How Do You Measure Success?

October 3, 2016 Kerry Sutton

"We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary." ~ Brene Brown.

You would be excused for thinking that success is about wealth and fame. Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines success as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame”.

This message is conveyed through every possible channel of media. So it’s pretty difficult not to get caught up in wanting more, which for many is a quest to achieve at least the appearance of the “rich and famous”.

The desire to have the latest fashions, gadgets, and furnishings is nothing new. I remember in the 70s at the age of 12 having to have a particular brand of shoes. They were called Charlie Browns, and it just wasn’t an option to wear anything else if I wanted to ‘fit in’. I'm sure you have similar stories.

Fast forward to 2016 and it seems the list of ‘must haves’ and ‘should have’, has become extraordinarily long. According to Joshua Becker we have learned to judge others on their salary package, neighborhood of residence, eloquence of speech, design of clothing, or model of car.

No matter what age or stage of life you are at it seems there is always something more you ‘need’ to strive for. You are bombarded from sun-up to sundown with messages of what a successful life looks like; what you must have to “fit in and stand out” in your world.

And the more subtle message is that it will make you happy!


Fame – It’s scary how many children and young teens want to be famous when they grow-up. The 21st century obsession with fame is unlike any other time in history. It seems media opportunities to become famous are available to anyone. The message - A valuable life is one in-which you are ‘known’ and ‘seen’ by others.

However, studies clearly indicate that your emotional well-being is negatively affected when your goals are tied to external approval, such as fame.

Wealth – Okay it’s true, having enough money does contribute towards happiness. However, research shows that lottery winners, beneficiaries of large inheritances and the 100 richest Americans are only mildly more satisfied than the average worker. In fact, once their income reaches a certain point, any increase in income doesn’t increase their level of happiness at all.

So whilst money is important it probably isn’t the best of measure of success.

“Success is... knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.” ~ John C. Maxwell


♥   Purpose and Meaning – Deepak Chopra said, “Success in life can be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realisation of worthy goals”. What is a worthy goal? It’s what matters to you. What gives you a sense of purpose and meaning.

If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience, 'you will find your definition of success. ~ Stephen Covey

♥   Authenticity – Maya Angelou said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it”. This means your validation doesn’t come from others, it comes from within. It’s about a willingness to know and accept every part of yourself; the good, and not so good bits. Self-compassion is essential. Only then can you begin to cultivate what matters most to you, and let go of what is no longer working.

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.” ~ George Sheehan

♥   Gratitude – “The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.” ~ Robert Holden. Gratefulness is one of the most attractive characteristics an individual can have. It's simple impossible to be grateful and sad or angry at the same time. Have you begun a gratitude practice yet?

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love—then make that day count!” ~ Steve Maraboli

♥   Courage – “Having courage doesn't mean that we are unafraid. Having courage and showing courage means we face our fears.” – Maya Angelou. Courage is the emotional muscle you flex in response to life challenges and when you need to step outside your comfort zone to achieve something meaningful.

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

♥   Mindfulness – Mother Teresa said, “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today." She was describing mindfulness - living in the present moment. Research shows people who practice mindfulness regularly feel calmer, handle distressing emotions and thoughts easier, are more self-aware and compassionate towards self and others.

Mindfulness is non-judging, patient, curious, trusting, non-striving, generous, accepting, and lets things go. It is a compassionate and life giving practice.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Even if wealth and/or fame are part of your life now, or become part of your future, they don't truly define you. How are you measuring success?


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