This is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as it tends to come up often in my sessions with my clients. I also think it’s a question many of us as entrepreneurs struggle with because the definition of success is truly so subjective, yet we are always looking to define it the same way as our peers and colleagues do.
The dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” But what does success really mean? I know what it means to me personally, but that may differ from what it means to you. So, I ask again, how does one define success? This is a simple question, yet the answer is so important. Why? Because how we define success shapes how we conduct our business, how we feel about ourselves, and how we actually measure our success.
Social media has created such a false definition of what it means to be successful. First, it is easy to present yourself as someone or something you are not behind an Instagram account. Additionally, it is easy to post things which others will be envious of as a way to boost your own self-esteem. And lastly, it seems we are all being molded to be the SAME when we are meant to be DIFFERENT!
I recently had a conversation with my business coach (who also happens to be one of my dear friends and who also inspired this post- Thanks Kate!) around this very topic as she was posting about this topic herself. One of the things I absolutely love and adore about her is that she is unapologetically herself, AT ALL TIMES. She’ll do live trainings or group calls with her hair wet from the shower, holding her adorable little munchkin (aka her child), while the dog is wandering around in the background. And you know what? She kills it. Every time. Why? Because her definition of success does not = makeup, blowouts, business suits, high heels, and a fancy office. Her definition of success is her OWN, one she created and not what someone told her it should be or what she saw on Instagram and decided to conform to. And this is why she is successful and more importantly this is why she is HAPPY. Also, PS, there is NOTHING wrong with being someone who values hair, makeup, nice clothing, and a fancy office setting as part of their brand. As long as you are doing these things because they are things YOU want to do and not because they are things someone told you to do or things you think you should be doing. Remember, if you do things which aren’t natural or comfortable for you, it’s going to show in how your work is presented.
We have so much unhappiness in our society and a large reason seems to be people feeling lost, unfulfilled, or unsure about themselves and their path. In my work clinically with individuals who find themselves in this situation, I find they are usually feeling this way because they are comparing themselves to others. And this comparison trap knows no age limit as children and adults alike are all falling victim to this, which is scary. Social media is impacting our youth at younger and younger ages and the insecurity and self-doubt children already experience are now being intensified. So what ends up happening is people stray further from their true sense of self, try to conform to something they are not, end up not doing well because what they are trying to do is not natural or comfortable for them, and then they view themselves as a “failure”. I remember reading a quote by Albert Einstein that has forever stuck with me which says:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid.”- Albert Einstein
This quote is so powerful because it is SO TRUE. When we try to base our success on someone else’s life, we will fall short. EVERY TIME. I find myself lucky to know so many successful businesswomen and what I love about my relationships with many of them is that we are all able to share our success with one another, WITHOUT COMPETITION OR COMPARISON! We can encourage, support, and inspire one another all while doing our own things in the process. Most importantly, we are running our businesses OUR WAY. So, as a fun little experiment, I polled some of my super successful lady boss friends and asked them what their definition of success was. Ready for their responses?
“Success is exactly where you are today. You’ve traveled a journey to get here, it wasn’t easy AND you survived. Society will tell you “you’ll be happy once you reach ______”, then you get there and not much has changed. That’s why it’s about celebrating exactly where you are today and how far you’ve come to get to the present!”– Kate Crocco, LCSW, Confidence + Mindset Coach
“To accomplish wealth and abundance, not only in the way you lead and love a comfortable lifestyle of which you desire, but also in happiness, peace of mind, and experiences. To challenge yourself, learn, and grow. To live your best life.”-Allison Wiand, Artist & Owner of Hudson Valley Drip and Sip
“Success is a mindset, a daily practice. To be successful, you have to FEEL success. Be aware of its presence in yourself, in your life, your space, no matter where you are on your path. You will never feel defeat or failure if you can practice this every moment of every day.”– Kiki Pertesis, LMT & EST, Owner of The Little Owl Spa
“Success is not necessarily about riches and fame. I believe success is living in the present moment. It’s about knowing and honoring your true, authentic self. Success is healthy, having a healthy mind, body, and soul. Success is the feeling you get after helping others and giving back. Success is love. Success is joy and happiness.”–Alexandria Gilleo, Celebrity Make-Up Artist & Wellness Blogger
“A sense of accomplishment and confidence in doing what you love well.”–Tiffany Teamer, LCSW-R, Psychotherapy Practice Owner
My favorite part of this little experiment is that every single answer is different. All of these women are successful, by their OWN definition. All of these women run successful businesses. All of these women have different talents, strengths, weaknesses, and visions. And guess what? They all obtained their success by being true of themselves. ALSO! None of these women knew what this post was going to be about and none of these women read anything I wrote prior to submitting their responses, yet, each encompassed the most important premise I have worked to highlight, which is success starts with YOU. Not your friend, not your boss, not your colleague, not your favorite Instagram person. YOU.
And for anyone who may be wondering what my definition of success is, here you go: I used to believe success was measured by the amount of money you made or the amount of “things” you owned until I saw first hand just how miserable one can be, even with all of the “things” or “a lot” of money. Then I realized, success is about happiness. If you can find peace, happiness, and joy in whatever it is you are doing (whether it be personal or professional), then I would say you have achieved success. So many people struggle to find happiness and I believe this is largely because they are looking for it in all of the wrong places. When you can finally be true to yourself and embrace YOUR life, for what it is, the rest will fall into place and that is when I believe you have achieved success.
So, I challenge anyone reading this to ask yourself these questions:
- Are you happy?
- If not, what is keeping you from being happy?
- How do you define success?
- Do you consider yourself to be successful?
- What changes do you need to implement to fulfill YOUR definition of success?
Grab a cup of tea + a notebook and do some reflective work around these questions. Your future self will thank you 🙂
I would LOVE to know what spoke to you today and encourage you to comment below and share with me!
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Be well my loves!