How do you define success?
Growing up, I picked up all kinds of messages about what it means to be successful.
My father defined success as having your own business and making enough money to support your family – even if you had to sacrifice your personal life to make it happen.
My friends and teachers defined success as having a 9-to-5 job, buy a house, get married and have 2.5 children – even if you had to give up your dreams in the process.
My mom defined success as being a good person and always do your best to help others – even if you never had any money yourself.
At different times in my life, I pursued them all… with disastrous consequences:
How I Found Out What Success Means To Me
If you had asked little Giorgia what she wanted to do when she grew up, she would have said, “I want to be a primary school teacher, buy a house near my parents, get married and have two children.”
It was what everyone around me wanted. If so many people thought this was the dream, they must be right, no?
It didn’t take me long after I started getting my qualifications to realise that working for someone else wasn’t a good fit for me.
I never liked played by rules imposed by someone else, especially when I think there’s a better way of doing things…
Maybe my mum was right after all. You can’t find success in the professional realm. It’s all about being a good person.
The problem with following this definition of success? I had no boundaries. I let people take advantage of me. I’d give them everything they asked for… and they’ll leave.
Let me tell you, I didn’t feel successful. I didn’t even feel like I was a good person. I was just hurt and resentful all the time.
That’s when I decided to throw myself into my career and start my own business.
I worked 16 hours a day to make enough money to live the lifestyle I wanted, but I had no social life. Heck, I didn’t even have the time to go on a date with my boyfriend…
Worse, I didn’t compromise only my relationships. I ruined my health, too. The pace was unsustainable and I soon burned out.
I had chased every definition of success I knew… but neither of them made me feel successful. What was wrong with me?
That’s when it hit me: I had to come up with my own definition of success.
To me, success means to have a job I absolutely love and that truly fulfills me, make enough money to be financially independent for the rest of my life, and be a good person who always does her best to help others.
What does success truly means to you?
Why You Need To Define Success On Your Terms
If you don’t know what success means to you, how can you achieve it?
You’ll spend your entire life chasing someone else’s definition of success. Even if you get there, you’ll never feel happy and fulfilled.
Here’s what happens when you follow the wrong definition of success:
- You lose track of the things that are important to you
- You get the “I’ll be happy when…” syndrome and can’t enjoy the journey until you get to your destination
- You feel dissatisfied when you reach your goals because they don’t bring you the happiness they promised you
- You constantly push the goal further, thinking that a bigger house or a higher paycheck will fulfill you
- You become bitter, resentful, and angry because all your hard work isn’t paying off
- You never fulfill your own potential and do the work you came on this planet to do
I don’t want this to happen to you. That’s why one of the first things I do with my clients is to help them get clear on what they want, so they can pursue the dreams and goals that match their own definition of success.
When you’re defining success on your own terms, it helps to create a vision for your life that supports it. Click on the image below to download the “Life Vision Worksheet” and start mapping out your dream life:
How to define Success On Your Own Terms
Grab pen and paper and answer the following questions:
- What is your life purpose? What gives your life meaning?
- What are your career goals? What contribution do you want to make through your work?
- What are your financial goals? What kind of lifestyle do you want to live?
- What are your relationship goals? What kind of daughter/sister/mother/friend/girlfriend/wife do you want to be?
- What do you want to give back to your community?
These are some of the areas to consider when jotting down your definition of success. But free feel to include anything else that is meaningful to you.
Once you’ve answered all the questions, look at the common themes and what’s really important to you.
Then, write down: My definition of success is _____________________________
Here are a few examples:
- Success is spending a lot of time in nature and connect with people on a deeper, spiritual level.
- Success is prioritising the people I love over external achievements.
- Success is being my own boss, becoming financially independent, and prioritising self-care.
- Success is surrounding myself with beautiful designs and immersing myself in the beauty of nature.
- Success is being fun, carefree and living life on my own terms without guilt.
- Success is building my own empire in an ethical and sustainable way and create meaningful relationships with my loved ones.
Success comes in all shapes and forms. Find the one that fits you and pursue it.
How To Pursue Success On Your Own Terms
Now that you have YOUR OWN definition of success, how do you make sure you’re chasing dreams and goals that align with it? Here are a few questions to get you started:
1. Is This Really My Dream?
Sometimes, this is easy to see.
If your parents have always expected you to go to med school, but the mere idea is enough to make you feel sick to your stomach, you know it’s not really your dream.
Other times, you may just follow the crowd. I remember many girls at my school who enrolled in same uni major as their BFF. They didn’t know what they wanted to do with their life, so they decided to do something that’ll allow them to spend time with their bestie.
Or maybe you’re starting a Youtube channel so that you can become famous, travel the world all expenses paid, and receive lots of designer goods for free – all the thing society tells you you should strive for.
If you’re not sure if a dream is yours or someone else’s, take the goosebump test. It never fails.
2. What’s Your Why?
Why do you want to make this dream come true?
Your why matters. Making your dreams come true is hard. You’ll make mistakes. Encounter all kinds of obstacles on your way. Fail a few times.
If your why isn’t strong enough, you’ll get discouraged and quit. You need a strong motivation to get you going.
Motivation can come both from within and without:
- Extrinsic motivation: This type of motivation comes from external rewards, like praise from your peers, an award for winning a competition, or a present for getting good grades. It can work in the short term, but it’s not enough to keep you going when things get tough.
- Intrinsic motivation: This type of motivation comes from within. It’s tied to your values, your mission, and what’s really important for you. Its reward is the fulfillment that comes from doing the right thing. When you have a strong why, you’ll persevere no matter how bad the odds are.
Let’s say you want to start a lifestyle blog. If your reason for doing so is to get free holidays and designer clothes, you’ll give up at the first hurdle. Or worse, you’ll achieve your goal and wonder why every other influencer on Instagram looks so happy while you feel dead inside.
But if your goal is to promote a sustainable lifestyle and help people make more conscious choices, you won’t give in when you see how much work is involved or sell out to brands that don’t align with your values. You get your reward from helping your readers, not the freebies or likes you’re getting.
If the only reason you’re pursuing a dream is to get a external reward, hold back. That’s a huge red flag.
But if you have such a strong why your motivation comes to you on pilot, keep going. You’re on the right track.
3. Does This Dream Fit Into My Definition Of Success?
Once you’ve come up with your definition of success, write it down in your journal. Or jot it down on a piece of paper and hang it on the wall. The point is to have it somewhere you’ll see it often.
Every time you come up with a new dream or goal, look back at what you wrote and ask yourself, “does this dream fit into my definition of success?”
Let’s say you’re starting your coaching business. You receive an email asking you to speak at this popular conference on the other side of the world. The money is good and you know you may get several high ticket clients this way.
But your definition of success is to impact people in your local community and spend more time with your family.
When you look at this speaking opportunity through this lens, you realise it’s not aligned with your definition of success. So, you turn it down. Guilt-free.
Not sure your dream fits into the vision you have for your life? Click on the image below to download the “Life Vision Worksheet” and start mapping out your dream life:
It’s Time To Take Action
Now that you’ve defined success on your own terms, you can start pursuing only those goals and dreams that are aligned with it.
Let’s make magic happen!
Over to you, now. What does success mean to you? Let me know in the comments below.