Defining success

In the first three parts of this series on success, I’ve focussed on the less tangible dimensions to success. These are the foundations that actually helps us make healthy choices about what success might look like for us, as well as ensuring we keep our sense of worth and identity separated from whatever goals we do or don’t achieve in life.

Today I want to focus on knowing the areas we want to be successful in and making sure we keep investing in those areas.

To do this I’m going to share a lengthy section from a recent commencement address given by the actor Matthew McConaughey:

We all want to succeed right? Question we have to ask ourselves is, what success is to us, what success is to YOU. More money? OKAY, I got nothing against money. But maybe it’s a healthy family? A happy marriage? To help others? To be famous? To be spiritually sound? To leave the world a little bit better place than you found it?

Continue to ask yourself that question. Your answer may change over time and that’s fine, but do yourself this favour:

WHATEVER your answer is, DON’T CHOOSE ANYTHING THAT WILL JEOPARDISE YOUR SOUL. PRIORITISE WHO YOU ARE, WHO YOU WANT TO BE, AND DON’T SPEND TIME WITH ANYTHING THAT ANTAGONISES YOUR CHARACTER. DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID!! It tastes sweet today but it will give you cavities tomorrow. Life is not a popularity contest. Be brave, take the hill but first, answer the question, “What is my hill?”

How do I define success? For me, it’s a measurement of five things — fatherhood, being a good husband, health, career, friendships. These are what’s important to me in my life.

So, I try to measure these five each day, check in with them, see whether or not I’m in the debit or the credit section with each one. Am I in the red or in the black with each of them?

For instance, sometimes my career is rolling (in the black) but I see how my relationship with my wife could use a little more attention. I gotta pick up the slack on being a better husband, get that one out of the red. Or say my spiritual health could use some maintenance (red) but hey, my friendships and social life are in high gear (black)… I gotta recalibrate, checks and balances, go to church, remember to say thank you more often. I gotta take the tally. Because I want to keep ALL 5 in healthy shape, and I know that if I DON’T take care of them, if I don’t keep up maintenance on them, ONE of them is going to get weak, dip too deep into the debit section, go bankrupt, get sick… die even.

So first, we have to DEFINE success for ourselves, then we have to put in the work to MAINTAIN it — take our daily tally, tend our garden, keep the things that are important to us in good shape.

I don’t have much to add to this. There is more than enough to chew on in McConaughey’s words.

We do need to think about success though. We do need to give thought to the ways in which we want to be successful. As Zig Ziglar has said, ‘If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.’

So let’s make sure we know what we’re aiming at. And then, having done that, we need to remember to constantly assess how we’re doing and maintain our investment in the pursuit of that success.


All posts in this series:

Part One: The foundation for success
Part Two: Liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it
Part Three:
Success starts on the inside
Part Four:
Defining success

Success starts on the inside

‘Cranky, Beautiful Faith’