Usually when we want the definition of a word, we turn to the dictionary. The first two definitions at Dictionary.com say “success” is:
1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
For many small business owners, defining enterprise is rather straightforward. You can sit down and write out tangible goals for the growth of your business based on sales volume, annual revenue or any standard measure you prefer. Once you’ve reached those markers, you may consider your business a success.
But on a personal level, we know “success” is far more than just a word. In fact, it’s a rather slippery concept whose meaning changes by person, and even within each person over passing days, weeks and years.
How closely is your definition of business success tied to your definition of success on a personal level? And how is the concept of success related to happiness? Will reaching “success” as you’ve defined it lead to your happiness?
This article isn’t intended to answer these questions—only you can answer them for yourself—but rather to inspire you to think about how you define success and happiness and also provide some food for thought as you move forward in your business and in life.
Traditional Notions of Success
Common notions of success in our culture are often tied to financial accomplishments and material possessions—a certain amount of money in the bank or invested, a big house in a particular neighborhood or even a vacation home in a place like the Hamptons. Perhaps your idea of success is a bit more modest and you simply want to be able to meet your monthly financial obligations or have a reliable car that will get you to where you want to go.
There is nothing wrong with having these goals, of course, but many people have discovered that money and power aren’t necessarily the keys to happiness. Arianna Huffington, author, businesswoman and co-founder of The Huffington Post, has said that in the long term, “money and power by themselves are like a two- legged stool— you can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over.”
In her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, she recommends a broader definition of success to achieve better personal balance. Money and power can only take you so far, she suggests, before you find out that they won’t magically bring personal happiness along with them.
It’s important to define success for yourself. Huffington suggests that traditional notions of success rarely if ever translate into personal happiness. If happiness is your ultimate goal, then, it would be wise to take a step back and think hard about your aspirations and how you are working toward the goal of being happy.
What does happiness look like for you? Maybe it is, indeed, spending summer weekends in the Hamptons. Maybe you find happiness in the simple pleasures of daily life such as cooking from fresh ingredients or jogging in the open air. Maybe following your dream and passion to finally start a business will make you happy, no matter how much revenue you pull in.
Regardless of how you define success and happiness for yourself, the one constant is this: By pausing to think about these concepts, you are already giving yourself a step up in achieving your goals. Quite simply, if you don’t have your personal ideas of success and happiness clear in your head, you are making it that much harder to accomplish them.
As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar famously said, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” So why not get halfway to your goal today?