The context in which this question is most powerful is how it relates to your overall purpose, passion, values, vision and goals. In this sense, the answer goes deeper than attainment of any material item or achievement. Moreover, it may not be the easiest to answer, which is exactly why it is so powerful. The question forces you to step back and look at your life as a whole, every result, every action, not just as one successful accomplishment. The subtlety in, “what is your definition of success?” is looking at your life as if you have already lived it. The looking back perspective powerfully moves you to check-in and measure your current level of success.
Success looking back
There is no better time to answer this question. The sooner you have your definition of success, the sooner you begin taking actions that align with your values, vision and goals. Your definition should include what success looks like, feels like, and how do you know you’ve achieved it.
A great exercise to help you envision what success looks like is writing your memorial.
- Take yourself forward to your funeral and think about the life you have lived.
- What were your greatest accomplishments?
- What were proudest of?
- What is your legacy?
- Write it out freely without editing yourself.
You should have a great base of what success looks like for you. From this, begin to cull down and craft your unique definition of success.
Be prepared to change your definition. As you grow, change and adapt so will what is important to your success. What success looked like when you were twenty is probably different than when you are forty and so on. Be flexible knowing that once you have a current definition, it can change over time.
Success is different for everyone
How you answer this question and how you perceive success is unique to you and only you. Success is this context is sometimes defined as having wealth, fame, cars, house, family etc… The key is to understand this definition is just one of many. With that in mind, what you determine success to be is different than how others define success. For some it may be the accumulation of money, for the others it may be running a successful non-profit. The key is to suspend judgment and hold each person’s version of success as valid.
Take some time to breathe and ponder you definition of success. You may be reassured to know you are on track or it may cause you to pause, re-align and strike out on a new course.