What Does “Success” Mean to You?

Success. It’s something that most of us want in our lives. We might have a hazy picture of what it looks like:

  • “Lots” of money
  • A jet-setting lifestyle
  • A great relationship
  • Achieving a particular status within a career

The problem is, none of these things are easy (or even possible) to achieve. How much money is “lots”? What counts as a “great” relationship? If you chase vague definitions of success, you’re never going to be satisfied.

Plus, you might well achieve “success” in the eyes of the world … only to find that it seems hollow and empty to you.

Don’t Follow Someone Else’s Idea of “Success”

We’ve all got different values and motivations. Some people are content to work in a tedious job because it carries a good paycheck. Others would prefer to work at something creative and fulfilling (even though that means living on ramen noodles). Neither path is objectively “right” – they could each be perfect for different individuals.

It’s up to you to decide what success means in your life. Don’t get stuck following someone else’s path. For you, success could be:

  • Never having to worry about money (note: this isn’t necessarily the same as “being rich”!)
  • Being healthy and fit
  • Playing a vital role within your family (whether that’s as a parent, sibling or child)
  • Going back to college and getting a degree
  • Downsizing to a home in a rural area
  • Writing a book and having it published

… or almost anything!

Success doesn’t have to be about money or status.

Be Specific About Your Goals

When you’re deciding on your personal definition of success, make it as concrete as possible. If you simply want to “be rich” then you’ll struggle to ever feel like you’ve managed it. A better goal might be “make $100,000/year”.

Your success should be measurable. You might not be able to put a number to it, but look for some way to record your progress towards your goal. For instance, if your “success” means “being happy and content with my life” then you might want to journal about your thoughts and emotions regularly.

Be clear about what success means, and set specific targets to reach.

See Failure as a Step on the Path

You might be familiar with this Thomas Edison quote:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Often, failure is just part of the path to success. If you’re starting up your first business, you might fail: that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Your early failures pave the way to later success. Think back to being a child – you failed constantly while learning to walk, to talk, to read, to write… but those failures were necessary in order for you to finally succeed.

Failure is something you do, not something you are. Sure, you might fail – again and again – before you do succeed. But isn’t that better than never even trying?

What’s your personal definition of “success”? Share it with us in the comments below.

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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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