It’s easy to label an effort or a person as successful or unsuccessful, but isn’t that a little too black and white? Measures of success are many and varied, to the point where it’s sometimes best to have an internal measure. Decide what success means to you, and measure yourself against it as often and as strongly as you think appropriate.
Last year I was asked to give a one-minute speech with a tip on how to be successful. So I started to think about all the things it takes to achieve success: determination, focus, perseverance (especially when there are setbacks), discipline, taking risks and being willing to fail, adaptability, being authentic, asking for help, believing in yourself, enjoying what you do, being responsible and reliable, great communication, being likeable, etc. When I shared my thinking with a friend, he asked: “Well, what does that even mean – “to be successful?”
I realized that this was actually the key question – because you can do all the things I just listed and more, but if you do it in pursuit of the type of success that others value, only to find out that it doesn’t really matter to YOU, then what is the point?
I had given this question quite some thought over the years, so MY definition for success looks something like this: 1. Be authentic, stay true to my values, and don’t pretend to be someone I am not. 2. Pursue a purpose that is meaningful to me. Right now my purpose is to love myself so I can love my life and to help other people do the same. 3. Enjoy time with my friends and people who I care about, talking, laughing, sharing and supporting one another. 4. Be comfortable financially: Live within my means, be in a comfortable living environment and be able to travel. 5. Continue to learn and grow.
Now this list will look different for everyone, and there is no right or wrong, since it’s about what is important to YOU, and it may change over time. But here is the hard part: Even if we have a clear idea about what success looks like to us, all the messages we see around us every day may point towards a different definition of success. Whether it is commercials on TV, ads in magazines, news stories, TV shows, going to networking events, seeing other people’s updates on LinkedIn or Facebook – it’s easy to believe that we need to achieve more, get “there” more quickly, be “better”, and be happier in the process. =)
That’s where we come back to loving ourselves. Accepting ourselves the way we are right now. Being compassionate with ourselves. And empowering ourselves by remembering our definition of success and what is truly important and meaningful to us. This is not a one-time exercise, it is a practice. But each time we practice, we are one step closer to making it a habit. So I choose to remind myself again, today, that I am here to love myself and help you do the same, so we can lead happier and more fulfilled lives. And I remind myself that today, I want to savor and cherish my interactions with everyone I care about. That is success to me. What does success mean to you?
About Manuela Pauer