How Success Flexibility Creates Opportunity, On and Off the Job

For almost two decades, I've worked in the trenches to create more flexible workplaces and to give people the skills to find, what I call, their unique work+life "fit."

I'm often asked, "If you had to give one piece of advice, what would it be?" After I say, "See the countless possible ways work can flexibly fit into your life," I add, "But be sure that you redefine success related to money, prestige, advancement and caregiving to match the unique fit you have chosen. If you don't, you will feel bad about the choice and give up."

Why do I add the "redefine success" caveat? Because, over the years, I've watched employers support a valued employee's decision to reduce their schedule or work from home two days a week, only to have the plan fail.

When I'd ask the individual why it didn't work out, he or she would say something like, "I felt bad being passed over for a promotion," even if the promotion meant she couldn't have the reduced schedule she wanted. Or, "I hated missing important spontaneous meetings because I wasn't in the office," even though he loved working from home periodically.

If we want to take advantage of the countless flexible ways we can fit work and life together in order to be our best, on and off the job, then we can't be derailed by a rigid definition of success. This is why the conversation initiated by Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski's first-ever Third Metric conference is so important.

We need to learn how to recalibrate the factors that make up our personal definition of success beyond power and money with deliberate intention.

If you want to reduce your schedule, then you will make less money and you may have to pass up a promotion. But what you get in return is more time with your mother who has cancer.

If you want to work from home two days a week, then, periodically, you may miss prestigious meetings and projects. But what you get in return is the ability to sleep later two mornings and get to the gym.

If you decide to start your own consulting firm, then you have to be OK when others aren't impressed that you work for, "Jane Smith, LLC." But what you get in return is more control over your schedule and the ability to do more pro bono and community work.

There are countless flexible and creative ways to fit work and the other parts of life together, day-to-day and throughout our careers. First, we have to see the possibilities, but then, "success" ultimately depends on being able to embrace the equally flexible Third Metric. Can you?

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.