What does Success mean to You

posted in: Success | 2

How do you feel successful? It means different things to different people although the Oxford English Dictionary only has two different definitions. What does it mean to you?

  • The accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  • The attainment of fame, wealth or social status.

The first one is fairly straightforward. It suggests that you’ve set a goal and you’ve reached it. We can, therefore, experience success in many small things that we purposely set out to do. For example, today I’ve successfully completed the writing I set out to do. Yesterday I had success when I finished reading the psychology book I picked up last week. Each day when we complete something we’ve chosen to do we can experience success.

If we think of the big goals in life, where we want our lives to be in 5, 10 or 20 years from now then the first definition still applies. If we buy the house we planned or earn the salary we want then we have accomplished the aim. With each of those milestones, you experience success.

The second definition is more in line with feeling successful. It’s not the fleeting feeling of success when we complete something. It’s how we view ourselves, particularly when viewed in comparison to others. I think it’s the comparison to others that defines this meaning of success. Not everyone can be famous, not everyone can have above-average wealth or social status. Not everyone wants those things. Everyone deserves to feel successful though.

Your Success

It’s good to feel some success when you reach a goal. You will find that feeling successful is more fulfilling in the long run. How do you feel successful without comparing yourself to others though? It is possible to define your success in terms that mean something to you, and not in comparison with others. Think about what makes you feel good. Choose things that replenish you rather than draining you by making you feel you haven’t achieved success yet.

One exercise that helps you define your own success is to answer the three questions below. After you’ve been through them once, test out your revised definition by starting back at the first question again. You may have to go round them several times to strip away the parts that aren’t yours.

  • What does success look like to me?
  • Is any part of that definition due to society or peer pressure?
  • What personal measure can I replace society’s pressure with?

Clients have found this exercise a powerful way to understand their needs from life before formulating their big goals.

If you want help deciding what your success looks like, and how to be successful as a result, let’s talk, book a free chat.

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2 Responses

  1. Cheryl

    Excellent post Donald. Reading this I see that my goals need to be in small steps rather than one big leap and it can be measured better this way. Success for me at the moment is completing things, since achievement brings the feeling of success.

  2. Donald MacDonald

    Thank you Cheryl. Trying to tackle something too big can leave you feeling disheartened as it takes longer to reach the destination.

    Another way of breaking down a big goal is to think of the process rather than the endpoint. For example, instead of a goal to retire early, you can look at processes that help you work towards early retirement, so set the goal to invest a percentage of your earnings into your pension plan each month. You then potentially have the achievement feeling regularly rather than at some date far in the future.

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