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Define Your Success

As you think about how to define success, you may realize your idea of it has changed at different times throughout your life.

Success is and should be defined differently by each person. Our roles, circumstances, and desires differ from each other, so how we define success will be different. Next week, the NCI training team will gather together for our annual Trainer Week. As part of that meeting, each trainer has the assignment to write and share their personal definition of success. Let’s take a look at their assignment and how you can use it to help define what success means to you.

At first, most of the trainers kissed this off as a “touchy feely” kind of weird assignment that took away from other sessions like Applied Psychometrics. However, as each of the trainers dove into it, I received some very interesting phone calls.

When it started, the idea of a defining their success was a burden. Then it became difficult because it became personal. As they invested more time, the purpose of defining their own success became a mission. When they completed their definition, they had to craft words to represent a clear path and provide greater direction and purpose in their lives.

So, at this point, some of you are thinking, “ol Doc’s gone fluffy on us, where’s the techy speak we usually get from his articles?” However, a few of you may be thinking it’s high time you invested a few hours to decide, define, and write down what success really mean to you.

If the last sentence describes you, here are a few steps to follow down the path towards discovering what success really means to you. My own personal definition began as two pages long and ended up as a single, 15-word sentence.

Understand that achieving success doesn’t have to be hard. The most successful people I know have success doing what they love. It comes natural to them and they have a passion for it.

Write Your Own Definition of Success
Your assignment, should you decide to accept it, is to think about, and then write your personal definition of success. It may be as short as a single sentence, or it may be a page or two. It’s up to you.

As you think about how to define success, you may realize your idea of it has changed at different times throughout your life. Because of this, you may want to express success in a timeless statement of truth that applies for your life.

Remember, your definition of success shouldn’t be affected by what others think or believe. Their lives are not your life. Their definitions likely have little or nothing to do with your life.

You may define success based on the various roles in your life or different values you believe in. Don’t just look at your profession - reflect on your family, friends, and relationships as well. Consider where you serve outside of work. Look at where you spend your free time. Consider what you do to feel important or where you contribute the most.

The outcome of defining personal success is a thing of great worth. Ideally, this definition will follow you through the years and become a beacon you can use to help achieve success. Without a vision of where you’re going, how will you know when you arrive? You may think you have to be old to achieve success, but you will discover you have been there for quite some time.

Complete This Exercise
Following is an exercise where you answer a series of questions designed to get you thinking about what success means to you. This exercise is not intended to drag you along and waste your time. The NCI trainers found it quickly got them thinking in the right direction.

Decide what you measure success in. Is it the contribution you make? Could it be the service you give to others? Do you measure success through your family? Do you measure it with satisfaction in your relationships?

Do your experiences define your success? Is money your measure of success? Is it the things you acquire? Is it how you choose to spend your free time? Or is something else?

Identify what makes you feel most important. Is it your truck? The knowledge you’ve acquired? When you sell a job? When you solve a problem?

Do you feel most important as a dad or a mom? Is it when you apply your skills to fix something? Many of us feel important when we contribute to the development of others -- is that you?

There are many other actions that make you feel important and worthwhile. You owe it to yourself to figure them out.

What are your favorite things to do? Is it working all the time? (Many of us are guilty of this, because we love our work)? Is it being home with family? Or maybe it’s alone time? Do you thrive on serving others? Is it playing sports, or watching them?

Do you love to be outdoors? Do you have a meaningful hobby you love to do? Would you be more successful if you could spend more time on your favorite activities? 

What are your top values? No one can tell you what your values are. Others may help you realize them, but the final decision is up to you. It takes some hard thinking and discovery to identify your values.

Some questions to help you discern your values include: Are you right with the world when you can just be yourself? Do you yearn for freedom? Are you a person who values being in control? Are you right with the world when you can express yourself? Is your big thing being creative? Do you totally love it when you are learning?

Are you fulfilled when you are connecting with others? Do you feel best at the moment of accomplishment? Or, are you the type who savors the journey? Is your day most fulfilling when you are helping others

There are a hundred other values that can make your life worthwhile and lead you to the success you desire. Take some time and figure out what your top values are.

Finally, one great exercise is to imagine you’re near the end of your life. You’re not dead yet, or slipping away. You’re still thinking clearly, but suspect you have only one day left. In that situation, you tend to see things as they really are. Now, imagine yourself in that situation and answer the following questions:

  • Looking back on your life, what are you most proud of?
  • When, during your life, did you make the greatest contribution to others?
  • What will people say about you at your funeral?
  • If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
  • Which parts of your life brought you the greatest satisfaction?

Ideally, these answers will lead to other, more personal questions and answers.

Now you’re ready to write your definition of success. If you need a little more help, go online and search how others define success. It’s OK to steal a few of their words and ideas and make them your own.

Most of the NCI trainers spent a few hours on this exercise. I poked at it a few hours over a couple of weeks. We’re all different. The important thing is to give it your best effort. Write it down, take it with you, and continue to refine it. Hopefully, defining your own success will provide you with a clear point you can move towards in your life so you know when you arrive.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you would, please email your definition of success to Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, and downloads.

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