What Success Looks Like

What does success look like to you?

If you’re like most people, you’d probably say that it comes after the result of a big achievement or when a big goal is realized.

Let’s look at this scenario as an example:
A writer works on a book for about a year.  He writes, edits and puts everything together until it’s finished.  After everything is completed, it gets published.

At what moment was he successful?

Most people would say that moment happened when his book was published.  Others would say that it comes later when he sees how many people buy and read it.

This is the traditional view of success.  It’s seen as a line to be crossed or an end result you wanted.

While I agree with this view in principle, I find it too narrow a definition.  It focuses too much on end results.

Instead I like to take a wider view of what success looks like.  Instead of focusing entirely on the completion of large goals, I look at the small scale too.

I find this small scale view of success is just as important as the large one, but often gets overlooked.

Let’s return to our example of the writer.  The traditional view sees his success happening after publication.  With that viewpoint, success is reached when he reached that endpoint.

But publication is only one obstacle he had to face.  There is a long list of other problems and obstacles he had to face during that year.

In order to publish, he had to write every single day.  There are organizational problems and formatting issues he had to consider too.

Every day he overcame one of those problems – no matter how small it is  – is a success.

Most of us don’t think of success in these terms.  Success has to be something grand and huge in scope, doesn’t it?

Well, not everything needs to be huge in scale.  Look at all these small things I do that make me feel successful:

Every day I work out is a success.

Every day I write is a success.

Every time I eat well instead of poorly is a success.

Just because they aren’t huge goals like publishing a book or running a marathon doesn’t mean they’re not an accomplishment.

Stop seeing tiny habits as too insignificant.  These are often the most important part of our days.  When you do them, you should feel great about yourself – feel like a success.

But there’s still more we can expand on with the definition.

This is also what success looks like:

  • Success is when you suffer a huge setback and shake it off.
  • It looks like someone whose head is chock full of doubts, but still puts in all the effort he can muster.
  • It’s when you get up in the morning and wonder if anything you do makes the slightest difference to the world.  But you get up and persevere anyway.
  • Success is when you feel so much fear about doing something that you almost talk yourself out of doing it.  Then you scrounge up that last bit of courage and do it anyway.
  • It’s the moment you let go of the need to be perfect.

I was watching a documentary a few weeks ago about movie extras.

Their life is hard.  They work long days for little pay – most of them don’t earn a decent living.  And it’s all in the hope that they’ll make it big in Hollywood themselves.

Apparently many of them have been trying to land a big role for years.  One of them said that he had been trying for over seven years.

But when asked if he would ever give up, he just shrugged it off and said he wouldn’t.  He didn’t want to do anything else so he would just keep trying no matter how long it took.

That attitude, to me, is also a form of success.

I admire his determination.  Too few people have the ability to keep going no matter what.

Expand Your Definition

Too many of us are preoccupied with the notion that success comes when you see major results.  It’s when a writer finishes a book.  It’s when a weightlifter wins a weight-lifting competition.

The problem with that approach is that it’s tied too closely to an end result.

When you do that, you’re only a success when you reach a finish line.

You have to include everything you do on the way to those end goals.  You have to include all those little obstacles and problems you overcome every day.

Success isn’t only some pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  It’s all around us in our daily behavior and habits.

Don’t narrow your definition of success.  When you do, you’ll feel bad if you fall short of some desired result.  You’ll feel a lot better – and a lot more successful – if you expand your definition.


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