in North Central Austin with her partner, Santiago, and endlessly perfect cat, Ripley. She spends most of her time veganizing her favorite recipes, renovating her home, listening to Selena, registering Austinites to vote, and supporting the live music community. When she’s not planning out her next home project, Amanda works as a Marketing Manager at HomeAway.
Find her on Instagram at @amanditabrujita.