I have been reflecting on the Great Resignation and wondering if it is an indicator of something deeper that is happening. When I was growing up, people often talked about “earning your age.” Back then success was often measured by your yearly income – which should be close to or higher than your age.  But is money really the true metric of success now? I think this is another myth work exploringthe myth that money measures success. 

The criteria of “age should equal income” clearly doesn’t apply anymore as salaries have inflated well above that metric.  But annual income still remains a  metric for success. Before the pandemic, many people were planning their careers and aspirations, from making more pay to a desire to be promoted, to actual title goals like “becoming an executive director.”  What wasn’t taken into consideration was the cost of pursuing that version of success. While everyone knew that they were sacrificing their time with family, friends, and personal life to pursue their career goals, this knowledge wasn’t changing the hours that they gave to work. The pandemic forced many of us to ask some important self-reflective questions as we paused and reset. Some of us have experienced “pandemic epiphanies” as a result, a big factor in the Great Resignation. 

A recent article from CNBC noted that as part of the “Big Quit” people are also walking away from toxic work cultures.This is yet another sign that people are assessing the quality of their life above and beyond their annual paycheck. And there are more ways the disruptions of the past two years are forcing us to rethink success. 

In my coaching practice, I am gaining valuable insights that suggest a new way to measure success.  

An Integrated Measure of Success

Traditionally, we have used monetary profit as the sole measurement of success for ourselves and our businesses. Individually we have also confused self-worth with net worth. I think this single measure is shifting. There are many theories as to why so many people have retired early, are resigning from their jobs, or choosing a different career aspiration.

As I read and talk to people there is a common theme emerging – people are realizing they have been trading their own wellbeing for the productivity of their company. This productivity and the rewards that come along with it are being unequally distributed among the many people who have contributed to its success. As a result, people are wondering if they want to continue to be exploited for their talent, skills, and knowledge. The Great Resignation is suggesting that people are starting to shift towards a more holistic and balanced life as a measure of their success.  

Shifting Our Value From Finances to Impact

Systems thinking would say that the more we optimize a part of the system the less we optimize the whole system. When we use finances as a sole measurement of individual or corporate success, we make trade-offs that decrease our individual and ecological well-being. This shift is beginning to gain momentum. The Great Resignation is just one indicator. Another is that investors are shifting their money to companies that are contributing to a better world and the triple bottom line of people, planet, profits. When making investments, the impact that a company has on the future of the world is now being put into consideration. We are beginning to see value in impact – whether that be time with family, friends, and personal time, or doing better for our world.

We need to let go of finances as the sole measure of our individual and organizational success. As we make this shift, we will begin to see the world go from valuing consumption to valuing care, and from the enclosure of wealth and power to the social and ecological well-being of the world.

Has your measure of success changed since the onset of the pandemic? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!