Define your own success—and then relish it

A client of mine recently made a big change, deciding to accept a new job that would allow her to work fewer days each week so she could spend more time with her kids.

But instead of celebrating, she was worrying.

She fretted that given her new, shorter workweek, people may not take her seriously. And the career of a close friend in the same field was ramping up (long hours, big paycheck, positive attention), stirring up some envy.

But wasn’t this her choice? Yes.

So why was she still unhappy? She didn’t stop to redefine success.

Comparison is, indeed, the thief of joy. And one of the key ways I know a client needs to redefine their meaning of success is when I see them caught in the comparison trap. They’re often measuring success based on an old metric, outdated goals or societal standards—money, accolades, power. They see others “succeeding” by this definition, and that thief of joy makes its move.

I’ve been there—recently, actually. There’s no shortage of coaches touting life-changing retreats in Bali, Paris and other grand places. It sounds exotic and fun. Should I be doing what they’re doing? I ask myself. But the reality is, I don’t want to travel for weeks, leaving behind my family and lifestyle. Right now, that’s not my idea of success. So long as I’m using the right measuring stick, I can easily reset—and celebrate that I’m right where I want to be. You can too.

If you find yourself caught in the comparison trap, I encourage you to define what success means to you by asking yourself these three questions:

1. What does success look like for me in the coming year?

What do you want your life to look like one year from today?

One of the most helpful ways to answer this question is by evaluating the eight areas of the life wheel: family, work, money, personal growth, health and wellness, spirituality, community, and living environment. Choose your top three. How can you better commit yourself to those three  areas over the next 12 months to honor what you’ve now established are priorities? Measure your success accordingly.

I do this each year to recalibrate my own definition, which helps me prioritize and take intentional action going forward.

2. What does success look like for me in the coming month?

Consider some smaller steps you can take toward your one-year goals.

For parents, success in October might mean making it to your child’s school costume party or being home early on Halloween—with no late-night work on deck—to truly enjoy Trick or Treat. Or perhaps, if you’re hoping to make a professional change, success this month means sending an email to one of your career-crushes—someone you admire professionally—requesting a call or coffee to talk. Maybe it’s simply getting to one yoga class a week all month.

Whatever it is, make it realistic and concrete.

3. What does success look like for me today?

Seemingly small, intentional actions add up to significant changes. Think about one you can take today that will make you feel successful.

After spending years climbing the corporate ladder, my client may not stop wrestling with career envy overnight. My advice to her? Remember your why—and your measuring stick. She wanted more time with her kiddos. So if she gets to read with them before tucking them into bed tonight, today was a success.

It’s important to remember that your needs and dreams will change and evolve, so your definition of success will, too. Trying to apply just one definition to your entire life—or even just your entire career—will leave you unsatisfied.

Push yourself to redefine success. Use your own measuring stick to analyze how you’re doing. And don’t forget to celebrate your victories along the way.

Need help redefining success? Email me here.

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