The meaning of success

We all know what ‘success’ means, don’t we? In its simplest terms, it might be defined as ‘the achieving of results wanted or hoped for’. But the meaning of success is far more complex because it is subjective: who has stipulated the result and who is doing the wanting or hoping?

Asked to think of a successful business and you may come up with Apple or Google. Asked to think of a successful person and people like Bill Gates and Richard Branson may come to mind. Whilst their successes may go beyond financial, it would be hard not to view this as the dominant one. It is easy to get caught up in the images and reports of successful people being the ones who have amassed great financial fortunes.

This is not to deny this as success - the creation and accumulation of wealth is a success if that’s what you set out to achieve.

Why do we know more about the Kardashians than the people involved in the rescuing of the many thousands of refugees? Which most represents success: having huge financial wealth or saving lives?  It’s somewhat shocking to acknowledge that we are apparently fascinated by people who have huge amounts of wealth and flaunt it and that those who are saving lives are barely given a nod and I wonder how this impacts on our meaning of success.

It takes resolve to stand by our own values and resist the pressures from society and others around us; to establish our own measures of success and stay true to them.

Many clients reference ‘success’ amongst their aspirations and go on to question as to what that means for them. How can we ever be successful if we haven’t defined what success means for us personally?

If we start a business we will need to produce a business plan for our bank or lender. This will need to detail: income, expenditure, profit and timescales. Not surprising that this is all about the money, given that the banks are only interested in the financial prospects and returns. But what to you, as a business owner, makes your business successful? Maybe it’s about customer service and reputation, maybe the loyalty of your staff, maybe the work/life balance that it allows you. And what are your priorities?

Increasingly we hear of people who have worked hard towards achieving their goals of a high salary, expensive life style and a powerful position in business, only to find when they get there that they are not fulfilled. They had been so captivated by other’s definition of success that they hadn’t given enough thought to their own.

So how do you get a firm grasp on your personal definition with so much pressure around you? One way is to start at the end and think back: when you get towards the end of your life and take in all that you have achieved and how you have achieved it, what do you want to feel proud of?

It’s worth taking some time to get really clear so that you can capture your meaning of success, in whatever way works for you. Only when you have your answer can you start on the right track towards your success.

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