“I want to be happy and successful “ is the most common answer people give when asked about their future. But what is success? To some, success is about power, wealth, status or fame and to others those concepts relate to a very limiting perception of success. But if success is in the eye of the beholder, that means we should take responsibility for consciously identifying what true success is to us before we can ever be genuinely successful.
Considering how much time we spend striving for success, it can be somewhat of a surprise to realize how little time you actually spend in your daily life’s actively determining what success exactly means to you then.
Definition of success
How DO you define and measure something that is so personal? What’s the protocol?
A quick Google search tells you the “experts” can’t agree on a general conception either. But although there is no clear cut definition of success, upon closer inspection, 3 reoccurring steps can be distinguished in almost every definition:
- Define your aim
- Take action
- Realize or achieve
You can use these 3 steps as a guideline to define what true success means to you and how you can achieve it.
1. Define your aim
It is all about the bigger picture! Defining true success starts with defining a long term direction. This means looking at the bigger picture: your dreams, your purpose, the legacy you want to leave behind. What is your interpretation of success now? How will you know you have been successful as a person when your 80. When will your live have had meaning?
A great example of the consequences of the wrong aim, is found in the field of practicing law. Being a lawyer is associated with status, financial security, prestige, responsibility. True success in the eyes of many. Aspiring lawyers work hard all through law school, often rake up huge debts, cram to pass the bar and work 18 hour days for years before going from associate to partner. After that level of dedication, you would assume most lawyers feel genuinely successful and happy once they achieved that status. In a recent poll, however, 52% of practicing lawyers describe themselves as dissatisfied. In addition, lawyers are at much greater risk than the general population for depression. How is this possible? Turns out most lawyers don’t like their work, don’t like their colleagues and feel like they are not making the impact they expected. In the end those lawyers didn’t aim for what they were truly after, they weren’t clear on what it was and no money nor prestige could make up for that.
The experience you are after
Step 1 is not about listing intended achievements but about and accurate and profound understanding of what will ultimately fulfill you. It is about understanding what EXPERIENCE you are essentially after. If you are unclear of this, you will end up working hard for something that eventually won’t make you feel happy or successful.
Once you figure out your direction, commit to it fully and dedicate yourself to it.
In the end isn’t it that the level of dedication that will determine your true level of satisfaction and success?
2. Take action.
The right goals
It is not enough to consciously set out a path. You need to take action, deliberate action that is. It doesn’t count if it is an accidental hit, does it? So if your actions are unintentional, you can never really miss out but you can never be truly successful either, because you never deliberately aimed.
Deliberate action is taken by setting goals, the right goals.
Goals should be a means to an end and only serve as a valuable tool to bring you closer to your aim. Don’t set your goals with a hop step jump from A to B to C. Set them with the aim in mind. Figure out what Z is first (step 1) and then regress, defining out the right stepping stones and committing to them. Choose your goals in alignment with your aim. If I am here now, and I want to be there, what goals do I need to set to get me there?
Play by your values
Deliberate action is also about playing by the rules. These rules are the Core Values you have. Only if your actions are value based.
Bill Cosby, Lance Armstrong and Bernie Madoff are just some examples of how fast success crumbles when you don’t play by your own chosen rules.
Success is not simply about achieving the ultimate aim, the true value of success is defined by HOW it is achieved.
Realization of your goals is how we tend to measure the achievement of success. And of course, having a way to keep track of your progress motivates you and keeps you going.
But remember, success is an individual experience. So you get to decide how you measure it too. You decide how low or how high you need to jump to deserve the title of successful; you determine your standard.
It also means that you get to decide if true success is only in the achievement or in the journey. Can success only be found in the end result or should it be measured in how you daily live your life? And does that change the perception of what true success is once again? What does is tell you about the actions you are taking? The answers might surprise you.