What is success? I noticed that I write about it a lot. The word “success” pops up over and over in my blog posts. So much that I started to question what it actually meant to me. Money? Acclaim? Praise? I couldn’t shake the feeling that my words were empty. Was lack of success in a job a sign of failure? Was changing directions in life a cop-out? I had one definition of success for so long – winning essentially – that the realization that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all goal became one of those A-HA awakening moments.

Photo by Tara West.

When I started my career, “success” was striving to get my work published. And then that goal evolved into bigger mastheads and more money, more responsibility and recognition. Success to me became about “more” – more of everything, all the time. It became exhausting. Did I really feel smarter, more valued or happy with a wardrobe full of designer clothes and a slick car? Once I arrived at that destination, was it all over? Was I happy? Call it maturity I guess but it hit me that success doesn’t have an end point.

I’ve discovered that the road to success is an ongoing series of small victories, failures, wins, disappointments, exhilaration and frustrations. It’s part of your journey and there’s no point measuring or comparing your path to another’s. Social media amplifies everything – it’s easy to feel insignificant in light of another’s headline making news or super fabulous family life. 

Today, success to me is showing up and not giving up when passion is on the line. Success is the confidence in choosing a path and then taking detours as interesting opportunities flag you down. I’m not saying that I don’t measure success by money or acclaim anymore. Sure I do, but with less emphasis. I’m more invested in those measures when I’m surrounded by the right people in a positive collaborative environment.

How will I measure my success in the coming year? I plan to add my one voice to bigger causes that will help others. Because in troubled times, the worst thing you can do is nothing. And I will strive for inner peace and contentment as I figure out how to make myself truly happy. Does that sound a little New Agey? Maybe, but it’s where I’m at right now. And I realize now that happiness – at work, with friends, and at home – is my definition of success. And once I get close to achieving that – for it will be a grand adventure – the rewards will be greater than I could have ever imagined.