What’s your personal definition of success?

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson

Let me start off the new year with a few questions for you. How was 2016? In which ways were you successful? What goals did you achieve? Where could you have done better?

Although we should all allow ourselves the time to analyze last year so that we are not doomed to repeat mistakes, many of us will not reflect on 2016 in detail.

I often ask CEOs how their company did last year and they reply, “It was a pretty good year” or “I can’t complain.” When I push for more information, I realize the reasons for those answers is that they had no specific goals, no measuring rod for their success. They were not clear on whether success was creating impact, money in their pocket or something else.

At the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our successes and failures in life. If you are going to have a successful 2017, you need to clearly articulate what success means to you. Then, break it into small goals and hold yourself accountable.

In the bestselling book “Start with Why,” Simon Sinek discusses why it’s important for every organization to understand why they do the things they do. For example, we tend to talk about what we did (made money) but not why we did it (so we could send our kids to college).

Ultimately, success is not about the resources we have but about what we do with them. Understanding your “why” or what success means to you allows you to set goals that will move you in the right direction.

If success means growing your business to the point you can sell it for the price of a small island in Fiji, then working 60 or more hours a week makes sense. If your goal is to be an active mom or dad and spend time coaching your children’s activities and being active in their lives, then working 70 hours a week may not be realistic.

Success is not about getting it all. You might be able to make a billion dollars, make the world a better place, spend quality time with the kids, have a loving relationship with a spouse, spend time with friends and sleep well at night. You just can’t do all of it.

We must prioritize and then compromise based on what we want out of life. Success is about making the right compromises to achieve a fulfilling life. If at the end of our lives we have few regrets about what we did and how we used our time, then we were successful.

Once we identify what success means to us, it is important that we diligently pursue our goals. Time seems to go by at an exponentially faster rate the older we get. Time management becomes more critical with each passing year. It is so easy to get sucked into activities that waste time, or at a minimum are not the best use of our time.

Often people complain that that they don’t have enough time. However in reality, we all get the same 8,760 hours a year to spend however we want. That is ample time to do the things that are most important to us such as exercising, building a business, and playing with the kids.

A friend of mine spends every Sunday evening planning how he will use the 168 hours in the following week. He plans his work and then works his plan. He eliminates everything that doesn’t add success to his life.

Using his example, we can ask ourselves some important questions. What are we going to stop doing this year? Are there activities at work or in the community that aren’t paying off such as sitting on a board and having little impact, or saying yes to every project that comes our way because someone asks? It’s time to say “no” and move on to those opportunities in life where we can really make a difference.

If we don’t understand what success means to us, then it is very easy to end up being successful in the wrong areas of our lives. For example, we might end up with great wealth but miss out on relationships with our kids, which is the thing we really value. I wish you much success in 2017, however you define it.


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