defining success

The title for this category in Personal Development Week is an interesting one, because I’m sure many of you were wondering, “What do you mean by success?” The irony is that in order to be successful, you have to answer that exact question for yourself.

Everybody’s definition of success is going to be different – one person’s success may be another person’s failure.  In order for you to achieve success in your life, you have to know what it is you’re shooting for (hmm, sounds kind of like what I talked about with regard to goals and discipline yesterday…).

The Difference Between Goals and Success

However, unlike our goals from yesterday, it’s more acceptable to describe success in less defined terms (so long as you have goals that get you to where you want to be), because success is much more “spiritual” (not in the sense of religion, but more along the lines of your purpose or meaning in life).

To some people, success is raising a family and seeing their children grow up to become successful in their own right.   To others, it’s to achieve fame and fortune in the public eye.  Regardless of what it is, it has to be true for you – someone else can’t tell you what success is, it’s up for you to decide.

It’s amazing how seemingly simple concepts can be extrapolated into momentous declarations, but that’s exactly what defining success is.  When you are on your deathbed, recounting your life, and determining if you were in fact successful, it’s going to ultimately come down to comparing what you wanted to do with/in your life, and what you actually did.

Life as a Gift

I don’t want to get to involved in the “meaning of life” discussion because it often leads to religions arguments from ignorant people who are too naive to step outside of their sheltered world created for them by their parents, BUT, I will say Steve Pavlina made an interesting observation in one of his podcasts that asking “What is the meaning of life?”, as in what is life supposed to offer me, is the wrong approach.  Rather, ask, “What do I have to offer life?” (think “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”)

When you start to think about life as a gift, you start to shift your mentality.  “What is the meaning of life?” is passive, it’s saying, “Someone tell me this, what is life giving me?”  When you ask what you have to offer your life, you are being active, you are being the force of change – which brings me to my final, and possibly most important point.

Success Means Starting

You can’t achieve success in life without initiative.  Success comes to those who are willing to go out and take it.  The over-infatuation of all things Hollywood has given people the perception that they don’t have to work for something, that they will be “discovered.”

What people don’t realize is how much work goes into becoming an overnight success.  You have to be willing to put up with the sweat and tears to achieve what it is you’ve defined as success.  If you want to become a stand-up comedian, then go out there and get on stage as often as possible, network with everyone you can, put in the hours it takes to hone your craft.

If you want to be a stay-at-home Mom, work hard to find a job that will allow to take a sabbatical from work, or find a way to help your husband advance his career to a point that he can support the entire family.

What do you mean by success?

If you truly take the time to answer that question, take the initiative to go out and work towards that definition, set goals and follow them through with discipline, you will be successful – no matter what it is you wish to achieve.

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