Defining Success

February 9, 2021 by: Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

We live in a culture where too often success is defined by arriving at a destination. To be successful people thought that you needed to earn a certain salary, have the corner office, own a large home, or win awards and accolades within your industry. Reaching success is not like boarding a flight for a vacation.  Success is not what you want to be doing, but what you are doing right now.

One might ask me, was I successful when I was a college student? Was I successful when I worked in Higher Education? Was I successful when I worked as a bank teller? Was I successful when I volunteered at my church? Was I successful as a stay-at-home mom or single parent?  The answer to all of these questions is ABSOLUTELY. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, your success is determined by how you define it.

My idea of success will differ from yours. Success and happiness co-exist. You will not be successful if you are also not happy with what you are doing. As we journey through life and define our success, there will be twists and turns. There will pitfalls and missteps. Success is finding that life of happiness, peace of mind, and self-satisfaction in knowing that you made the effort to do your best and become the best that you are capable of.

In my home, I have a plague that says “Attitude is Everything, pick a good one” Success is an attitude. It requires maximum effort and is not determined by the approval or recognition of others. Success is the achievement of something that you have been trying to do.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
– Albert Schweitzer

Success is:

  1. Success is always doing your best.

We will not be good at everything we try. The key to success is trying new things and moving forward. Recently I went snowboarding for the first time. After many, many falls and feeling like a dismal failure my teacher told me to turn around and look at where I started. Each time I got up and tried again and again regardless of how many times I fell was a success.

  1. Success is setting concrete goals.

Goals help guide you down the path. Goals, motivate you to keep moving forward. Your goals can be small and simple or they can be large. Breaking the long-term goal into small manageable, obtainable steps makes it easier to continue the journey. When I was earning my MBA, I knew how many classes I would have to complete to earn the degree. Then I would focus on one class at a time. As soon as one class was finished, I would start the next one, slowly plodding along, before I knew it, I was in my last class. When we travel down the road, we get embroiled with the tasks and responsibilities at hand. We need to remember to turn around and look back to the starting point to see just how far we have gone.

  1. Success is being a life-long learner.

Never stop seeking knowledge. The moment you stop growing is the moment you are shrinking. There is no sitting still in life. You are either moving forward or backward. Become a student of life and career.

  1. Success is believing you can.
  2. Success is remembering to balance work with passion.
  3. Distance yourself from distractions.

Are your distractions robbing you of working towards your goals? Be intentional about your time. List the distractions that are robbing you of your time. And eliminate your distractions. This also means to learn to say no. Success comes from a balanced life, and that means that you have to set priorities and say no at times.

  1. Success is celebrating small victories.

Defining your success, ask yourself:

  • What success did you have today?
  • Are you adding value to people on your journey?
  • Can you count how many times you successfully this week?
  • Have you learned from your mistakes and grown to be a better person?
  • What is your WHY?
  • What qualities in others have you observed and admired? Are you able to work to emulate them?

You will be happiest when you define success by the number of lives you tough for the better. Maya Angelou said: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking you do it.”