"Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules and build a life you're proud to live." (Anne Sweeney)
I love that quote. It says so much but keeps it so simple.
And yet for most of my life I hadn't been doing any of those things.
It wasn't until around 18 months ago that I truly thought about...
...what success was.
...what rules I wanted to live by.
...what a life I could be proud of might look like.
Have you defined what success if for you?
You see most of my life I believed being successful meant something like having a big house, flash car, great job/business, lots of money, being married, having kids, being seen at the right events and just generally keeping up with the Joneses.
I was simply going along with the status quo that society had fed me.
I learned things when I was younger, I was told things as I grew up and I never really questioned any of it. I wanted to fit in so I went along with what I was told. This led me to developing some very typical one dimensional definitions of success...
You need to do well at school so you can get A levels. You need to get good A levels so you can go to university. You need to go to university so you can get a good job. You need a good job so you can buy a house. And so on.
Looking back it feels more like brainwashing. On the face it, you appear to have a choice...about subjects or universities or career paths etc but only within the confides of a set number of bigger picture choices. Which looking back doesn't really sound like a choice now does it.
I can't remember being encouraged to think what success looks like for me. I can't remember being asked to think about what I wanted. I can't remember not having certain expectations made very clear or judgement made obvious when I suggested something different.
I was asked what I wanted to do, but I was never helped to think outside the box with no judgement.
And so I ended up with this very material focused definition of success. And the key thing was that I hadn't chosen it for myself. This wasn't what I defined success as, it was what others had deemed best for whole generations. And I just followed along.
That continued in the most part until 2010 when I started my own business. This was only due to a redundancy not some realisation that I was going down a path that was not of my own choosing. I now had the freedom to create anything I wanted.
And yet as I look back I found myself falling into similar trappings. I was chasing more money, more prestige, more 'success' whatever that meant.
It would lead me to working so hard that I would cause irreparable problems in other areas of my life. All for something that I know now wouldn't have been what I define as success.
And so in 2017 after a complete change in life circumstances I finally realised I needed to define what success is. Not for anyone else, but for me.
That's right. Now matter what anyone has told you or tells you - there is only one person who can decide what success means for you... YOU!
No outside influences, no judgement just allow yourself the time and freedom to choose how you want to measure success.
It was liberating and eye opening.
I realised I had been neglecting many areas of my life. I realised I had been going down a path that would ultimately never lead to what I would consider to be success.
I outlined what success was for me in my own terms in various areas; Health, Business, Finances, Connection, Giving, Fun and several more key areas.
I now had a real measure of what I would consider success. Of what would be a meaningful life would look like for me. Of what I wanted from life.
I outlined goals, challenges and what I wanted my life to look like. But I also defined success in broader ways too, I started to see success as living by a set of values I chose.
Ever since I have been liberated and set free of the shackles society placed on me. The stereotypes of success still exist with people asking you the same questions about Money, Relationships, Houses etc... I just let them pass on by now.
I know how I define success. It's unique to me. And knowing this I am now able to instantly life a more fulfilled life on my terms.
When I first did this, nothing had changed from the outside, but everything had changed inside me. For the first time I truly knew where I was going, what I was doing and the challenge I was taking on.
I would no longer define my worth, success, happiness by external forces. I no longer had to have certain things in my life to be happy to consider my successful. It was about realising I was enough in any moment while at the same time taking on the challenge of living my ideal life.
I take on the challenge every day. And every day is more fulfilled because I'm now trying to achieve something I have consciously chosen. More importantly I know that it is not in the result that success is experienced but for me it is in the trying.
My sincere hope is that this post gets you thinking about how you're defining success.
Take some time and ponder this idea of How Are You Defining Success?
Paul is the Founder of Your Virtual Mentors. View the YVM Programmes for various ways to work with Paul.
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