We are surrounded by the expectations of society, our community, family and friends.
Even when you believe you are making your own decisions, subconsciously you try to meet someone else's expectations, too.
I've always been the responsible good kid. I've never been in big trouble and always tried to be my best. Growing up in Japan, being the best you could be means going to a good school and getting into a big-name Japanese company. People label you by the rank of your school you went to.
I went to a good school and made my mother proud. (Check!) I was fascinated by communication and branding and I was determined to work in the advertising industry. That happened, too. It was tough, but I loved the work.
After eight years in advertising, I decided it was time for change. I crossed the Pacific Ocean and landed in the United States to go to business school at Yale. I chose the school because of its culture, the great network and reputation it has around the world.
Confession: I also fell in love with the Harry Potter-like world of Yale's campus.
Upon receiving my MBA, I got a job in marketing with one of the luxury airlines. It was the same airline my family used when I was six-months old to travel from Japan to the United States. The very first flight I took in my life.
I believed that job was a good fit because I loved seeing the world and experiencing new cultures. And the bonus? I was allowed to travel back and forth from the United States to Japan for free! (Who could resist that?)
It's hard to admit, but I don't think I ever liked any of the work I did during my four and half year tenure in the airline industry.
When I look back decisions I made after business school, I now see that I made them for all for the wrong reasons: benefits, reputation, and titles. I fooled myself, made excuses and created logical reasons but the truth is I was never excited about the work.
There was nothing wrong with the company, positions or my colleagues. They were all great but it just wasn't for me.
I had fallen into the trap of meeting someone else's expectations.
I believed as an MBA holder from an Ivy League school that I had to hold certain positions and titles. I chose positions that would look good on my resume instead of choosing what I really wanted to do.
I was smart, strategic and responsible, but I wasn't happy.
The problem was that I had no clue what I really wanted.
I didn't realize then that fulfilling someone else's expectations was making me feel miserable.
I let down the one person whose expectations matters most: Me.
I wasn't being honest to myself.
I continued playing the role of the responsible good girl, but inside I was working hard and burning out.
I looked at the life I created and wondered why I wasn't enjoying what I was doing and why I was not doing as well as I wanted to.
I felt like a complete failure.
Finally, one day I sat down and examined my life. I asked myself, "What is MY definition of success?"
At that moment, I was totally unclear about what success meant to me. I knew what it meant for my peers, my family and society, but not for MYSELF.
And I was too proud to admit that I needed help. I didn't even know how to ask for help. I didn't know who could help me.
What I did know is I couldn't continue to live that way anymore. I took the leap and left my job so I could figure out how to live my life on my terms.
It took a little work and a lot of soul searching, but I'm so happy to say that now, I know what my definition of success is.
For me, it's not working for a big name company or earning a six-figure salary.
My definition of success is to make positive impact on others one person at a time and help them shine, spend time with family, do the work I love, and be happy.
I had to learn NOT to allow others' expectations of me determine my success.
I needed to define it for myself.
Now, I challenge you to define for yourself.
What is your definition of success?
Nozomi Morgan, MBA, is a certified Executive Coach and the Founder and President of Michiki Morgan Worldwide LLC. Addition to coaching, she speaks and trains on leadership, career, professional development and cross-cultural business communication.