How do you define success? Do you feel successful on a regular basis? Can you imagine how a well thought out definition of success can help you achieve your goals faster? In fact, our personal definition of success determines the way we are feeling and influences the achievements of our goals tremendously.
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A common definition of success
Dictionaries define success in a one-sided way, and unfortunately, most people adopt this definition. For example, Oxford Dictionary’s definition of success is:
“The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
This expression of success is result-orientated. It can exert mental pressure and lead to feelings like stress and dissatisfaction.
If we achieve the outcomes we were after, then we feel successful. We are satisfied with the results, and we believe our efforts were worthwhile. But, how long does the feeling last? It surely depends on the goal we achieved. If it was a big one, the feeling will last longer than having accomplished a small daily goal.
However, the pleasure gained from both accomplishments is usually short.
Life goes on and we get caught up in everyday life, not reminding ourselves regularly of the great pleasure of succeeding. In fact, there are days when the opposite happens. We did not achieve the goals we set for ourselves.
How do we feel in these cases?
Many people move into an un-resourceful headspace – feeling discouraged and unmotivated. Often, we try to distract ourselves by doing something else.
This is the downside of a result-orientated definition of success. Most people do not take action towards their goals when feeling discouraged or dissatisfied.
Is there another definition of success that could eliminate this downside?
Yes, fortunately there is!
An alternative definition of success
The opposite of a result-orientated expression of success is a progress-orientated definition.
It is a fact that we can’t get great results every day. There are days that do not work out for us. That is natural. But do we need to be dissatisfied when encountering these days, blaming ourselves and losing our drive?
Not with a progress-orientated definition of success!
This expression of success focuses on the progress. It highlights the actions creating the results, not the results themselves. Focusing on the progress is satisfying because if we put effort into something, progress is the outcome. Progress is present; the end result isn’t. Literally, we make progress every day, even when the end result is not yet in sight.
It is comparable to the life cycle of a plant. Firstly, we plant the seeds. Next, we take care of the plant as it grows, and finally, we reap the harvest.
We can plant seeds every day and if we take care, we can see the plant’s development consistently; but we can’t harvest daily. This means, if we focus on the harvest (results), we won’t be satisfied on a daily basis. Focusing on the development (progress) instead, we can satisfy ourselves regularly, because progress is ongoing. Growth is present; harvest is not.
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Result vs. progress focus: what makes the difference?
The psychology behind these definitions determines our emotions. Feelings and emotions drive our behavior and daily actions. We do different things and make different decisions when in particular emotional states.
Our emotions and states are determined by our focus.
Focus on progress: We see the positive – the steps we make toward our results. This leads to a positive emotional state.
Focus on results: We tend to see the negative – as we can’t have results straight away, we focus on the obstacles and problems instead of the progress. This leads to a negative emotional state.
How do you think these mental states influence your motivation? Would you put the same effort into your goals and endeavors? Most people would not.
Tony Robbins says that 80% of success is psychology and 20% is mechanics.
So, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on progress instead of results?
Changing our definition of success is a huge step towards a better state of mind. Focusing on the progress sets us up for positive emotional states.
What definition of success would be progress-orientated? A great example is John Wooden’s definition of success:
“Success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you’re capable.” – John Wooden
You are the only person who can give you the feeling of being successful. It does not depend on results, as long as you know you did the best you could. This gives you the power to move on and hit your goals.
Condition yourself for success
Set yourself up for success by creating your own definition of success or by adopting one that motivates you. Choose a progress-oriented expression of success to help keep yourself in a positive emotional state.
Then, start a daily ritual.
- Every morning: Read your definition of success out loud and ask yourself what steps towards your desired outcome you can make today.
- Every midday: Ask yourself if you did your best in doing these steps. If you did, then continue. If you didn’t, make a change and ask yourself how you can do your best.
- Every evening: Ask yourself what progress you made today and which steps you took toward your goals.
Focus on your progress every single day. Be satisfied and visualize all the great things that will happen as you continue these steps every day.
Focus on what you did rather than what you didn’t.
Last but not least, get excited about what you do and don’t wait for the results. If you love what you do, then you don’t need to care about the results at all! Seeing your progress and knowing you grow with each step will give you more pleasure than any result could ever bestow. Excitement towards each and every step will speed up the process and guide you to your desired outcomes.
Success is not only an accomplishment. Success starts when making progress towards an accomplishment.
What is your definition of success? Leave a comment below!