What does it mean to you when someone is described as being successful? Does it mean they earn or have a lot of money? Does it mean they are in a senior leadership role, have a Ph.D., drive a nice car, have a housekeeper, sleep like a rock every night, read 100 pages an hour, or have beautiful blue eyes?
Success means something different to every person.
Society teaches us that success is all about material items. As a matter of fact, Merriam-Webster defines success as: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.
If we describe success as achieving more or having more, we are likely to never find it as there is always more to have. We are always comparing ourselves to someone who has something we think we want and assuming their life is happier because they have that. Once I get married, I’ll be happy, or once I have children, or when the children move out, or when I’m a grandparent, or when I buy a house, or when I pay off the mortgage, retire, get the Chief of Staff position, change my title, have staff reporting to me, and so on. There is always more to want.
We don’t have to dig too deep to realize that success isn’t about having more. We do have to dig deep to discover how we will identify what success is for us, though. We have to work hard not to fall into society’s definition of success (having more) and identify what success is for us.
John Maxwell famously said, “You cannot achieve what you have not defined.”
[ctt template=”3″ link=”PcgLY” via=”yes” ]You cannot achieve what you have not defined (John Maxwell). Have you defined success for you?[/ctt]
Success is different at different ages. I remember when my goal was to earn enough that I could have an apartment on my own. I was the first of my friends to have my own apartment with no roommates, and I had a car at the same time. I was “successful” at 21. At 56, that is not my definition of success (but certainly fine if it is your definition.)
Your success lies in your hands. Here is what you need to do to define success for you:
- Imagine. Imagine where you will be in five years. Do this activity for your professional life (do it alone), and do it separately for your personal life (with a life partner if that makes sense for your relationship.)
Avoid the “what would we do if we won the lottery” type imagination discussion. Don’t plan on winning the lottery. That’s not what this discussion is about. Where do you want to be in five years? What goals do you have?
95% of the working population needs to work to pay the bills, so don’t imagine a life without a job unless you are part of the 5% that has the money already. Do you want to be in a different role, want to be just as happy as you are right now, want to work for a different company, or do you want a different title? Will any of those things help you feel more successful?
When planning your personal life, I know that Warren and I realize we have no desire to accumulate debt, so that new Tesla is not part of our buying plans (nor our definition of success either). While we both love cars, that isn’t going to make us feel successful, so we don’t imagine our life in five years with a Tesla in the driveway. We will feel successful without the debt. That has a higher priority for us.
- Ask “if” questions. What “if” I lost my job? What if my office insists we return to work full time (or full time remote), we have to move, gas prices double, I went back to school, I had a job I loved, I had the same job title? What if my kids moved away, my boss retired, or our competition bought out our company? Do any of those things affect my ability to be successful?
Could you be successful with the same job title? Is it that important to you? If you had to return to the office five days a week, would you feel like a failure? Do any of those “if” statements make you feel more or less successful?
Once you answer your “if” statements, you realize what is important to you and what isn’t. If it is important, it is part of your definition of success. Once you realize you are getting caught up on what others consider successful, it is easier to let go.
- What advice would you give others? If your adult child came to you upset they weren’t as successful as they wanted to be, what would you tell them? What would you say if your mother lamented that she wasn’t successful because she chose to stay at home and raise her children instead of going to work?
What advice do you give others when they are worried they aren’t successful? Write it down. Read it. Personalize it. Embrace it.
Give that advice to yourself.
The definition of success is different for each one of us. We need to stop having compar-i-tis and looking at what everyone else has. Our definition of success is different depending on our age and experiences. Only you can determine what success means to you.
Your success lies in your hands. Create your priorities. Create your desires. Create your future.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”GTea0″ via=”yes” ]Your success lies in your hands. Create your priorities. Create your desires. Create your future.[/ctt]