What is your definition of success?

29/5/2013 |

Our productivity ninja Grace Marshall  wrote the following post over at her fantastic blog at grace-marshall.co. She asks how do you define success? By results or by actions?

Results are easy to define. Tangible. A workshop booked. A new client on the books. A sale made. Another product sold and shipped. It can be great for motivation, knowing what you get when your actions pay off.

But it can also be demoralising, when you’re in the middle of taking the actions you need to achieve that success. Success by bernavazqueze, FlickrWhen you’re making call after call, writing email after email, sending invitations, posting blogs, tweets andstatuses, and they’re not translating into results… at least not yet.

The actions you take to achieve your results are vital. Yet if success is defined purely by results, your actions have no value until they lead to a result. Your motivation hangs on the hope of reaching that goal, otherwise your efforts are for nothing.

The problem with focusing purely on results is, you’re a failure until you get that result. And when you do get the result, success is fleeting and momentary. Then it’s onto pursuing the next booking or the next client, where you’re yet again back in the place of pursuing, hoping and wondering if you ‘have what it takes’.

Some people love the chase. The ruthless pursuit of success.

For me, honestly, I find it hard work, unrewarding and draining. And I don’t think I’m alone here.

You see the problem is for most people, feeling like a failure doesn’t push us towards success.

It invites us to spend time and energy entertaining doubt and indecision, to go round in circles questioning ourselves and our own abilities.

It tempts us to spend hours, days and even weeks researching obsessing about the competition, devoting our energy and attention on studying their every move, rather than our own.

It makes us desperate for the sale – and we all know well from dating days, desperation does not attract.

It puts all our focus on what other people do, rather than what we do. Whether the audience smile or frown rather than how we deliver our message. Whether the prospective client says yes or not, rather than the conversations we have, the relationship we build, the work we do that gives them a reason to say yes.

And it steals our joy.

I caught myself being too focused on results recently. Despite having a couple of great weeks, lots of reasons to be happy, I found myself feeling subdued. Not terrible, or bad, just a bit muted.

I got to the end of what by all accounts was a very productive day. I’d taken account of everything I’d done. But I hadn’t put a metaphorical tick in my ‘results’ box, I felt like there was an itch I hadn’t quite scratched. I felt dissatisfied,  unproductive even.

That evening I was with a small group of church friends and we did an exercise of writing down what we saw in each other, then each of us took away a list of our own qualities, attributes and words of encouragement from the the rest of the group.

At the top of my list were three things: “A seed sower. An inspiration. A light in the dark.”

That’s when it hit me. Sowing seeds. Inspiring people. Shining a light. This is what I do. These are my measures of success. And I had done all of them that day.

In the words of Heather Small, What have you done today, to make you feel proud?

When I do these things day in, day out, the results come. I know that. (Seriously one just did, literally just before this post went live – talk about timing!)

Plus, when I focus on doing these things, my day is fulfilling. I’m proud of how I’ve spent my time. I am being successful.

Of course results are important. Setting goals are useful. But when we define success purely by results, it’s always something out there. Something we’re aiming for or pining for. Something we want but don’t have.

But when we define success by the actions we take, success becomes a journey, rather than a destination. Something we have and something we continue to grow and create. Every day we take that journey, we are living in success.

Now that I find motivating. Rocket fuel for actions and results.

What do you think?


Like This? Try these

More from Grace on the Think Productive UK blog 

How to be successful in life at Life Hack



  1. graham

    when I worked in charities, it became a bit of a joke that every charity video would use that heather small song! brings back some fond memories!


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