Before you can be a success, you need to know how to define it. I don’t mean you should Google it or ask someone else what “success” means, I’m asking you to define what it means to you. So many of us get lost in trying to achieve someone else’s standard of success, that even when we reach that point, it doesn’t feel like a celebration. If you don’t define success for yourself, someone else will. Without your own definition, you’ll end up following their model and waste your potential reaching success without purpose.
Success comes from matching your ambition with follow-through. If you’re letting anyone else drive your decisions, you won’t be able to match those two key ingredients. Even if it’s your parents telling you they know best, friends who say they’re just watching your back, or a mentor who doesn’t believe that you have what it takes. Only listen to what you’re passionate about; what drives your ambition? Once you figure this out, go after it with everything you’ve got!
It wasn’t until my third year of studies in History and Political Science that I realized my ambitions were different from the ones that my parents had laid out for me. My parents’ ambitions for me were not small or misguided, but they weren’t my own. Once I confronted this disconnect, I was able to identify my truer passions and harness my ambition to become the man I am today. Guidance from my parents has been indispensable and helped me achieve much of my success, but it wasn’t until I defined “success” for myself that I was able to translate my parents’ guidance into actionable force.
Step 1) Schedule a 30 minute meeting with yourself: If you can’t set this time aside at work, and your busy family life prevents you from getting 30 minutes alone at home, use your lunch break one day to go through the 5 Steps. All you need for this meeting is a pen and a pad of paper or a notebook.
Step 2) Brainstorm Ideas: For the first five minutes of your meeting, start writing down ideas that relate to what makes you happy, what goals you want to achieve, what you want in your future, etc. Don’t overthink it or try to create categories at this point, just write down everything and anything that relates to what you think success means.
Step 3) Categorize: After five minutes of brainstorming, you should have a long list of ideas. These ideas will be part of overarching categories like happiness, family, friends, pets, vacations, property, education, time alone, travelling, etc. Step 3 is to separate your list into categories so that you can measure what success means to you. If you skip this step, you may focus too much on one area of “success” and fall short in another, which will leave you feeling deflated.
Step 4) Select Top 3: After separating your ideas into categories, you need to rank the order of each idea within its specific category. This step will highlight what items in each category are most important to you. Take the top 3 items from each category and make your Success List. Write out the category headlines (ranked in order of importance if possible) and the top 3 items in each list. Now you have your Success List clearly defined and it’s easy to follow.
Step 5) Guide your Decisions: Now that you know what elements of life are involved in your pursuit of “success,” you need to use your Success List to guide your decisions. For example, if you have the chance to take a vacation, will you decide to go somewhere tropical and all-inclusive to have a personal get-away, or would you rather meet up with family in a different country during your vacation? This second option satisfies items from the family/travel/vacation categories, but if they are not as important as recharging with alone-time you will know how to make your decision.
Success is not simple; there is no one goal that will make you feel successful. Most likely all of the items on your Success List will intertwine and certain decisions will impact each category differently. You should treat your Success List as a living document, which means it’s not set in stone and will change with you throughout your life. The most important part is to define what “success” means to you and follow-through with every decision that will lead you closer to achieving your own version of success.
P.S. After following the 5 Steps, tell me in a comment what success means to you!