How Do You Define Success? Ask Yourself These Questions to Develop Your Unique Definition of Success
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
— Dr. Maya Angelou
Do you have your own definition of success? Many people are trying to live up to society’s definition of success without considering if this is the best option for themselves. Ask others what success means and you’re bound to hear a variation of these answers:
Nice house, big and fancy, with an infinity pool, in a gated community.
Fancy cars to fill up a five-car garage.
Respectable corporate job worth bragging about.
An attractive spouse.
A bazillion dollar bank account.
Those things are fine if that’s what you choose. But suppose success is meant to be just as unique as each of us are. Or suppose your vision of success does not fit a standard, melting pot definition. If you take the time to think about it, your definition of success might be something completely different and off the standard path. Consider this alternative success scenario:
Being single and traveling the world.
Running your own business from a laptop.
Having meaningful adventures each day.
Wearing flipflops at least eight hours each day.
A person with this definition of success would be miserable in the first scenario. They might find themselves accomplishing something that is not so appealing in the end; something that lacks the fulfillment that was hoped for. How do you avoid that kind of disappointment? By creating your own definition of success!
“My lack of success is self-imposed.” — Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Start by considering these introspective questions.
How well do you know yourself? Take a deep dive into your own personal experiences, your life story, holding yourself to personal accountability and responsibility for making your life a great story. Improve your personal accountability by increasing your willingness to answer for life outcomes resulting from personal choices, behaviors, and actions. The point is to become the person you aspire to be by examining the person that you are. And capture your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs along the way.
How do you nurture your life? Commit to making wise choices, building quality relationships, and embracing change. Nurturing your life is akin to self-care. It is to care for yourself; to encourage your own daily growth and personal development as the first step in caring for others. To nurture is to care for your growth and development through the practice of accountability and responsibility for the choices you make, the resulting consequences, and the ability to bounce back from bad or wrong choices. Nurturing your life makes the difference between living to thrive and living to survive.
Do you choose a balanced life or a fluid life? Do you know the difference between the two? Life integration is coordinating all the different aspects of your life to create a whole life picture based on synergy. Living a well-integrated life is to remove the burden of competing life domains. Make a self-promise to have a fluid, well-integrated life through knowing, seeing, living, and developing. Rather than looking at life domains as separate entities competing for time, energy, and money, consider the approach where different areas of your life complement one another as part of an integrated whole.
How skilled are you at connecting with others, especially those who are different from you? Connection is about others and it goes way beyond words on four levels — visually, intellectually, emotionally, and verbally. Nurturing connection is an investment in others as well as yourself. It is building relationships that are mutually beneficial. It also reflects your intended influence on others which is either positive or negative.
What is your definition of intentional living? Internalize what you learn about intentional living and apply what you learn by putting it into action. There are four benefits of taking action to live intentionally: (1) (re)affirming your values, (2) finding your voice, (3) developing your character, and (4) experiencing inner fulfillment. To live intentionally is to use your everyday living to bring about positive change in the lives of others in addition to yourself. This is what makes your life a great story.
Which is your tendency when it comes to seizing opportunity? Bending toward abundance or scarcity? Passively waiting or actively seeking? Take advantage of connectivity and opportunity by seizing the moment to make a difference. Stop and think about what your life would look like if you went into each day expecting to find opportunities; if you went into each day with an abundance mindset instead of a scarcity mindset. Imagine that.
What legacy do you want to leave for your children and the world? Creating an intergenerational legacy is a lifelong endeavor that impacts future generations. It is a lifelong endeavor designed by the plans and the choices you make along the way. It is also knowing the legacy that was deposited into you from previous generations, impacting the garden that is your current life. The legacy you leave behind is a true reflection of the life you have led. At the end of your life, what will you have to look back upon? What contribution to the world will you be known for? What will people say about you as they deliver your eulogy?
What are your values? A lifetime spent living your values should be fulfilling. Most people have a vague notion of what’s important to them, but few take the time to think about it carefully. The truth of the matter is this: values exist whether you recognize them or not. Your character is defined by your values, spoken or unspoken; your values are manifested in your behavior; and your behavior is embedded in your influence, whether positive or negative. Sometimes it takes a lifetime for an individual to recognize their true core values.
Who are you becoming? To soar is to grow fearlessly with vision, purpose, and action. As you cultivate a daily growth mindset through personal development, think about who you are becoming. Knowing yourself is looking at your inner life defined by your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. It is to examine what emerges in your interpersonal life through your words, actions, and behaviors. Think about where you are right now versus where you desire to be. That space in between is your growth space; the space where transformation happens.
What will it take for you to feel successful? Imagine various scenarios and determine what would make you feel successful. Is it living in a cabin in the woods with few responsibilities? Or living in a 15,000-square foot penthouse? Imagine various careers and lifestyles. Which one feels like success to you?
Here’s the bottom line.
There is no universal definition of success. Search for a version of success that’s meaningful to you, even if others are unaware of your possessions and accomplishments. It’s important not to fall into the trap of trying to impress your family, friends, co-workers, or anyone else for that matter. Develop a version of success that is meaningful for you, regardless of society’s values. You might find that your version of success is much more enjoyable and easier to attain.
Here’s my definition of success.
Significance: making a difference in my own life and the lives of others.
Uniqueness: walking in my uniqueness while allowing others to do the same.
Connection: recognizing the humanity in all people.
Change: cultivating change from the inside first then out into the world.
Empower: breaking down barriers and disrupting limiting beliefs.
Seen and heard: recognizing that my voice and my story needs to be shared.
Seize opportunity: taking action with a sense of urgency and anticipation.
Your definition of success will require you to like what you do and how you do it. Ultimately, will you like the person you desire to become?
“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” — Romans 12:2 NLT