Cheri Fredrickson - Leadership Development Coach and Trainer - The Transformative Leader, LLC

What is Success, Anyway?

growth success
success target

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming."

John Wooden


One of the things my clients are often struggling with is how to define success. Frequently, the measurements they use are external factors over which they have little or no control. Things like making a sale, getting positive feedback from others, and checking off several items on their to-do list are some of the measures commonly used to decide if it has been a successful day.

In recent years, I have known several people who have transitioned from this human life, as we know it. Observing the process of death and seeing what people have gone through has affected me on many levels. I have pondered what we define as success. As a result, I find myself drawing different conclusions than I have in the past about what it means to have a successful day.

Success is more than what we do

As I’ve thought about this and listened to what others have to say, I find myself concluding that success is bigger than how many tasks we complete, how much money we earn, whether somebody buys our product or service, or someone else’s approval. All too often in our busy lives we focus so much on doing that we forget completely about being.

Along similar lines, I was talking with one of my friends last night about a conversation he had earlier in the day where they were discussing wealth, a word we commonly associate with success in our culture. Each person was asked, “What is wealth to you?” For one person it was $10 Million in assets plus a certain amount of consistent monthly income. Others wanted to include more than money. They would not feel wealthy with all the money in the world if they did not also have wealth in the areas of good relationships and good health, to name a few.  Most people were unable to clearly define how they would know if they were wealthy.

Success includes who we are becoming

Just as most people are unable to clearly define wealth, I find most people are unable to clearly define success. As I have explored this, I have determined that one of the reasons we have so much difficulty is that we tend to look outside of ourselves to see if we are successful. What if we took the opposite approach and began looking inside?

Barbara DeAngeles offers some thoughts on this in her book “Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know”. She says, “Instead of defining your success by what you have achieved or acquired, why not begin defining your success by how much you are growing each day?” She then suggests throwing away your to-do list and replacing it with one commitment: “Today I want to grow into the best human being I can be… I want to learn as much as I can and grow as much as I can with whatever comes my way.”

Wow! What a thought! This way, no matter what happens, every day has potential to be successful because we are consistently taking steps towards becoming our best selves.

How are you learning and growing?

We all know we have very limited control over external events. However, we do have control over our response to those events, and that’s really what this way of defining success is all about. Does this mean you must have the “perfect” response to everything that happens to be successful? Of course not! It’s a growth process. And, we all have multiple opportunities to practice responding every day.

With that in mind, I urge you to broaden your definition of success. I realize that throwing away your to-do list will be a bit radical for many of you. However, it only takes a few minutes to notice how you are growing. You might ask yourself some clarifying questions at the end of the day: Did you learn something new? Did you resist gossiping? Were you kind? Did you express gratitude? Did you help someone? Did you share your smile? Did you really listen? Did you share laughter? I believe that if you handled even one situation better than you have in the past that is to have succeeded.

Notice your growth. Celebrate your wins. Continue to build on them. A successful life comes from successful moments.

Success is not a destination. It is not a place we will get to “someday.” It is an experience we can have every day if we choose to.

Wishing you successes, big and small, each and every day!


Plus get my list of "30 Things I've Learned as a Business Coach" just for signing up!

Yes! I'd like weekly motivation!