Is Success a Destination?

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I’ve recently been grappling with how to define success. I mean, I could look it up in the dictionary to find its definition – but how does that fit in my life?

According to dictionary.com, success is a noun with three potential meanings:

  1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals.
  1. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
  1. a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors: The play was an instant success.

What shocks me from these definitions is the feeling that success is a destination…and if that’s true, then once you get there, where do you go? I actually think that this may be part of my problem. For the first 8-10 years of my career (aka my 20s) I had hard goals: become the ED of a non-profit organization, increase funds raised and patrons reached, win community awards, be recognized for my achievements. And then I did all those things. And turned 30. And got my Masters. And had a baby. And started a company. And suddenly, I found myself at the “end of the endeavors” wondering what success looked like next.

This coupled with a bit of an identity crisis has left me grappling with the question, What does success look like now?

The second part of my struggle can be attributed, to some degree, to the volume of opinions on this matter. A recent Google search for “What does success look like” returned 675,000,000 results (in .5 seconds nonetheless!). Everywhere you turn, people, organizations and self-help books are loudly shouting what success should look like. In fact, the website under30ceo.com asked more than 60 business leaders what success looked like to them and got, you guessed it, more than 60 different answers. Money. Fame. Power. Peace. Adventure. Happiness. Freedom. The list goes on and on.

With so many voices and an equal number of opinions, I find it easy to get caught up and lost in others’ definitions of success. And now, as I find myself in a season of life with a lot “softer” metrics, I find that none of those voices are really speaking to me.

So, here I sit, struggling to define success. But a common thread I cling to, woven through many of the searchable definitions, is the idea of vision. Without vision, you’ll have no idea whether or not “you’ve arrived.” And while the target may immediately move, it’s that vision for a specific future (metric or not) that keeps people moving forward. So while I struggle to define success, I’m working on painting a picture, a vision, of what “next” looks like.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
(Sir Winston Churchill)

Caitlin Kissee is a Gallup-certified strengths coach and owner/founder of Propel People Development LLC. She can be reached at caitlin@propelpeople.com.