When will you be successful?

When Are You Successful Enough?


What is success?

I did a very scientific poll (facebook, twitter, email, phone calls) and asked people for their definition of success.  Most of the answers were different phrasings on one of my favorite quotes and what I use to define success:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. “- Maya Angelou

Success Hypocrisy

There were a few people who attached achievement to success.  Only one person mentioned money when it came to success. This was fascinating to me because when success is discussed in terms of others success it seems that we measure it in achievements and net worth (again, another very scientific study conducted among the motley crew I associate with).

I can’t recall one time where I heard anyone say, “Can you believe how successful Karen is?  She really has a good opinion of herself, she is having fun at her job, and she loves going through the whole process.”

When it comes to success, we judge ourselves one way and everyone else another way. Click To Tweet

This seems a little hypocritical to judge ourselves one way and others another way. Then again, money and achievement have to enter the picture at some point.  My bet is that even if we like ourselves, like what we do and how we do it, we would still not consider ourselves a success if we had to live in a refrigerator box under the freeway.


So the next question is, if we take achievement and finances in to account, when is enough success enough? By Ms. Angelou’s standards (and my poll participants) that would be a very personal decision.  We have to look at our priorities.

When we look at priorities we have to pinpoint the most important thing.  I don’t know who originally said this but I one hundred percent believe that “If everything is the most important thing than nothing is the most important thing.”  We have to choose carefully.

When the Mister and I started a family, this was fairly easy.  Family was the most important thing to us.  We defined that as raising children in a loving home where they could grow into adulthood as open minded, thinking individuals who were positive contributing members of society. Once we defined that for ourselves, every decision revolved around it.  Employment, education, discipline, finances, time, etc. Everything was evaluated on how well it met our first priority. This was a priority for 22 years and although our children are still adjusting to adulthood, it appears that we succeed in our goals and mostly on our own terms.

Family is still number one but it is no longer about child rearing. It is more about letting go of the kids (letting go as in letting them be the adults that they are and being a support and an advisor rather than a decision maker) and turning attention to ourselves.   Our efforts are now more focused on the subcategories and the decisions are made more around what make us happy and what will be good for our future in the second half of our lives.

How to measure success

The subcategories are many.  Things like finances, career, friendships, and relationships, etc., contribute to our highest priority.  We don’t live in a vacuum and they are all part of the whole.   So how do we measure that success?

Time is finite.  So it is simply a matter of allocation.  But to what end?  Is that time really being used well and is it being fruitful?

Finances have what would seem like an easily quantifiable measurement for success.  The more you have the more successful you are, right?  Well…….not so fast.  It isn’t quite as black and white as an excel sheet would lead you to believe.  Account balances can go up and down but sacrificing what?

Career success can be as mystical as a crystal ball. Does it mean a title?  A paycheck?  Impact?  Reputation?  Celebrity?

Relationship success is always a tailor made item. It hinges on another individual and has to meet two different definitions of success.

So basically, there is no one good way to measure.  It still falls back on our own parameters.

What success is not

While it may be tough to define or measure success.  Most of can usually identify what success is not.

Success is NOT the inability to care for yourself.  It is NOT the absence of joy or caring.  It is NOT lethargy or indifference.  It is NOT the creation of more problems.  It is NOT in hurting others. So when looking at your own measurements, be vigilant to what is NOT success.

When is it enough?

Regardless of our priorities, or how they change as our life changes, at some point in our goals we have to look at our return on our investment.

At some point, we may realize that putting in another 5 hours at work that week isn’t worth the 5 hours of not being around someone we love.  Or maybe it’s the opposite, maybe we need to put in that extra 5 hours to meet the needs of those we love.   Maybe one more vacation that year isn’t going to help with the relaxation goals any more than staying at home.  Or maybe for your sanity, it will.

There are always trade-offs.  Time, money, relationships….all shades of gray once you have met your needs.  Eventually, when measuring things like time and money, we have to say this is enough before it takes away from another category.

The trickiest part is that it is always in flux.

As life changes, we are always shuffling what needs to come first.

Steps to determine if it’s enough

Determine your priorities.  Both long term and short term.

Evaluate if you are on track.  Is what you are currently doing working for or against those priorities? Is there an area that is lacking?  Do you have to take some of your efforts from one area of your life and redirect them to another? Is one particular area causing undue stress and needs to be attended to?

Adjust your efforts accordingly.

Measure your results.  This may be in dollars and cents, in stress level, the ease of your relationships, the changes in a situation.

Re-evaluate.  At this point decide if it is worth it.  Is it worth putting more effort into those goals to get to a ‘higher’ success level?  Is it worth pouring your resources (time, effort, money, etc) towards one area or taking it away from another area?

Answer the question:  Am I happy/content/pleased/satisfied with this level of success? Can I live with this?  Do I need to go back to the drawing board?  Will I regret it if I don’t push it further?   

Repeat as necessary.

Photo Credit: Jonhildy

Do you consider yourself successful enough?

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