5 Questions to Align to Your Version of Success
Whose Version of Success Are You Living?
Success is clarity of my intention…and reaching that intention while being true to myself and with joy.~ India Arie
It’s easy to go through life — on autopilot, feeling and thinking we’re in alignment with what matters; yet we’re regularly influenced by so many external sources that it’s easy to veer in a different direction.
And, all day long we’re scanning for success.
Did we have a good day?
What did I get done today? And was it enough/ the right amount of work/ the most important things on the list?
What did my boss think of the report I just submitted?
How did my son’s French test go?
We scan for the outcomes that tell us things are on track.
It’s a normal and natural part of being human. We want our lives and choices to matter.
“Success” then, isn’t a grand esoteric topic, it’s a daily moment to moment focus.
You’ll find below, five questions that can help you know whose version of success you’re working towards.
These questions will off you insight into what matters to you — your version of success.
As you read them, remember the goal isn’t necessarily to have all the answers, or get it all figured out, rather, they’re questions to print off, to support you on your journey.
It’s enough to pick one question that feels interesting. And then use that question to be curious and make a gentle shift or two, if needed, to re-align to what matters.
Q1: How are the people around me defining success?
Why this matters: We’re surrounded by as many definitions of success as there are people. Your friends, family, peer networks, neighbors — everyone has things that matter to them. By making conscious and known your definition of success, you’re less apt to be swept up by or compare to another's version of success.
By the way, it’s just fine to be surrounded by different expressions of success. We’re not aiming for sameness or difference, we simply want to be conscious of what everyone else is vying for. This is what allows for alignment and authenticity.
Action Step: Get curious, notice and ask what matters to other people that are around you. Ask your parents how success has been defined for them. Notice how people describe it, and what is on their radar. Be on the lookout for themes and for where you experience resonance, and where you don’t.
Q2: Do you have a set of values, guiding principles or beliefs that inform how you live your life?
Why this matters: Having values, guiding principles to align to, and your own sense of purpose independent of anyone else, are meaningful anchors to hold you steady and inform your choices. Just like a ship on the ocean that is rudderless or anchorless, you’ll be tossed around the sea of success without it.
Action Step: List your values and what they mean to you right now. If you have a set of values that guides you, take the time to think about what they mean to you now. Ask yourself if you’re making choices in alignment with them that are feeling good and right.
Q3: What are the main emotions or feelings that characterize your day to day?
Why this matters: While every day has a mix of emotions, it’s useful to keep track of if you’re feeling ease, joy, calm, contentment etc. Emotions that feel good to us source us with productive energy. Conversely if your life is void of these meaningful emotions and you’re feeling flat, this is worth paying attention to. Working for what matters needs to yield the gift of some juicy emotions!
Action Step: Pay attention to what you’re feeling. Keep an emotions log and see what patterns emerge. Or ask people who are close to you what they notice and use this as a source of feedback.
Note: This is not about the absence of difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Success has it’s fair share of tough stuff to work through, so you’re looking for themes to indicate the presence of your own feel good emotions.
Q4: What is your ratio of effort and hard work to rest and revitalization?
Why this matters: If your life has only hard work and effort, ask yourself if you’re good with this, and if it’s sustainable. Aim for a version of success that has the right mix of challenge and ease. A life of perpetual efforting will erode more than your health; it takes a toll on relationships and your capacity to pursue and enjoy what matters.
Action Step: At the end of the day, look back on the day and without overthinking assign the day a value e.g. 70% work and 30% rest/ease. Do this for six more days and see what the view shores up. Notice if the work is good and challenging (versus onerous and disagreeable). Notice if the rest truly revitalizes (versus numbing and disconnecting).
Q5: Do you have a set of measures to evaluate success?
Why this matters: Because we’re always measuring our success and effectiveness in some way, we can use these to help us know if we’re living the life that matters. We want to be and feel successful! Having a way of checking if the day/ week/ month etc. went well is an interesting practice to put in place for yourself on the journey.
Action Step: Decide if want to measure the “success” of a day or week or month. Pick a meaningful time frame — one that will allow you to notice and/or make adjustments. Then, list out what makes for a good day. What activities need to happen? How will you feel? What happened/ didn’t happen in your work? Who will you connect with? How much rest does it include? Aim to get 3–5 daily measures and see what happens.
Dial down the judgment, and amp up the curiosity!
Activities that ask us to notice our patterns and priorities can sometimes leave us feeling self-conscious and/or aware that we’re not as closely aligned to what matters to us than we thought. This is where I’ll always invite you to stay curious and be compassionate with yourself.
What matters MOST here is that you’re growing awareness and setting down sleepy, autopilot ways that may/may not help you be successful.
The work of self-aligning to what matters to us isn’t ever “done”, and as such definition of success will change just as we do.
So have fun, and if you’re up for sharing how this went, drop a comment or two!
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