Defining Success

December 1st, 2013 by Marcy Schwab

Defining Success

Are you successful? Think about it for just a minute. What was your quick answer? What if you think about for more than a second? What a loaded question. It’s only 3 words but when you really think about it, there is just so much embedded in that simple question. Are you successful? What does that mean? I wonder how many people think about defining success before they make a determination about whether they have achieved it or not.

Thought #1: How does society define success?

Money. Status. Title. Grades. School attended. Degrees. In the US today, society often defines success by measurable metrics like the school one attends or the money one makes. A promotion at work garners many congratulations and kudos — even gifts from others which could include bottles of wine, flowers, a lunch with colleagues and friends. Sure, by many measures, these things could define success. Maybe your initial reaction was go to these obvious things. Is this the end of the story?

Thought #2: The “should”

Are you doing what you think you should be doing, or are you doing what you want to be doing? Are they the same thing? Have you really thought about it? I should work harder, I should take that promotion. Have you asked yourself, “For the sake of what?” are you doing something on the “should” list. Are you taking that promotion because you should or because you will truly feel more successful and be happier in that new job. Or are you taking it because you think you should – it’s more money, it’s got a bigger title. All of the things that society often equates to success. But that leads to….

Thought #3: Does happiness equal success?

That depends, right? I recently switched careers to do something that is more meaningful to me. On paper, it’s not obvious that it will lead to greater success in the traditional, society driven sense. I’m going to make less money (probably but maybe not!), I don’t have a fancy title at a Fortune 500 company like a used to. To me, I feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives in a deeper and more meaningful way. I get up and I’m excited about what lies ahead. I get to spend more time with my kids.

For me, it comes down to this:

What is my legacy? What do I want people to remember me for? I strive to grow personally and professionally, to use my gifts to make a difference and touch many lives in the most positive of ways, and to raise two amazing kids and not miss a thing. Not because I “should”, but because it’s what’s important to me. To me, that is success.

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