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Success Advice

5 Steps To Defining Your Own Success




Defining Your Success To Be Successful

“What does success look like to you?”

The most pivotal question I have ever been asked.

From a young age, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of being successful. Being the best on the team, the fastest in the race, writing the best stories or having the most Pokémon cards. No matter what I set my mind to, I wanted to be successful at it.

So when it came to running my own blog, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to turn it in to a successful blog that made me money. And that’s what I set out to do. I started writing, posting blogs and waiting for the response.

And I got nothing.

My mum, my aunt and an ex-personal training client read my posts, barely reaching anybody else. For months and months, this was my life. And although my reach grew, it never extended past my friends or the occasional Reddit forum.

So I packed it in.

I got flustered, shut up shop and walked away. I wasn’t successful, so I gave it up.

Then one day, I sat down to have a coffee with my mentor and poured my heart out. I explained how unfair it was, why I should have been successful and that it was a complete waste of time.

Sitting back in his chair, he sipped his coffee and asked me “James, what does success even look like?“.

I was stuck. I couldn’t think about what it was I wanted – I just knew I wanted something. I sat there in silence, the cogs ticking in the back of my head, waiting for something to pop up.

The reason I’d failed was because I had no idea what success was. I hadn’t decided how many readers I wanted, what my market was, how many hours I would be working. And that was a key lesson to learn.

In order to achieve success, you must define it.

You’re probably thinking, ‘Well, duh!’ right now. And when you realise it, it’s so simple to understand. But the reason a lot of us fail, and we don’t achieve success is simply this: We don’t know what success is, we just know we want it.

So with that in mind, I worked hard on what success looked like for me. What I wanted to achieve, how I wanted to do it and why it was important to me. It lead me to complete my first book, start my freelance writing career and rekindle my love for blogging.

Now, it’s time for you to do the same. To truly understand what success is to you, and how to make it drive you forward.

All you need is somewhere to write your thoughts, and 10 minutes of your time.


Decide Commit Succeed


5 Steps To Defining Your Own Success


Step 1: Ask Yourself The Question

What does success look like?

Write down whatever springs to mind. Think about what success actually looks like for you. It can be as big and bold as you like, or if you can’t think of an answer, leave it blank. We’ll be coming back to this later.

Done? Good.


Step 2: Forget What Other People Think

This step is the most crucial.

Did your parents ever used to make you measure your growth on a doorframe next to your siblings to see how much you’d grown, and mark it off each month against each other? With the biggest sibling always rubbing in the fact they had that third of an inch of height over you?

That’s how most of us view success. That we’re being measured against each other, and that someone with slightly ‘more success’ is further ahead than we are, or that they’re better than us in some way.

The truth? Other people’s success doesn’t matter.

Success to them is not success to you, and the other way around. It is not measured in money, sports cars or bragging rights; it’s measured purely against what you want.

Forget what other people want, or other people’s successes for a second and remember the question – what does success look like to you?

Is it having more time with kids? Getting a promotion? Owning a new car? Moving house? Having the money to redecorate the bathroom? Having the freedom to travel whenever you want? Being able to play Golf on a Wednesday morning?

You can only define it against your life and what suits you. If it’s money and fast cars, feel free to measure it in that. But make sure it’s something that you wholeheartedly want. It’ll keep you from quitting when times get hard.


Step 3: Get Specific

In this step I really want you to get in to depth with what it is you want. You’ve decided what success looks like to you, now begin to create the scene in your head.

I’ll use spending more time with your kids as an example.

What days would you spend with your kids? Would it be a whole day, an afternoon, or a few days? What would you do? Where would you go? Would the days be sunny or rainy? Would your partner be there, or just you on your own? Do you need a certain amount of money?

And so on and so forth.

The more specific you make it in your mind, the more attached to it you become. It becomes real, focused and a part of your life. When times get tough, you just picture yourself pushing you kids on the swings (or whatever your success looks like) and it keeps you moving forward.

People fail at diets and workout plans because they don’t know how they want to look at the other end. They want to be lighter, fitter and healthier of course. But those terms mean nothing to you if they aren’t tangible. Fitting in to a size 32 Jean is more achievable than ‘dropping weight off your waist’.


Step 4: Ask Yourself The Question, Again

Now, I want you to ask yourself the question again – What does success look like to you?

Write it down, taking in to account everything we’ve spoken about.

Make it specific, make it real and keep that piece of paper in a place where you’re constantly reminded of it.

If you didn’t have an answer at first, you should have an answer by now. If you already had one, how does it compare to what you thought initially? Has it changed, grown, or gotten more specific?


Step 5: Make It Happen

Now you know what success looks like, the only thing that’s left for you to do is make it happen.

The more specific the goal, the clearer the path. The easier decisions become to make in line with your definition, and the more likely you are to achieve it (as long as you put the work in).



  1. Avatar


    Feb 23, 2016 at 12:36 am

    Thank you, i needed this right now as well. I’ve always talked about goal setting and having goals that you want to attain. But I needed a refresher and to take a serious moment and define WHY I’m doing what I’m doing and what exactly I’m working towards. I need a clear vision and a clear defined goal. Thank you.

  2. Avatar

    s. stewart

    Apr 6, 2015 at 2:57 am

    Very Well Said

  3. Avatar

    Carol Record (@CarolRecord)

    Aug 1, 2014 at 4:13 am

    I really needed this reminder right about now. I wish more people understood this, especially #2, and it just so happens that one of my current primary goals is to get away from people that don’t understand #2 and spread negativity because of it.

  4. Avatar


    Jun 27, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Worth reading. I agree that success is not to be chased and you wont be successful if without a definite plan.

    • Avatar

      James Johnson

      Jul 4, 2014 at 11:09 am

      I’ve always felt that success is not the destination, it’s surviving the journey. It’s hard to do that without a plan!

  5. Avatar

    Austin Zulauf

    Jun 18, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Very good! It’s hard to hit a destination you haven’t mapped out, you have to know where you’re going. Success is the same way, you have to know what success is to YOU.
    I know clearly written goals have helped me tremendously! A mentor of mine gave me 8 steps to effectively setting & achieving goals & I’ve lived by that!
    Thanks for the great content 😉

    • Avatar

      James Johnson

      Jul 4, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Hey Austin! Thanks for your comment, I’m sorry for the slow reply to this – I’ve been out of town.

      I’d love to hear your 8 Steps if you hit me up at

  6. Avatar

    Ben Granville Kyle

    Jun 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Asking ourselves the right type of questions plays a huge role in how our lives turns out. If you want to change any results you are getting, you must change your thinking( or the questions you ask). i also like what the author says:” Other people’s successes doesn’t matter”. So often we are caught up in the success of other people that we forget how important success should be for us. Hence, i agree with the author: “The more specific the goal-(or question), the clearer the path. The easier decisions become to make in line with your definition, and the more likely you are to achieve it (as long as you put the work in).”

    Everything—everything!—starts there.

    • Avatar

      James Johnson

      Jul 4, 2014 at 11:07 am

      Correct, Ben! Sorry for the slow reply to this. Asking the right Questions helps keep your attitude in-line with your goals.

  7. Avatar

    James Johnson (@JamesJohnson_PL)

    Jun 13, 2014 at 7:00 am

    My motto for a long time has been, ‘Do not strive to be rich, strive to be free’.

    Personally, I can’t get behind the concept of money. In terms that, it won’t motivate me anywhere near as much as something more important to me.

  8. Avatar

    Beau Norton

    Jun 12, 2014 at 4:30 am

    Awesome! I used to think that I had to be a millionaire to be successful. Well, i still believe I will be one day, but for the moment I am perfectly happy with living a comfortable life with no financial pressure. The average person doesn’t need that much money at all to feel comfortable and secure. If you can afford to go out to eat at a fancy restaurant and not worry about the bill, then I’d say you’re doing pretty well. Haha. But many people have an obsession with money and will always want more. I think it’s important to define success for yourself so you have a clear income goal. When you reach that, it should be a signal to you that you need to stop chasing the money and start doing more of what you love. Money can buy freedom, but once you are free, there’s nothing more money can do for you! Besides buy more things that is…and that’s more like slavery than freedom.

    • Avatar


      Jun 12, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      Awesome article, Step 2 is so crucial I wish more people would follow it, if your goal is to graduate & secure a job to provide for your family you are successful. My goal personally is to grow my business to generate a steady income enough for me to be self-employed. Both examples are different but each successful in their desires & objectives. Thanks Author.

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