The idea of success is so interesting because it’s completely different for everyone. There’s no formula for success, or even an easy way to measure what success is. This is also why it can be so difficult to feel as though you’ve reached success, perhaps because you often don’t even know what true success would look like.
Or, potentially, the goal posts have moved without you knowing. So, with this in mind, here are five questions that can help you better understand your motivations and methods for achieving success, and that will hopefully transform your life.
1. What is success to me?
This is the goalposts question.
Because success is so different for everyone, and completely dependent on where you are in life, what your goals are, what field you’re in, and where you started from, we each need to define our own success. The world is obsessed with measuring and comparing, and for good reason. But with success, a better question than how will I measure success is how will I feel good about my success? Or, said the other way, what would be a success I can feel good about?
We have to stop thinking about success in relative terms, i.e. “I made more money than him”, or “I have more clients than him”, or “I have a better house than him”. Instead, we should think about success in terms of how happy we are, and what contributes to that happiness. Statements like, “I was able to put aside more savings for my kids’ education this year”, or “I was able to purchase a home in a neighbourhood I love” are much more useful measurements of success, because they remind you of your success against values, rather than in comparison to another person who may have started from a completely different place, received help from different sources along the way, or simply had different goals than you did.
2. How will I achieve that success?
This is the beliefs and narratives question.
Once we have a clear idea of what success will look like for us (from the first question) – before we set about making a game plan for achieving it – we need to ask ourselves “how do I think success happens?” The answer to this question – I think of it as our “narrative lens” – will drive how we create a plan for achieving it. Basically, in this step, you’re getting clear on how you make meaning of the world, how you filter experiences. So, notice the difference between filtering your view of your journey through stories of comparison, competition, and criticism and filtering it through stories of curiosity, collaboration, and connection, to yourself, those around you, and the world. If you find yourself constantly asking about others for the purpose of comparing, rather than asking out of curiosity and a desire to learn and grow, then you need to figure out how to shift your thinking. You can’t be successful if you’re constantly measuring yourself against others.
Shifting not just our plan, but the beliefs that create the plan, is the key to finding ourselves stumbling upon the life we always dreamed for ourselves.
3. Why am I doing this?
This is the heart question.
Those who are most successful are those who truly care about what they’re doing. They have a mission that speaks to their heart, and they are passionate about achieving their goals not just for their own success, but for the success of those they help along the way. If you aren’t sure why you do what you do, ask yourself, what has heart for me? And what am I willing to risk to get it? We have to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves, and not be afraid to take risks in certain areas, in order to be truly happy with our lives.
If you can’t see yourself risking anything in order to achieve your goals, then maybe your goals aren’t clear enough, or important enough to you, and this will never lead to success – at least not a success you can feel good about..
4. Who am I doing this for?
This is the integrity question.
Along with our motivational “why”, we also have to consider our motivational “who”. Too many people get stuck in patterns of people-pleasing, and they don’t realize what they’re doing will ultimately not make them happy. Take a look at your biggest goals and aspirations, and truly ask yourself if you’re doing it for you. Are you doing it for your family? Your friends, coworkers, boss, or parents? Are you doing it for the strangers on the internet who interact with your social media content?
If any of these are true, you need to figure out when it will be your turn to start making choices that are just for you. It’s okay if that’s not possible right now, or if other things are taking priority in your mind for now. But, keep it in the back of your brain that, in order to truly achieve success, you have to make choices that are, first and foremost, for you.
5. When will I start?
This is the accountability question.
Once you’ve figured out the answers to the above questions, all you have to do is figure out when you can start making it happen. Like I said before, it’s okay if the answer is not “right now”, but you do need to come up with a concrete time frame. As the Buddha said, there are 2 sins to life: The first is not finishing your journey. The second is never starting in the first place.