Dear Shi, Recently, I have been struggling with defining what success really means to me. I have a high-paying job with great benefits like paid vacation time and flexible hours, challenging responsibilities, and great friends. People tell me that I have it good. But there’s something inside of me that feels empty — like I’m not quite sure if this is what I’m truly meant to do. How do I define what success is — and more importantly, live it out according to my own definition?
Dear Melanie, I love this question! Getting clarity around what your definition of success is will hone in the purpose-driven, passion-filled stuff that empowers you to make better decisions, and ultimately, create a fulfilling life + work that honors who you are. In Simon Sinek’s book, “Start with Why,” he tells a story of when he was a guest at the Gathering of Titans conference for high-performing entrepreneurs. Someone asked the group two questions:
1. How many of you met your financial goals for this quarter? 80% of these industry-leading attendees raised their hands.
2. How many of you feel successful? 80% of the people who raised their hands put them down, indicating that a majority of the people who crushed their financial goals, didn’t even feel like they were successful.
He shared this story to illustrate a powerful point: these entrepreneurs may have grown in tangible success but have lost touch with the reason “why” they started the business in the first place.
Success comes when we wake up every day in that never-ending pursuit of WHY we do WHAT we do. Our achievements, WHAT we do, serve as the milestones to indicate we are on the right path.”
- Simon Sinek, Start With Why
In other words, sometimes we use metrics like money/income, position, and titles as indicators for success when they are actually achievements. In reality, success really comes from knowing what your greater purpose is, and creating actions that align with that purpose, so that you are fulfilled from the inside out.
So, what is your definition of success? This is something you’ll have to answer for yourself. But, in true coach fashion, here’s a guide of questions to consider to help you to get clarity around the “why” behind the “what” you do.
Step #1: Your Legacy In order for our work to be personal and meaningful, we can start with the end in mind of the lasting impact we want our lives to stand for.
What characteristics do you want to be known for? What’s the contribution you would like to make to the world? What’s the problem that you are equipped to solve? What will inspire you to do creative and connected work? If you were to create your dream job, what are the 3 most important factors you’re looking for?
As you ellicit your responses, notice any common themes of core values that stand out. You can also try to summarize your purpose in a simple mission statement: My purpose is to help (your type/characteristic of people) with (specific problem) so that (result/impact).
My personal example is: My purpose is to help professionals/small business owners grow their leadership skills so that they can live on purpose and have a positive impact in their sphere of influence.
Step #2: Your Metrics After you’ve defined the “why”, it’s also important to define your metrics, and how you will know you’re living out your purpose.
The question to consider is, “How will you know you’re living your definition of success?”
Whenever I ask my clients this question, answers vary from an intuitive gut feeling of joy and contentment, to a financial goal, to audience engagement, and number of excellent projects completed. Since success can be a hard thing to define, it’s important to gauge your results so you know what you’re working towards.
For example, I use financial goals in my business because cash flow is important for a sustainable practice. But since my purpose is more about growing and connecting with people, I consider testimonials of happy clients, actions I take towards collaboration and bringing ideas to life, and engagement on social media and my web site to be a good indicator of my personal success.
I hope this mini-guide challenged you to dig deep and get personal - your definition of success can be a guide to live your life on purpose and give you the freedom to be yourself. It’s an on-going self discovery process — but having these tools of awareness and aligned actions will support you to be successful — all on your own terms.
PS: If you’re figuring out your definition of success like Melanie (and the rest of us), I would love to hear one insight you gained from this blog post, in the comments section below!