How to personalise your definition of success

A useful exercise that develops the way you define success in your life

Royston Guest
Download the branded notepaper or grab some paper and get ready to be creative. Through the process, jot down your initial thoughts; you can always finesse and polish them into sentences, a storyboard, or a couple of paragraphs later. If you prefer mind maps or are visual and prefer pictures, great. Use the approach that works best for you. Writing your thoughts down in your own handwriting has a powerful effect on your subconscious mind. It allows you to extend your dreams from thought into the physical.
Reading time: 4 minutes; 32 seconds
This exercise can take as long as you wish, it's not a race, but it is important to set your thoughts down on paper.

Personalise your definition of success

Step 1: Get creative 
Brainstorm. Be creative. Get your thoughts down first. You can always finesse and polish them into sentences, a storyboard or a couple of paragraphs later. 
If you like mind maps or are visual and prefer pictures, fantastic. You can use the approach that works best for you. 

If you’re struggling to make a start, here are some questions to help: 
  1. What’s important to you personally? 
  2. What’s important to you professionally? 
  3. What does success look like, feel like and act like for you? 

If you struggle to define your answers, you may find the following format easier:
  1. What doesn’t success look like to you personally?
  2.  What doesn’t it look like to you professionally?
  3.  What doesn’t it look like, feel like and act like for you? 

In answering the second set of questions, flipping your answers over from the negative to the positive will give you an idea of what success does look like in your life. 

Blending emotion and logic 
In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy committed to sending US astronauts to the moon by the end of the decade, he wasn’t speaking from the point of view of logic. The first men had only gone into space, and the technology to reach the moon didn’t exist. However, he did create an aspirational image of success. He committed the USA to developing the technology, the machines and the training and finding the men and women to make it happen.

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Take the same approach. Dig deep into your feelings, needs, wants, desires, aspirations, and dreams yet to be fulfilled; the things you ache for when you think about them long and hard. Answering the questions above, particularly the ‘think, feel, act’ questions, will ignite your sensory experience, making the hairs on your neck stand up with nervous excitement as you carve out your definition of success. 

Be detailed, be specific; keep drilling down your thoughts and ideas. Now you can just complete Step 1 of the exercise and commit to black-and-white keywords, phrases and sentences. 

Step 2: Piece success together 
You now have two options. Your first is to leave your words, phrases or sentences as a list of goals, as in the example below: 

Personal goals 
  • Run a marathon 
  • Plan our wedding 
  • Achieve financial freedom by 60 years of age 
  • Spend quality one-on-one time with the children 
  • Establish a social network beyond my work colleagues 
  • Get involved in my community (sports club / giving back to the community) 
  • Have the freedom to travel/seek out new experiences (time/health/wealth) 
  • Buy property abroad 
  • Have fun and maintain a good work/life blend
  • Maintain my health and wellbeing 

Professional goals 
  • Build high-performing businesses, leaders, teams and individuals 
  • Be a ‘go-to’ coach and mentor (internally/ externally) 
  • Make a significant positive impact on how we give back to our communities 
  • Work for and learn from the very best leaders 
  • Develop my career by passing the required exams and qualifications 
  • Provide for my family 
  • Work for a business where I feel valued 
  • Pass my probation. Find my dream job 

Your second alternative is to combine them into one overarching storyboard, which flows seamlessly. This could be a series of compelling statements that will stir your emotions and ignite your motivation, creating clarity and focus on being the most successful version of you. 

You don't need to write pages and pages, nor do you need to over-engineer it. Simplicity is key! Please ensure that it genuinely reflects your authentic goals, aspirations and dreams. 
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Step 3: Validate your definition 
The final step is to hold up your definition of success and ask yourself whether this is really what success means to you. Does it stir your emotions and make sense logically? Is it exciting? Does it move you to action? Can you picture and see yourself living out this definition of success? What does it feel like? What will it sound like as you share and hear people talking about your successes and whether you authentically live to the definition? 

If the answer is no to any of the above, could you go back and rework your definition? If you can honestly, hand on heart, answer yes, then fantastic, you have completed the working blueprint of your success definition.
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The hidden gem from completing this exercise 
Think about it for a moment. When two people first get together in an intimate relationship, which they both believe could be the one for life, there are hours of conversations about goals, aspirations and dreams on both sides. But over time, these conversations can subside and become less frequent. There was once aligned or convergent thinking around their definition of success; individual definitions are now heading in different directions. The result is two people with little in common or – worst case – a failed relationship. 

Armed with your definition of success, you’ll be better equipped to communicate and share your wants and needs with your boss, peer colleagues, team, partner, children, etc. Plus, you’ll be much better equipped to help others unlock their own definition. 

As you work on your document, be prepared to adapt and improve it; you’ll find you want to add, tweak and change parts of your current definition of success. And it doesn’t stop with this exercise. You’ll find that defining success is a never-ending process as your thinking and experiences evolve and your aspirations and expectations of what you want from life grow. That makes life so exciting and a dynamic, fluid journey of discovery.
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take action; achieve more
  • Grab a notebook and pen, or download the notes page from this page, and write down your goals and life aspirations. It works better to write it down rather than use a laptop; it connects with your inner core
  • Jot down a few ideas of what you want to achieve in your personal and professional life, but be sure that it resonates with your inner desires
  • Keep perfecting your story until it resonates so you can almost feel butterflies at the thought of accomplishing your true potential. Think big!
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