How Do You Define Success?

Zoe Routh

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"Success" as a word is bandied around freely in conversations. We all want to be “successful", to feel good about our achievements, but rarely do we sit down to explore what “success" really means to us.

We have some sense of what success should mean - good job, nice friends, happy family, plenty of money, holidays, and nice things around us. More often than not we tend to define success in terms of the externals: big house, flashy car, great wardrobe. Yet as the bushfires in Canberra and around the world taught us last year, we can lose all that in an instant. If we identify success with our material things, then our sense of self can suffer when those things disappear, through no fault of our own. This made the trauma of the bushfires much more difficult for many.

There are a million factors over which we have no control that can affect our “success" if we define it by things external to us. This is in fact an exhausting and dis-empowering way to live.

A far more productive way to look at success is to have a definition that is generated and controlled by you. An internal ‘success barometer’ if you like! Such success definitions may include statements like, “I know I am successful by the quality of my relationships" or, “I know I am successful by what I contribute to others" or, “I know I am successful by how I look after myself". These types of definitions allow you to feel successful at any one time, despite the external conditions of your environment. And when we feel successful, we are happy, productive, and truly ALIVE!

Defining success by an internal gauge does not mean abandoning all material goods however! There is no need to give everything away! We can still have goals that include getting a big house, or going on a big holiday. The distinction to make however is this: goals are growth tools and the way to enjoy and feel good during the process is to have a definition of success that sustains and nourishes you, even if you do not achieve your goals! This is a great happiness secret! Share it liberally with others!

Have a think about how you define success. Make it something that truly resonates for you, something that reflects your deepest values. Enjoy the freedom this brings you!

Cancer survivor Zoe Routh is the Head Coach at Inner Compass, a personal development organisation that helps busy professionals work less and achieve more. Inner Compass offers practical strategies and solutions to improve personal effectiveness and live an inspired life.


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