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Why You Should Create Your Own Definition of Success (Plus 3 Steps to Help You Get Started)

by Robert Dickie III October 5, 2017

We live in a culture that prioritizes success but doesn’t give us a great definition of what success looks like.

Sure, we can go on Facebook and see endless “success” stories. Our friends, relatives, and distant acquaintances post their successes all the time — their new job, the big promotion, the house they just bought, the lavish wedding they just threw. It’s easy to scroll through those milestones and judge ourselves against them. We feel that we, too, must be able to boast about a high-profile job or material achievements to qualify as successful.

Why You Should Create Your Own Definition of Success (Plus 3 Steps to Help You Get Started)

But as we all know, social media doesn’t tell the full story. I’ve met plenty of people who hold those fancy job titles — Vice President of this or CEO of that. And many of them are miserable.

Their jobs sound impressive, but they hate the work or resent the fact that they have to spend so much time away from their children to hang onto that coveted position. Investment bankers who seem to be living the high life may be mired in debt, spending their nights drinking to forget their money woes. We equate external achievements with success and are surprised when those don’t bring the fulfillment we expected.

That’s because success is what you define it to be, and everyone has their own metric.

A person might decide that for them, success means having a close relationship with God, a happy family environment, and a meaningful role in their community. But then they head over to Facebook to see what their friends are doing. They feel inadequate because they don’t have big houses or impressive career updates to share. Suddenly, they become deeply unhappy because they’re measuring their success according to someone else’s metrics. They’ll never feel they have enough if they carry on that way.

How to Measure Real Success

Each of us must define success for ourselves and measure ourselves only against those goals. We have to become self-aware enough to know that by some people’s standards, our lives won’t look like much. But that doesn’t matter as long as we’re pursuing what truly matters to us. Just because our college roommate’s house looks like something out of MTV Cribs doesn’t mean we need to run out and buy a McMansion, too.

Hewing to our own definitions of success is especially important when it comes to our careers. In my experience, understanding how you are designed to work is one of the biggest factors in having a biblical mindset on what success looks like. Of course you or I would feel like a failure if we are stuck in a job we hate doing. Our own metric of success changes when we are in a well-suited career. Crown’s Career Direct assessment helps connect your purpose with your passions – it was created to help you understand how you are designed to work. This understanding then leads to job satisfaction, and a biblical mindset of success.

We’re raised on stories of people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and we internalize the idea that we have to do something big to change the world. But not everyone can be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, and you can build a meaningful career no matter what your job is. Here’s my advice on how to do it:

1. Go All In.

You cannot make an impact if you have one foot out the door. When you take on a new job, invest yourself both mentally and emotionally. Trust me, your boss knows when your heart’s not in your work. You might do enough to avoid getting fired, but you’re never the one staying late, volunteering for new projects, or offering ideas. If you’re so preoccupied with finding the next opportunity, then perhaps you’re in the wrong field.

Instead of wondering whether something better will come along, go all in. Take your work seriously.

Find meaning in the tasks you’re assigned each day.

Not only will you derive more enjoyment from this attitude, you’ll also become more valuable within the company. If your goal is to wake up with a purpose each morning, find a company that inspires you, show up ready to give your all, and become an indispensable member of the team.

Why You Should Create Your Own Definition of Success (Plus 3 Steps to Help You Get Started)

2. Forget About FOMO.

Our culture has been infected by FOMO — Fear of Missing Out. The desire to see and experience everything we can, leads people to move quickly from job to job, always drawn by the allure of the next big thing.

But great careers are built with time.

It takes years to hone your skills, understand your industry, try on different roles, and create sustained value. Jumping from one interest to the next keeps your contributions at a surface level; real meaning is cultivated through years of experience.

I have a friend who loves to travel. But for him, travel isn’t about immersion in different cultures. It’s a way to tick off boxes on his “been there, done that” list. He’ll fly to a foreign country, spend just enough time there to snap a few epic pictures, and then leave with a fresh new stamp in his passport. He’s probably visited more countries than anyone else I know. But has he experienced the profound growth that comes with spending time in one place, learning about another society and its history? I don’t think so. The traveler who goes off the beaten path and seeks out authentic experiences may have a sparser passport, but they also have deeper memories of the countries they’ve visited.

The same holds true for career decisions. One person might hop from job to job, always seeking the more impressive title or the sexier company. Another might stay with the same organization for 10-15 years, slowly moving up the ranks and getting to know the business. The former has a more exciting track record on social media. But the latter has made a far greater impact in their industry.

3. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin.

When you’re young, it’s easy to focus on materialistic gains, flashy accolades, and exciting opportunities. But as you grow older, you’ll wish you had invested more in your work. You’ll regret trying to do everything that sounded interesting instead of drilling down into the one area that really inspired you.

The key to job satisfaction is creating your own definition of success and then investing completely in your chosen work. Understanding your unique design is an integral piece of this puzzle.  If there’s a particular outcome you want to achieve, keep it at the forefront of your mind. Above all, don’t let yourself be distracted by other people’s achievements — or their Facebook brags.

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