Why You Need to Define Success Before You Can Get There

Imagine walking around in the dark, trying to find your way around a room with no idea of where you're going and how you're going to get there. That's what it's like if you haven't defined success. You know that you want to achieve something, but you can't really find your way there and you don't have a clear idea of what it is yet.

The Merriam-Webster definition of success is: "a favorable or desired outcome" 

What you'll notice about the definition is that it's incredibly broad. What might be considered favorable or desired in my eyes, might not the same in the eyes of someone else. Since the Merriam-Webster definition of success is so broad, it's wide open for interpretation. Therefore there's a lot of wiggle room to rework and find your own interpretation for the definition based on your life.

I believe that everyone has their own idea of what success is, which is why that official definition is so broad. While I might believe that five-point increase on my average test grade from an 80% to a 90% might be success, the person next to me might believe that a five-point increase on his/her average test grade from a 60% to a 65% is a success. Based on our own abilities, perspectives, ambitions, and personal experiences, we each have our own ways of defining what success is. While this test grade example is pretty straightforward, there are other things that might not be as clear.

Let's take social media influencers for an example. What makes a social media influencer successful? Is the number of followers? Level of engagement? Content creativity? Span of social media presence? Audience reach? The easy answer would probably be followers, but it's also clear that there are a lot of other factors that define a social media influencer's success.

Let's say that Influencer A might have 200,000 followers from all over the world and let's say that Influencer B has 1 million followers, but her audience only consists of people living in California. Influencer B is successful in California, but just because she has the numbers, doesn't necessarily mean that she's successful on a global scale. Therefore followers, although seemingly the easy answer, isn't always an entirely accurate representation of success.

You can be successful according to one level of criteria but unsuccessful according to another. Success is relative to the criteria. 

Furthermore, maybe Influencer A is only present on Instagram while Influencer B has large social media presence on Instagram and Snapchat. Therefore Influencer B is more successful in her audience reach and her span of social media presence, because she is reaching more people. Again we see that success is dependent on its definition. While Influencer A seemed to have a larger reach, reaching globally, she is also only reaching one type of audience, through Instagram, which suggests that her reach might not be that wide.

My point is that based on how you define success, your standing in relation to it and the journey that you'll need to take to get there will vary. Since success is relative to the criteria that you use to measure it, you need to determine which criteria you believe to be most essential to your definition of success in order to figure out the best route of action to getting there.

New example! If I define success to be relative to my number of American followers, then I would want to discuss topics that are relevant to an American audience and I would choose to use social media platforms popular in America. However, if I wanted my success to be success in China, then I would want to discuss topics relevant to a Chinese audience and use Chinese social media platforms, some of which differ from American social media platforms. Instead of using Twitter to reach that audience, I would use Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter. The way that I define success dictates what I should do in order to reach it.

If you don't define success, you're just randomly shooting an arrow and hoping that you'll hit a bullseye. 

If you try to seek success blindly, without defining it, you have no clear direction on how to reach it, only a plethora of different things that you are trying to succeed in all at once. If you want to succeed in all the criteria that I mentioned for social influencing, I bet that you could, but I would try and go one at a time. Right now, I define success to be relative to engagement. Maybe a little later, I define it to be based on numbers of followers. In order to reach them both, you have to target them individually, not just randomly shoot and hope that you hit a bullseye.

So how can you define success?

Figure out what's most important to you.

What is most important in your life? Find out what your idea of "favorable or desired outcome" is. Maybe you want influence in your life and you think that success means being able to compel people to listen to your ideas. Maybe success to you is rising in the ranks of a law firm. Maybe success to you is to be able to open your own business and not just survive, but thrive. Based on your ambitions, figure out what you want in life so that you can use that to outline your definition for success.

Related: 3 Better Ways to Define Success in Your Life 
+ Business Insider - 12 rich, powerful people share their surprising definitions of success

Set specific criteria.

Your definition of success is essentially a long term goal. Therefore, like goal setting, you need to set specific criteria for your success so that you can better devise a plan of action. Maybe your definition of success is to graduate from business school. The specific criteria gives you somewhat of a path. You know that your plan of action would include a) getting into business school, b) taking the proper courses to graduate, c) working hard in your classes. This is much more specific than general success, where success might comprise of monetary success, success of rank, success through power, and who knows what other plethora of ways that we could define the broad term of success?

Imagine your goals as an umbrella.

Can't think of the big idea of what success is? Don't worry, it's pretty daunting. Instead of working from the big idea downwards, work towards that big idea. What are some of the small things that you consider to be little successes? Group them all together and look for commonalities and how you can create an overarching general direction of what your ultimate definition of success is. Let's say that I believe that success means that I can get all of my responsibilities done and still have time for myself. In addition, let's say that I believe that success means that I don't have to neglect passion projects. Based off of those two, I can say that life balance is my overarching idea of success.

How do you define success and how do you plan to get there?

Change the definition of success from broad to personalized for better self-improvement.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely agree with this! Success is different for different people. In my case, I'm still at that stage of figuring out what success is for me. Awesome post!
    xxKate | https://allthetrinkets.wordpress.com