There are many pieces of creating my life that I'm proud of, but the change that was most profound for me came from a question that I asked my dad: Was I too ambitious?
His answer took me by surprise! He didn't think I was ambitious enough.
I was filled with the need to discover what was holding me back from going after everything I wanted. If others thought I wasn't fulfilling my true potential, why didn't I? After two weeks and establishing that fear of failure and inadequacy were holding me back, I decided to answer two key questions under the premise that success is inevitable. It took some time to conceptualize the idea but when I removed those barriers, my world opened-up. I was finally free to answer my two questions.
1. What would I do if I knew I couldn't fail. If failure was out of the picture- what would I do? And better yet, who could I be?
2. If all aspects of money, professional growth, and success were taken out of the picture- what would I do with my life? This question requires you to think about success as inevitable and not just a simple possibility. It also forces you to define what success means to you.
Once I defined my path, I asked my tribe for support and found great mentors. I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work and perseverance. I realized that I couldn't do everything alone and should utilize the talent around me to help fuel myself. I need leaders who can show me the path outside of my own vision. Mentors in the field who can help ground, guide and motivate me. I knew I wasn't going to get everything I wanted right away, it was going to be a process of one step at a time. Not every step will get you there, but a couple small steps and one big leap can- you have to find the right combination tailored to you. It wasn't going to be an ideal path and it shouldn't be, it will be your own, you are going to be chasing your dreams after all.
My stumbles happened, bad interviews, no second interviews and complete rejections but I had a plan every time. I went back to my mentors and I went back to my two questions. It re-grounded and re-motivated me. It takes resilience.
My career wasn’t the only area of my life I used this for. I made a list of goals I had always wanted to accomplish but felt I couldn't make happen. Modeling, giving a Tedx talk, writing a book, public speaking engagements and international adventures. They are now happening in both small and big ways, and I am celebrating those wins. I am proud to say that I've successfully transitioned careers, now working for a global company, my role is focusing on Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. I continue to push for my goals.
I still use those two questions as my guide to remind me to press forward: they have never failed me.
Shannon Alston is Diversity, Inclusion & CSR Manager: Diversity Community Relations, Gender Equity at Sodexo. She's focused on creating a global impact and achieving business objectives through responsible corporate practices- including corporate social responsibility (CSR), social mission business and social enterprise.
Photo Credit: Leah Beilhart