How Do You Define Success?

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” – Bob Dylan

The word “success” is such a powerful word.  Success is something we all want to achieve in life, yet we all seem to have different interpretations of what success means to us.  If I were to ask you if you are successful, how would you answer?  Where would your thoughts go?  Would you be thinking about your career, business, relationships, the amount of money you make or the car you drive?

How do you define success?  What does it mean to you?  Have you ever taken the time to sit down and write out your own definition of success?

“If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.” – Stephen Covey

Defining Success Helps You Make Better Decisions
By not taking the time to clearly define what success meant to me has caused me to make some bad decisions.  I used to think of success as doing or becoming something I thought was important.  I have accepted jobs in the past where I felt important and thought I was being successful, but instead I ended up feeling miserable and unfulfilled.  I started to learn that somewhere within my own definition of success it should include happiness and enjoying the work I was doing.

Defining Success By Default Also Defines Your Failure
Since I believe you only fail if you give up on achieving your definition of success, then this by default also defines your failure.  If your definition of success includes owning a profitable business, but your business tanks and you file for bankruptcy, is that really a failure?  Not if you continue towards achieving your definition of success.  You can always start a new business.

Creating Your Own Definition of Success
So how to you come up with your own definition of success?  I believe the first step is to think about what you really want without any of the limitations.  In my early 20’s I did an exercise that really allowed me to sit and think about success and possibilities.  Every few years I do this exercise again to see if there have been changes or anything new revealed to me.   If you have never done this before, or haven’t done it in a while, I encourage you to give it a try.

Take some time to sit alone where you won’t be disturbed, and answer the following:

“If you had unlimited time, money, talent, knowledge, self-confidence, and support from your family and friends, what would you do with your life?”

  • What would you have or own?
  • What would you like to do or create?
  • Where would you like to go or travel?
  • What would you like to be or become?
  • What would you like to contribute or give back?

Let your brain dump on the paper whatever comes to mind, even if thoughts appear silly or even ridiculous.  There is no judgement and nobody has to see your list.

As you answer these questions, you may uncover important insights that help define your definition of success.  You may find your definition of success is not tied to a work or career goal, but perhaps it’s making a difference in a way you hadn’t thought possible.

Creating your definition of success can prevent you from making decisions and striving to achieve things that leave you feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied.  It can help you engage in activities and set goals that really matter, while placing obstacles you may encounter along the way into perspective.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou


Daryl Murrow

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