As 2014 comes to a close and we prepare to turn the page on the calendar, it's inevitable that you'll think about success. Was it a successful year? Do you feel as though you accomplished what you wanted? Where did you fall short? And perhaps most importantly, how can you make 2015 even more successful?
Some of those answers, of course, depend on how you define success. Like many, I grew up equating money and power with success, and for a time, that framed my definition. But as I've matured, that has changed. You see, success is a very personal thing. What drives one entrepreneur may be radically different for another. And understanding how others measure success can help you better understand your own definition.
For me, it's "Success is spending the majority of my time focused on work or tasks that are fulfilling, leveraging my Zone of Genius, maximizing my potential and helping other people in a meaningful way while providing the freedom, lifestyle and experiences that I desire"
As we bid farewell to another year, I've been pondering these questions too. So I approached a number of "successful" people. Most of them are CEOs or run organizations that they started. (I even included my parents!) By most people's standards, they are successful. What, then, are their definitions of success? I hope these responses inspire you to think about your own version of success. The one constant I found? We all long for daily joy and fulfillment in our work and beyond.
"To find and fully live your purpose in life, and to leave an enduring legacy of having made a difference in the world."
-- Ron Cordes, founder of the Cordes Foundation
"Success is not having to describe what's been accomplished....others do it for you"
-- Deborah Hopkins, Chief Innovation Officer of Citibank
"I define success as living my true purpose and having a positive impact on the lives of people by uplifting them and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before."
-- Raj Sisodia, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism and professor at Babson College
"The purpose of our lives is to contribute our unique, God-given gifts to have an extraordinary positive impact on the lives of others and the world."
-- David Kidder, CEO of Bionic
"Success, for me, has always been in providing a great quality of life for my family, for those who work for me, and to my community."
-- Jeremy Young CEO of Tanga
"My definition of success is knowing that what you are doing is helping you and others lead a better, happier, healthier life."
-- Kara Goldin, CEO of Hint Water
"To me, success means creating a business that empowers customers, employees, and community in equal measure. We want to add positive value to people's lives, from a personal and professional standpoint."
-- Dan Kurzius, co-founder and COO of Mailchimp
"Success is looking back at your life, when you are in your final moments, and possessing a great amount of pride around your creations, accomplishments, and legacy, while possessing little to no regret about what you did not do and missed opportunities (i.e. your family still loves you). If I can die feeling this way, I believe this is success."
-- Seth Besmertnik, CEO of Conductor
"I feel that my life is successful if I can live each day with a positive outlook, have a feeling of contentment with my circumstances, have balance in all the important areas of my life, and have the time and resources to pursue what I am passionate about."
-- Marcia Becker, PhD, senior director of Adult Rehabilitative and Rural Services (my mom)
"I define success as having a job that you enjoy and enables you financially, a spouse and family that loves and cares for you, children that make you proud by who they are and what they do, having the freedom to worship a loving God, and being able to contribute to the betterment of your fellow man. I am so blessed!"
-- E.N Garnett Jr., Certified Crop Advisor, Southern States (my dad)
The other day, I was going through some old documents on my computer, and I found a list of various definitions of success. I can’t remember exactly what this was for, but I suspect it had something to do with a coaching exercise I was doing at the time.
Success is a very subjective term, and it doesn’t mean exactly the same thing to two different people. Not knowing how you define success in your life can make the process of becoming successful even more challenging. It’s like fumbling around in the dark to find something when the light switch is right next to you, if only you would stop grasping in the dark and focus on the light switch.
So, I thought I’d share my list of what success means to me (at least what it meant to me when I created it last year) so we can take a look at the different meanings of success. Success in my life means (in no particular order):
- Being happy
- Doing what I love everyday
- Helping others do what they love
- Staying true to my values
- Being a good mom
- Having respectful relationships with those around me
- Being able to contribute financially to my household
- Reaching financial security
- Being recognized as knowledgeable by peers
- Having time to enjoy the little things in life
- Not feeling stressed and overwhelmed on a regular basis
- Being in control of my own future
- Following my dreams
- Setting and reaching meaningful goals
- Making genuine connections with others
What’s On Your List?
When is the last time you thought about success and what being successful means in your life? Does your definition of success match up with where you’re focusing your time and energy every day?
Not only does an exercise like this give you a chance to reevaluate your priorities and help clarify the direction you need to go in order to reach your goals, but it can also serve as an effective way to brainstorm things in your life and work that you may want to try doing differently.
Take some time to think about how you define success, make your own list and see how it relates to your day-to-day life. If you’d like, share your definition of success in the comments so we can create a broad list of meanings, and see how success can vary from person to person.
Image credit: svilen001
Alyssa Gregory is a small business collaborator and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire, a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.