Back to the Basics…How Do You Define Success?

UPDATED: September 3, 2008
PUBLISHED: September 3, 2008

In my previous columns, we’ve discussed getting "back to basics." If you have been following along, you have upgraded your thoughts, cleared your clutter, gotten organized, and decided what you want and why. In this last column in the Back to Basics series, I want to challenge you to get clear about what success looks like for your life. Write down your answer to this question: How do you define success?

Society, in general, tends to equate success with material wealth and possessions. And while those things can be an outward sign of your own career or business success – or that of your family – it reflects only a small piece of the bigger picture that is your life.

A successful life should encompass far more than your work or finances, although they are a part of the big picture. A fulfilling life in all areas is a successful life. Come up with your own specific categories and milestones that indicate your personal success level so that you can evaluate success on your own terms. As you ponder your success definition, ask yourself some key questions:

1. DO I ENJOY MY LIFE? Our journey through life may not always be just what we want it to be, but we can still choose to experience contentment and joy on a daily basis. Identify the things that bring you joy in your life, and be sure to incorporate them into your everyday life.

2. AM I MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS? Life becomes meaningful when your actions impact more than just you. Your mission in life is using your gifts and talents to make a positive difference in others’ lives. Whether the gift you give is a listening ear, a skill you teach or an encouraging word, make a difference to at least one person every single day.

3. DO I PERSEVERE IN THE MIDST OF CHALLENGES? Life is a learning journey. If you focus only on your challenges or problems without asking, "What am I to learn from this?," then you will continually feel frustrated and sorry for yourself. Those who persevere, grow. And as you grow, you increase your capacity to handle more and have more good opportunities come into your life.

4. DO I HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF THE THINGS I NEED TO LIVE COMFORTABLY? The term "comfortable" means different things to different people. Make it a goal in your life to not aim for "enough," but to have "more than enough" of what you need – whether it’s time, money, love, space or other precious resources. When you live in abundance, you can focus more clearly on what you want. It empowers you to share yourself, your time, talent, and love more generously.

5. AM I SUCCESSFUL IN GOD’S EYES? A test that can help you focus on what’s most important in your life is to consider it from a spiritual perspective. Jesus said that everything God asks can be summed up in two commandments: Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind; and secondly, to love your neighbor as yourself. When you are curious about how truly successful you are, ask yourself if you are doing these two things.

Rather than allowing others to define success for you, take time today to create your own definition. Make a list of what success looks like to you, and have the courage to measure your success by standards that are meaningful for your life.

Get great articles like this planted in your inbox every week. Enter your email address below.