“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.
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.
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.
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).