When I was in preschool and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was “a butterfly catcher.” Why? Simply because my best friend at the time wanted to be a veterinarian, and I wanted to be independent and choose my own job, but one that still had to do with animals, or at least, insects.
If only choosing a profession was still that easy, and if only a butterfly catcher was a respected and lucrative profession.
Now, as a senior in college, that question haunts me more than anything. And I am definitely not speaking just for myself on this one.
From the day we enter college, even before, we are put on the path to what we will be doing for the rest of our lives.
Those in the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science are destined to become engineers, in the School of Management, accountants and in the Decker School of Nursing, nurses.
For the majority of us that are in Harpur College, our career paths are not as clear-cut. People often criticize English majors, history majors and human development majors because their courses are not as rigorous and their professional opportunities are limited.
But why does everything we do have to be for the sake of getting a job? Can we not learn for the pure love of learning anymore? Have we become so blindsided by corporate America that studying the works of Shakespeare, Hemingway and Twain are no longer important? And have we become so caught up in the need for wealth and empowerment that those who have a passion for history should change their area of study because that track will not land them a job behind a large desk in a private office overlooking Manhattan?
Today, success is consistently defined by money, power and where we stand in the socioeconomic hierarchy that charts America.
But what if we defined success by our happiness? What if instead of basing our human contribution to this world on the number of zeros on our paycheck, we made sure we felt happy, fulfilled and proud at the end of each and every workday?
On June 6, 2013, Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, and Mika Brzezinski, journalist and co-host on MSNBC, hosted a conference called “The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money and Power.”
At their conference, Huffington and Brzezinski discussed “redefining success to include well-being, wisdom, wonder, compassion and giving” instead of the “current model … which equates success with burnout, sleep deprivation, and driving ourselves into the ground.”
The two journalists’ conference back in June is now the basis for a new continually published section of The Huffington Post, titled “The Third Metric.” In one of The Third Metric’s pieces from Oct. 24, Jeanette Lewis, the former CEO of a number of multimillion dollar not-for-profit companies, wrote about realizing that her work in the corporate world was not satisfying her anymore. Lewis told The Huffington Post, “I sat in my office one night about eight o’clock and thought about the rest of my life, and I knew there were many things I wanted to do that I couldn’t do if I continued in the corporate world.”
Lewis wanted more than just the title of CEO and the grandiose lifestyle that came with it. She wanted to explore the world and find something for herself that made her truly happy.
As we embark on our first post-graduation jobs, I hope that our generation is able to find success measured not just by money and power, but also by happiness, wisdom, wonder and compassion.