There are various milestones of success that society teaches us. It could be graduating from school, getting that first job, getting promoted, or finding success as an entrepreneur. Once achieved, people will congratulate you, will claim you’re so accomplished, and then use you as inspiration when trying to motivate their kids (or themselves). Everyone will ask you about the road to success; of course, you’ll say it’s all hard work and persistence.
In a conventional sense, people talk about the road to success in a stepwise fashion:
- When in high school, start to think about the future (develop a backup plan)
- Make sure you get a job at a young age so you learn a strong work ethic
- After college, consider higher education and keep an open mind about your job search
- Once you start working, continue educating yourself, refining your skills to move up, etc.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating a site map of the different steps to take. However, what about the things we don’t talk about? The sacrifices we make that people brush off because maybe it’s not seen as a big deal?
The struggle is real, and the reality of achieving success – however you define it – is much more demanding than just hard work and persistence.
So, what is the reality of the road to success? It’s sacrifices, changed relationships, and heartache. The list below goes into further detail, with a paragraph at the end of each section highlighting key insights.
The Road to Success: What You Don’t See
As any professional can attest, there are countless hours of lost sleep. The loss is due to stress and anxiety about exams, presentations, wondering if you’re enough (yup, imposter syndrome), and trying to figure out the future.
It can take a toll when you don’t get that deep, restorative sleep you need. The sleeplessness does not necessarily get better with time. Often the issue shifts from difficulty falling asleep to difficulty staying asleep.
**Find resources to help you, such as meditation apps, breathing exercises, calming music, and aromatherapy – anything that allows your mind to relax and decompress. Create a routine that works for you and stick to it.
Diets Falling Apart
Everyone handles stress differently, and your eating habits can change depending on the situation. You may eat your way through a difficult time or lose your appetite completely.
On the flip side, many people may gain weight. As we all know, stress makes it harder to lose weight (that hormone cortisol is not your friend). When you’re unable to maintain the healthy lifestyle you want, it contributes to further stress and more lost sleep. It’s a vicious cycle.
**Make small changes to improve your diet. For instance, incorporating more fruits, and eating natural sugars, can reduce your craving for sweets and carbs altogether. Another adjustment may be to focus on whole grains and increase lean protein intake. Adding easy exercise, like going for walks after dinner, can contribute to keeping up with these healthy changes.
The Toll On Your Health
Taking the above points further, they can contribute to the development of actual medical problems because of bad diets and lack of sleep. Often, these issues turn chronic.
**While stress is constant, you can learn to cope and manage it by reducing your stress through sleep, meditation, exercise, and trying to eat better. Speaking with a professional can also help tremendously.
No Social Life
Free time is often spent studying, working, learning, refining skills, or hustling for growth. Anyone working on startups, or building a business, loses out on years with friends and family. Medical professionals lose an entire decade of their lives to school and training.
On top of that, you don’t necessarily make the best company when you’re tired, stressed, hungry, and filled with self-doubt. Finding people to be friends with and socialize with becomes much more complicated. Finding people who understand what you’re going through and who can relate also becomes much tougher as you get older and continue to advance in your career.
**Your inner circle will get smaller; however, it will be all the more important because the people in it will know you best and be your biggest cheerleaders.
No Dating Life
When so much of your time goes towards your career goals, you have little time for dating. The caveat is if you get lucky enough to meet someone through work.
The other issue here is that not many people understand the pursuit of career aspirations. So to find someone who gets it is super tricky.
**Dating is hard all around; each person will approach it differently based on their priorities and where they are in life. Focus on what you want and what works for you. Whatever is meant for you will find you in due time.
Time Away From Family and Friends
The road to success equates to little time off. You may miss holidays and significant events with family or lose out on time with friends for weddings and celebrations.
**You must take the opportunities you have to spend time with your family. Don’t put them off till later. Don’t say “next time.” Life is short. If you have a chance to include family or loved ones in your plans, then do it.
Criticism From People Who Don’t Know You
The more you do something different, the more you take the path less traveled or blaze your own, the more criticism you will receive. The criticism takes the form of questions, judgments, telling you something can’t be done, telling you that you can’t do something or shouldn’t do something, or just making fun of you. These naysayers aren’t just those close to you but people who don’t even know you.
**Part of achieving and keeping your success is to power through it and recognize that it’s just a part of it. For some, even watching others do something that challenges their comfort zone can lead them to react negatively to you (aka, their criticism has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them)
You Sometimes Have to Start Over Multiple times
Part of pursuing your goals is to go where the opportunities are. This often means having to move multiple times. That means starting over again in a new city or town, making new friends, and getting reacquainted with a new way of life.
**In the same course, while you’re struggling to adjust to your life changes, you may lose friends, lose touch with people you care about or alienate others. Let them go.
Everything above can contribute to this insane feeling of loneliness. Seeing people on social media makes it worse because it looks like everyone else is having a great time, a happy life, and no worries in the world. You wonder why you’re making the sacrifices you’re making.
You may spend countless days and nights crying and wondering what you’re doing and if it’s worth it. You want to give up and go have fun and find the happiness and carefree life that everyone else has, that you ultimately want.
You feel alone because no one else you know seems to be making the same sacrifices; no one else understands why you are; many don’t even see the sacrifices or the struggle. You feel alone because there are so many OTHER things you want in life too (spouse, travel, kids, nice things, etc.) that you don’t have yet, and wonder if you ever will.
**This doesn’t always go away, unfortunately. So long as you are blazing a new path, prioritizing career and work, or doing anything unconventional, you will struggle with loneliness. The only thing that changes is it becomes easier to cope. As you start seeing the results of your hard work, you’ll understand that your road to success was well worth the sacrifices and where you are now become much easier to accept.
The “Road to Success” Is Not Universal
Not everyone has to make all these sacrifices or deal with the struggles. If you are lucky not to have to move or live close by your people, then the ability to spend time with them or stay connected becomes much easier. Some people meet their partners along the way and don’t have to deal with dating and social woes.
These Aren’t Required, Either
To clarify, the road to success as a universal topic includes sacrifice and hard work, but the way it plays out for each person will differ. Success means different things to different people. Everyone’s path to success is also different, yet every path has some struggle, stress, and frustration. Often the day-to-day issues and sacrifices aren’t seen. Instead, we only see the end result, the accomplishments.
This list is here because it’s essential to understand that no one is an overnight “success.” There is tremendous hard work, blood, sweat and tears behind the scenes. For those currently struggling, realize that you aren’t alone. Embrace the suck and continue.
It Will Be Worth It
For some, there may be more that they have to give up. Understand that everything happens for a reason; your sacrifices now will pay off in ways you never even imagined. All of this is making you a better and stronger person; the sacrifices will be worth it in the end because you’ll have a level of success that many won’t (and can’t) have.
Images courtesy of unsplash.
Sanjana is a physician anesthesiologist, avid traveler, and entrepreneur. She founded The Female Professional in order to give women a voice, a community, and provide resources to help them overcome hurdles and achieve success. With her experiences as a physician, as a CEO of a startup, and as a writer, she understands the struggles and frustrations that women face. She also understands what it takes to move past those things and come out on top. Through this platform, Sanjana aims to empower women to be their best, authentic, selves, achieve work/life balance, and live life to the fullest.