16 Nov What Does Success Mean to You?
As published in Flybe Business in September/October 2012
What does success mean to you?
What does success mean to you? It’s a question that could easily crop up in a job interview, or during a meeting with the bank manager, and you might already have prepared a set of stock answers: is it 4 per cent growth year-on-year, making a net profit by 2013 or being the market leader for your product in your region?
But shouldn’t success, in its broadest sense, mean more than that? Do you spend your days functioning on caffeine and adrenaline and your nights ‘recovering’ with a bottle of wine or Scotch? Do you live a lonely existence, conducting your private life via late evening calls on your iPhone? Do you wake at night, drenched in sweat, worrying about your job security, your finances, your relationships?
Career site, CareerCast, recently released a list of the most stressful occupations. They included corporate executives, PR officers, ad executives, journalists and commercial airline pilots. What many of these roles had in common were the competitive nature of the industry and the need to meet tight deadlines. What wasn’t mentioned was the fact that so many of these roles also involve being constantly on the move; exciting as this may be, it also adds to the stress.
When the effects of stress become problematic, accessing therapy or counselling is that little bit more difficult for businesspeople on the move. First, there are clear logistical issues. Therapy is a long-term investment in mental health and requires commitment to attend regular sessions, something that may not be possible for those who work away from home.
Then there’s the issue of public perception. In a competitive, professional environment, individuals are expected to present a resilient image regardless of any inner turmoil; work is work and ‘soft’ topics like feelings need to be left at home. But if you don’t make the time to deal with your problems they will remain buried, poisoning your relationships and even undermining your career itself.
The insidious effects of unresolved mental health issues in high pressure careers are no more apparent than in the entertainments industry. We all have a keen interest in finding out who the latest celebrities are to check in to rehab, and the ones we read about are only going to be the tip of the iceberg. But when it comes to our own mental health issues we prefer the ostrich approach. After all, a confession in the boardroom is unlikely to elicit much sympathy and in some arenas would be tantamount to professional suicide.
Yet the tragedy is that there are real suicides happening throughout the UK, with men particularly vulnerable. And with one in six of us expected to experience a significant mental health issue (ONS, 2000), the implications of ignoring the symptoms are serious indeed.
Fortunately, forward-thinking therapists and modern technology can provide a work-around solution. Some counsellors now offer the option to replace traditional consultations with virtual ‘face-to-face’, using Skype and similar conferencing tools that are already widely used by businesspeople. For those who wish to preserve anonymity, or who want to test the waters before making a more visual connection, the webcam can remain disabled.
As counsellors and therapists adapt and expand their services, the signs are there that mental health provision may be moving into a new era of accessibility. As ever though, the choice to act on that provision lies within each of us. Contrary to an expression of weakness, the individuals who do decide to access therapy are those who take a broad view of success and are willing to make an executive decision to take ownership of their mental health.
Michael Acton-Coles runs practices in Exeter, Torbay, Miami and Central London and provides regular consulting and therapeutic work via Skype therapy, email and telephone.
What Does Success Mean To You? was published as ‘We Need to Talk’ in Flybe Business magazine.
So what does success mean to you? Please let me know by leaving a comment.