Brilliant article by Susan Riley in Stylist magazine this week on the fact that five years after Sheryl Sandberg started a conversation about women leaning in, the forward motion has reversed with many of us reclining all together, kicking off our shoes and grabbing a colouring book, for us – not our kids.
It isn’t that we’ve all lost our sense of ambition in five years, more that the way we view success has changed. It’s like we’ve all had a collective mid life crisis without the American Apparel lycra and breakdown, and rejected the bullshit ideals and moulds which we grew up understanding we should be aspiring too. The effect has been widespread rejection of having to conform to outdated ways of working, farcical ‘have it all’ notions and have actually tapped into what we want to do. Our own very personal, entirely individual ideas about what success is to us.
I have evidence. Month after month my workshops at the British Library are full of women and (men in lesser numbers) who have rejected this corporate glass-breaking idea of old, because actually as they climbed the stairs they found the view less than appealing.
So what’s going on? It is purely down to the fact that industries are still hampering to create work environments which are truly inclusive allowing us to bring our whole selves to work? Or is there more to the shift…
Whilst the last political year has unquestionably turned up the fear gage to alarming proportions, the housing crisis which means many will never own a home, the increasing divide between rich and poor, strained public health services and increasing mental illness meant uncertainty prevailed even before Trump-gate. At least when we were in a recession there was the prospect of emergence, but in this new age of what the f**k, none of us have any idea what awaits humanity around the corner. So we have choices. To immerse ourselves in the madness, digest the increasingly alarming news and slowly die inside, or baton down our personal hatches and seek out the antitheses of our new world reality.
As our external world is bleak more of us are looking inward for the first time, possibly ever. Discovering and identifying what brings us joy and seeking ways to make a life from it. More beautiful is that many are committing to projects and ideas that go beyond a desire for financial gain, beyond a quest to feature on rich lists or seats on boards, beyond a #boss hashtag – the new success is about creating a life of fulfilment. Standing for something. Representation, awareness, equality, truth.
Historically disaster has always made way for change, for progress. So I choose to believe that our new tomorrow will find us more conscious of how bad things can get, the fragility of our infrastructure and more committed than ever to live and leverage our lives for new meaning. I’m aghast by the headlines and the prospect of what dividing communities and the fear-mongering may lead to, but If our today is the catastrophe which must precede a tomorrow in which our children feel validated to build lives built on values, lives designed and inspired from the inside out, a new definition of authentic success, then bring it on.