I talk a lot about success. It’s an important topic to me, and I love helping others achieve it. That’s why, when I hear someone say, "I'm not successful," it really pains me. Often, they actually are successful; they just aren't viewing it in the right way.
Here’s an example: Last week, I was on a mentorship call with a millennial who said he felt like a failure.
This stunned me because there was no way he was a failure!
I saw him connecting with his fiancé on a deeper level, developing a profound relationship with God, and maturing personally more than ever. All of those were huge successes, yet, despite all that, he felt like a failure.
He had limited his definition of success to career, money, and other financial matters.
Because of this, he was swimming in self-pity, and regretted not "accomplishing more."
That really got to me, so today—let me share with you my opinion on the definition of success.
Here is a powerful truth: The earlier in your career—and your life—that you define success for yourself, the less pain you will have, and the more joy you will invite into your life.
Don’t measure your life against somebody else’s yardstick. Create your own yardstick. Or do away with yardsticks entirely!
Faulty yardsticks are what cause those quarter-life and mid-life crises that leave many in ruins.
Become crystal clear about your own definition of success. If you don't, you may end up doing one of the following:
Living a life that others envy but which makes you miserable
Not being true to yourself
Doing things that you will regret
Having one or more nervous breakdowns
In fact, the real danger is not that you end up failing in life, but rather that you succeed at the wrong thing.
So let's dig into it, and help you find clarity.
What is a Personal Definition of Success?
Your personal definition of success is similar to an organization’s mission statement. It articulates how you want to live, what you hold important, and what impact you want to make.
"Success is not about having or doing, it's about being."
To illustrate my point, let me use as an example a brand that everyone knows—Nike.
Nike's mission statement is, "To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world."
This mission statement is not about driving profitability, results, or stockholder value. It's how Nike wants to be seen by the world. It is the organization’s vision, and its reason to care.
Therefore, no matter what the profit and loss statement reads, no matter the share price, if Nike stays true to its mission statement, then the company is successful.
I should point out that Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman added an asterisked clarification that read, “*If you have a body, you are an athlete.”
Thus, Nike’s mission statement applies to every person on the planet.
Success comes from your principles and your priorities. Just like Nike, you too have to understand that success is not a destination; it is a way of living. It comes from your roots, your values, and your view of the world.
So let’s start there—with values.
Understanding Your Values
Simply put, your values are those things that are most important to you. They are your priorities. They are engrained in your identity.
Most people never take the time to get clear on their values. I know I didn't, until relatively recently.
When you define your personal values, you discover what is truly important to you. When that happens, you take a giant step toward creating a meaningful, joyous life.
Values Assessment - MindTools.com
I highly recommend you check out this free resource from MindTools.com. It guides you through a quick workshop that helps you become super clear on your values, and to understand why that's important.
My advice is to take time to answer the questions fully. Skimming through them won't provide the same benefit, so find an hour or two to sit in a quiet place and dig through this. It will help you achieve a measure of clarity.
The next step is learning to structure your values.
The Wheel of Life
The Wheel of Life (yes, it does sound oddly like a torture machine), is a tool to help you organize the most important areas of your life.
The tool has many uses. However, it is most effective when used to clarify and align your values. From there you can develop the categories of your life that are most important to you.
This tool is a truly valuable resource that helps you understand where you are succeeding, and where you could benefit by spending more time. By learning where you stand in the most important areas of your life, you can avoid situations like the one in which my millennial mentoring client found himself—succeeding all over the place, but feeling like a failure.
Because he focused solely on one part of his wheel, he didn't have a grasp on the other areas in his life. As a result, he behaved unfairly both to himself and to those around him.
Now that you have completed your wheel and aligned your values, it is time to meditate deeply on the question of how you define success.
To help you do that, Success Magazine created four simple questions that facilitate the process.
However, I believe that four are not enough. I think you need to answer six questions.
As I stated earlier, success is more about “being” than it is about “achieving.” Your definition of success should focus on how you want to live rather than how you want people to remember you—although both are important.
So here are six questions that, when answered truthfully, will give you what you need to craft your definition of success.
If I could leave a legacy right now, what would it be?
How is this legacy the foundation of my success?
How will I know that I’m living in alignment with my legacy?
How can I start achieving my definition of success?
I am successful when...
I feel most alive when...
Now that I've shared some exercises and tools for you to define your own success, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the experience and what you came up with. What is success to you? Here is mine...
I am successful when I am living from a place of love and happiness as I grow in those areas that give me fuel to carry out my life's purpose.
I work with millennials because I believe that the earlier you can build your skills and abilities and craft a vision for your life, the more impact you will have on the world.
If you have worked through these resources but are still struggling, I find that working one-on-one delivers the best results. Mentoring is not for everyone, but if you have a deep desire to get the results you want in the timeframe you seek, we should connect.
To Your Continued Success,
You Deserve a Career That You Love
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