Defining Success

success circled in dictionary

Success is not for the faint of heart. It requires long nights and even longer days, significant sacrifices that extend far beyond what a bank account can offer, and so many moments of disappointment you will begin to lose count of the exact number. Success will demand the majority of your energy, time, and every piece of resilience you can scrounge up. And that’s just the chase. 

What happens when you actually attain some level of success and reach your goals? Research shows that our culture thrives on goals. Every new quarter, companies stress the importance of “goal this”, “quota that”, and live in turmoil over the months that await to confirm loss or profit. Every new year, we proclaim our personal and professional transformations that will take place. Every hopeful job interviewee is asked to elaborate on their long-term goals. And rightfully so, the act of setting goals and working toward them requires the presence of our best attributes. This habit of showing up in our daily lives as our “best selves” in order to work toward our goals does tend to lead to feelings of happiness and higher levels of self-esteem.

However, these positive feelings are not sustainable. Eventually, we will reach our goals. That is the point of creating them in the first place, right? Then all the drive and purpose that kept us striving will come to a jolting stop. So, the come-down sets in. Many coaches and trainers often see that clients feel empty or depressed after achieving the success of their greatest goal. The sentiment is this: “Well not what?” 

This is a phenomenon that many success-oriented individuals can relate to. We attach profound meaning to our goals, associating their significance with our own value as human beings. We believe that either the success or failure of our goals translates to whether we are a success or failure as a person. So much of our self-view and self-appraisal is tied up in our goals.  Thus, when the psychological high of reaching a goal wears off, we immediately must create a new, more challenging one. You can probably start to see how this cycle can never truly lead our souls to fulfillment. 

So instead of defining your success by the end result of a goal, what if you defined it by the growth and pleasure you experienced during the journey of chasing it? Instead of asking yourself if you achieved your goal, ask yourself who you met along the way that influenced and inspired you. Ask yourself what you know now that you didn’t know when you started. Examine what you gained in experience and knowledge that can not only help you in the future, but perhaps can help others who are taking their first steps down the path you just traveled.

Mark Cuban, billionaire entrepreneur and Mavericks owner, shared that one of the happiest times in life was when he was broke and living in a 3-bedroom Dallas apartment with 6 guys. Bill Gates defines his success by how he helps those in need. He even elaborates to include raising children as one of the greatest sources of success any person can achieve. On behalf of anyone who has ever played a role in raising a child, including all step-parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors, volunteers, and all others in “the village,” thank you, Bill. So, if billionaires whose names are synonymous with the word success believe in creating their own definition of it, why shouldn’t the rest of us?

Written by: Aubrey Koel