How should we measure success?

Success is something that we all aspire to achieving. Being ‘successful’, but how many have actually stopped to unpack what that actually means for them personally?

How have we commonly defined success? Society has conditioned us over time to place a huge emphasis on;

  • Income / Cashflow
  • Assets
  • ‘Things’
  • Title
  • Status
  • Social media

Having worked with clients that would be considered financially and professionally successful people, it was interesting to me that many would admit they may appear ‘successful’ yet they did not feel it. From the outside, we would say they had it all, and based on a balance sheet, maybe they did.

Many however, would admit to having financial or business/career success, but not being happy, feeling fulfilled, even being miserable, depressed, or lonely……so in their words, “am I actually successful? Answer….no!”. What they have is a successful balance sheet, not success in life. Now Let’s not throw a blanket over everyone here. I have also met many people that have incredible wealth or career/business success and are happy, healthy, balanced and family orientated individuals. These are the individuals we could learn from.

Perhaps we need to go deeper:

  • Does successful mean you have achieved your personal & professional goals?
  • Does successful mean you are finically secure?
  • Does successful mean you have ‘balance’ in your life?
  • Does successful mean you have built something, completed something, or achieved something of significance?
  • Does successful mean you are fit, healthy and your biological age is lower than your chronological age.

Well….could it mean all the above? Yes

Over the last four years I have seen the broader definition of success change. More often now I hear it described as;

  • Income / Cashflow (financial position): Still important but perhaps a more relevant and thought-out number.
  • Flexibility
  • Family
  • Health
  • Experiences

Success is something many (I would say all of us) aspire to, yet very few have stopped to reflect upon what their idea of success actually looks like……and ‘why’, instead levering off social norms or expectations…or the pressure from an industry or community. For example, you may be an anesthetist that is earning $250,000 a year. Based on average earnings, you would say they are not successful in their field. A ‘successful’ anesthetist should be earning over $400,000 a year. However, if we unpack the lifestyle and goals of the person earning $250,000, we may find they wish to work 4 days a week and no more than 10 hours a day, instead choosing to spend time with their family, being present and having experiences. To them, this is ‘success’. An important lesson in being cautious with comparison and to not simply use the lens of financial, because the anesthetist earning $250,000 a year could be seen as;

  • Highly successful to some that is earning $65,000 a year and working a 50+ hour week.
  • Unsuccessful to someone that is earning $700,000 a year working a 50+ hour week.

To truly begin your journey of understanding ‘success’, I would recommend that you;

  • Complete a personal Values assessment (Barrett Values Assessment is a great tool). Our values should guide our decision making and I believe frame the construct of our lives. Living outside of our core values, I believe, sets us up for disappointment.
  • Be clear on what your passions are, how you enjoy spending your time and why this activity ‘fills your cup’.
  • Construct a vision board that illustrates this vision of success in images and words. Do not allow external factors to impact what this looks like.
  • Undertake an audit of the people around you. Do their views align with yours? Are they happy? Are they supporting your personal journey are pressuring you down a different path?

Don’t let me influence your vision of success! If you want a $300,000 car, $3mn house and 3 Rolex watches and it truly aligns with you, your values and does not force you to sacrifice other things you value equally, then shoot for the stars. There is no right or wrong if it truly represents who you are and you can clearly articulate the ‘why’. And, attaining it does not compromise your values, your health, your relationships with those you care for.

Don’t miss out on the things in life that you truly value and are passionate about, trying to attain someone else’s idea of success. Don’t live that stress. Don’t miss out on the moments you cannot get back. But… successful in all that you do!


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