As 2014 comes to a close and we prepare to turn the page on the calendar, it's inevitable that you'll think about success. Was it a successful year? Do you feel as though you accomplished what you wanted? Where did you fall short? And perhaps most importantly, how can you make 2015 even more successful?
Some of those answers, of course, depend on how you define success. Like many, I grew up equating money and power with success, and for a time, that framed my definition. But as I've matured, that has changed. You see, success is a very personal thing. What drives one entrepreneur may be radically different for another. And understanding how others measure success can help you better understand your own definition.
For me, it's "Success is spending the majority of my time focused on work or tasks that are fulfilling, leveraging my Zone of Genius, maximizing my potential and helping other people in a meaningful way while providing the freedom, lifestyle and experiences that I desire"
As we bid farewell to another year, I've been pondering these questions too. So I approached a number of "successful" people. Most of them are CEOs or run organizations that they started. (I even included my parents!) By most people's standards, they are successful. What, then, are their definitions of success? I hope these responses inspire you to think about your own version of success. The one constant I found? We all long for daily joy and fulfillment in our work and beyond.
"To find and fully live your purpose in life, and to leave an enduring legacy of having made a difference in the world."
-- Ron Cordes, founder of the Cordes Foundation
"Success is not having to describe what's been accomplished....others do it for you"
-- Deborah Hopkins, Chief Innovation Officer of Citibank
"I define success as living my true purpose and having a positive impact on the lives of people by uplifting them and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before."
-- Raj Sisodia, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism and professor at Babson College
"The purpose of our lives is to contribute our unique, God-given gifts to have an extraordinary positive impact on the lives of others and the world."
-- David Kidder, CEO of Bionic
"Success, for me, has always been in providing a great quality of life for my family, for those who work for me, and to my community."
-- Jeremy Young CEO of Tanga
"My definition of success is knowing that what you are doing is helping you and others lead a better, happier, healthier life."
-- Kara Goldin, CEO of Hint Water
"To me, success means creating a business that empowers customers, employees, and community in equal measure. We want to add positive value to people's lives, from a personal and professional standpoint."
-- Dan Kurzius, co-founder and COO of Mailchimp
"Success is looking back at your life, when you are in your final moments, and possessing a great amount of pride around your creations, accomplishments, and legacy, while possessing little to no regret about what you did not do and missed opportunities (i.e. your family still loves you). If I can die feeling this way, I believe this is success."
-- Seth Besmertnik, CEO of Conductor
"I feel that my life is successful if I can live each day with a positive outlook, have a feeling of contentment with my circumstances, have balance in all the important areas of my life, and have the time and resources to pursue what I am passionate about."
-- Marcia Becker, PhD, senior director of Adult Rehabilitative and Rural Services (my mom)
"I define success as having a job that you enjoy and enables you financially, a spouse and family that loves and cares for you, children that make you proud by who they are and what they do, having the freedom to worship a loving God, and being able to contribute to the betterment of your fellow man. I am so blessed!"
-- E.N Garnett Jr., Certified Crop Advisor, Southern States (my dad)
A lot of needless suffering is rooted in the misperceptions of success.
We are surrounded by a materialistic culture and get to experience first-hand the kind of “happiness” it brings when we obtain a specific title or object. You may even feel it from time to time, like buying the new iPhone or basking in the scent of a fresh new car. It’s not necessarily bad to have these things, but many times, the reasons why we crave these things are a bit misconstrued.
The truth, however, is that success is ephemeral in all areas of life. The smell of the new car will fade. The new phone will be replaced — sooner, rather than later — by a more advanced, sleeker, lighter, and better one. Someone younger, stronger, or smarter will eventually come and beat your record.
At a time where my self-defeating behavior was at its highest, my issue was that I chased after the wrong kind of success. Television and mass media would exemplify what the meaning of success was — the new car, the job title, a certain kind of body, etc. — and I would believe in it. This elicited a lot of frustration, resentment, and jealousy because it always felt like I was trying to catch up.
When I became aware of my behavior, I was certain that it was fruitless. If I continued to chase after these false objects of happiness and success, what I would ultimately be doing is running around in circles.
In my honest opinion, life is about moving forward, not ending up where you started.
How to Redefine The Meaning of Success
In order to lead the life that you desire, you must set your own goals and idea of success according to what you want — not what television or your parents want. This is all about you, your life, and idea of success.
1. Ask yourself: What is success?
If I were to define what success is, I would start small. But how do you define it without selling yourself short? As a writer, a feeling of success is being able to draft up something everyday, no matter what day it is. I can write 1000 words of just terrible nonsense, but still be satisfied that I did what I’m supposed to do. To beat myself up because I didn’t write a brilliant post is a false sense of success based on expectations that are not my own.
Plus, it’s not even realistic.
What is success to you? Is it getting up in the mornings and getting to the gym? Is it the To-Do list that you set out for yourself the day before? The purpose of defining your own success is to start living a life based on your own expectations and terms. The actions that bring you joy, a sense of accomplishment, service, and progress are where you should be investing your energy.
2. How do I achieve it?
Chances are, if it makes you happy and requires you to use your skills and effort, then you probably should be doing it everyday. The new phone or car — those are just temporary rewards; they won’t last.
The moment you define what the meaning of success is to you, the only way to achieve it is to take the steps forward in accomplishing your goals or objectives. The moment you stop trying to constantly please others and meet their expectations, only then can you find joy in the things you are already doing — or will start doing.
Really sit down — even write it out if you have to — and define what success is to you. You can create both short-term and long-term goals. My short-term goals consists of writing daily, accomplishing my tasks, and being of service to others. My long-term goals would be finishing my book, building my readership on my blog, and seeing other’s achieve their goals overtime.
Work towards daily success, not only the success that comes at the end of the journey. Do this everyday, and your actions will bring you closer to your ultimate goals.
To free yourself from the limitations of what other’s perceive as success is a tremendous opportunity to define life on your own terms. You learn to stop chasing things that simply don’t matter — but at one point you thought they did — and instead, you start to focus on the things that help you differentiate progress versus procrastination.
The fruitless emotions of anger, jealousy, and resentment should play no part in the attainment of your endeavors and the ability to succeed; those are just distractions.
The more you strive to be better than yesterday, the more success you will feel because progress, at times, can be felt. You can feel it in your body when progressing and working hard towards completing a project. You can see it when you reflect back on when you first started, and the leaps that you took to get to where you are today.
Once you remove the veil of what success really means to you, only then can you start achieving it daily and on your own expectations.
Don’t wait to start living like this. You can start today. As a matter of fact, you should start today, because continuously living everyday with expectations that are not of your own is a day that is not truly yours.
How do you define your success? What do you do to achieve it? Share your insights below.
Featured photo credit: Real Meaning of Success, Young businessman on a ladder via Shutterstock