The definition of success is often dependent on the person. Some people define success as financial security. However, because we can identify that not all financially secure people are happy or content, is this truly success? How about this definition instead –
“Success exists when a person lives their life in a way that gives back to their fellow human being while at the same time lives out their most congruent self.”
Defining Success: One Person at a Time
To measure this success I think people can explore their most authentic passions and discover a way to apply this to how they live their life. When passions are translated to action there is usually a service component involved. Success begins when the individual starts to explore their true purpose and then take action towards it. This is my definition of success. The emphasis I want to make is that we each have the opportunity to define what it means to be successful.
What does it mean to be succesful?
This last year I have become a podcast fanatic. One of my favorites, hands down, is Tim Ferriss. The reason I enjoy this show so much is because he dissects truly “successful” individuals, in order to tease out the commonalities. What is interesting is to hear that how one person defines success may be somewhat different than the next. However, the commonality that often exists, which is certainly not specific to The Tim Ferriss show, is that people see success as something far greater than being wealthy or financially independent. Since this sentiment often comes from people with enormous financial resources, I think this speaks highly to the point that success is not found in money.
Success in all forms
I suppose the argument here could be that it’s easy for those with lots of resources to say that “it’s not about the money.” Certainly money helps, I think that is a fair statement. However, if money was the only thing that helped then all wealthy people would be problem free, which we know isn’t true. The fact that there are those people that have found financial success but also recognizes that it’s not about the money does not necessarily mean that those without financial success can’t come to the same conclusion.
What do you want?
So if the end goal is not to be finically free with unlimited resources, then what is the goal? How does one find success? I think the answer here is where success may divert away from a general definition and into a more personally defined arena.
Start with yourself
To be successful I think one must first answer the question of who they are, where they are going and why. The reason this personal exploration is so important to uncover success is for two reasons –
Unless there is a true sense of self, one’s objectives and goals may be unclear. The likelihood for distraction and dissatisfaction goes up without purpose and meaning.
Once one knows who they are and what they have to offer they can then set trajectory. Failure then becomes a lesson instead of a loss.
So if the first task is to answer who we are then how do we do that? I suppose this is a large ask and maybe too much for a blog post, but let’s give it a shot anyway. Discovering who we are and what our purpose is may be found in the intersection of talent, experience and passion. So how do we identify our talent? There are many assessments and online tools available. Here is another interesting exercise –
Interview 20 people in your life.
Ask them to answer what three words best describe you. After logging these down see what themes you can come up with. I recently did this exercise and was very surprised with what I found and the unexpected commonalities.
Once you have identified 3-4 themes that have come up, think of examples in your life where these themes show up. These examples may be found in work, hobby, family or friendship. Exploring these examples will help to show how these traits are expressed and give a better understanding of your truest talents.
Once you have looked at your talent, next consider your experience. Exploring your experience could be a vague and daunting task. However, if you are willing, consider answering these questions –
What are five experiences that have been truly impactful to you (write out the experiences in detail)?
What are five important lessons you have learned so far in your life?
What are five ways you have served others (be specific, tell a story).
This exercise should give you an idea of some of the significance of the experiences you have had.
Next you’ll explore your passion. For some people this is easily named. For others, understanding what we are passionate about may be a challenge. For those of you that don’t know what your passions are, consider these questions –
If money was unlimited and you could do anything you want with your time, how would you spend a typical day?
If money was unlimited and you had to choose some kind of service to offer others, what would you offer?
These exercises may give you a glimpse at what lies at the intersection of experience, passion and talent, which may send you on a trajectory to success. Ultimately, deciding what success means is a personal exploration. Following the path to your purpose may be one avenue to look, while for others, success may be found in being a good partner, parent or community member. If you know how to define success, go after it! If you are uncertain, spend some time exploring, the journey may teach more than just what it means to be successful.