A while ago, I wrote about defining “success” in the context of work. But “success” applies to much more than just work. The term simply means the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, so it can apply to anything you’re attempting to do—including the way you live your life.
So if you had to define it, what would a “successful” life look like for you? Is it related to how much money you make, where you live, how much influence you have, how your kids turn out?
Everyone’s definition will be different. But regardless of what your definition is, it will have a significant impact on your perspective on life. If your picture of success is primarily about money, for instance, and you have little, you’ll see yourself as a failure. If raising perfect children defines your vision of success, and they don’t turn out to be perfect, then you’ll see yourself as not successful. And if your idea of “success” is contingent on the decisions and actions of others, you could spend your whole life chasing an elusive target that you have no control over.
But you can define success differently. You can focus on the kind of person you want to grow into and not just how many possessions you accrue—on who you’re becoming on the inside, not just what you’re gaining on the outside—on the direction your moving, not on whether you’ve arrived.
The problem, though, is that this kind of definition isn’t quantifiable in the same way as tracking the balance of your portfolio. There isn’t a clear finish line, and there’s always room to grow. Success becomes more about continuing in the direction you’ve chosen than about hitting some future metric.
Seeing success this way changes your perspective on what you face every single day. All of life becomes an opportunity to be “successful.” Instead of allowing your success to be contingent on someone else, or on decisions and situations out of your control, everything you experience provides you an opportunity to keep growing into the person you want to become—a chance to take another step in your chosen direction. And in all those inevitable moments when you fail, the simple decision to get back up and continue on is another example of what this kind of “success” can look like.