Define Success in Your Words with 10 Clarity Questions

Defining Success

Why You Feel So Confused about Success

I talked about having the right success mindset in a recent podcast, but hey, let’s go back to basics: What is success itself? What is it to you? How do you define it?

Welcome to the Weekly Business & Career Strategy post. Follow the series by hopping on our no-nonsense exclusive list or come back every week.

You see, you have got to be able to define success and describe it in clear words as Stephen King insists in his fabulous On Writing, before you can be and feel successful. Because it would be a shame to go through your career, your business and the rest of your life and miss all the success you are creating along the way if you are too busy chasing the wrong definition.

Someone else’s definition of success is a lousy one to adopt. Discover your own. Yours may end up being similar or even identical to others – that’s OK as long as you find out your own truth by coming to that decision with intention and conscious choice. Have you done that?

It’s OK if you haven’t. Nobody teaches us any of this and so we are lucky to pick it up on our own. But now that you are here, don’t just relax yet. Keep reading.

When we are not clear about our own definition of success, we get confused and lose direction, or follow some role model and just can’t attain their definition of success, so then we feel bad. We feel small. We feel insignificant. We feel even like a failure.

But if we are lucky, we realize that what they see as success does not mean much to us at all. Just lovely! That’s where real confusion sets in.

When we are absolutely clear on our definition of success, we feel good – and feeling good is a huge measuring stick, use it. We feel empowered. We feel strong. We feel in charge. We feel happy. We may even feel fulfilled for a few minutes ;)!

Defining success in your words should be one of the first assignments in any personal development journey. In fact, come to think of it, I am going to add this to the Clarity Questionnaire for my coaching clients.

Clarity can cure confusion in a skinny minute, so strive for being really clear on what success means to you!

What if you just don’t know how you define success? What if you have been too conditioned with the general vague notions of success set forth by your family, culture, society, corporate world, entrepreneurship world, or anywhere in between?

Yep, I hear you, been there, done that, one too many times, but you can get past it and start TODAY to define success you way and don’t compromise. That’s as simple as it can be, if only you are willing to participate in the process of self-discovery and honor what YOUR definition of success turns out to be. If not, you’re just kidding yourself…..

The most commonly accepted definition of success floats between these three elements: love, money, power.

How much money? How much love? How much power? Nobody knows, so the general rule is the more, the better and higher likelihood that you will be “considered” successful on all accounts!

So then our vague definition of success becomes “more love, money and power than I have at this point in time.” To which, you might secretly wonder, “but how much is enough?”

Money, love and power can be perfectly fine measures of success if they resonate with you deeply and if they align to your values and what you hold near and dear to you in life. But you cannot be sure until you go through self-examination.

Defining Success with 10 Clarity Questions

The confusion can go on and on if you don’t stop to clarify it. It did for me for too long until I got so fed up with the lies I was telling myself and the traps I was setting up on a path to an illusion of success.

So yeah, one fine day, I had to sit down to define success on my terms and in my words and hint: freedom came up a lot more frequently than money in my success book. Anyway, the process was heaps of fun – OK, maybe more like painful but necessary and liberating kinda fun – so I decided that you should do the same thing!

No whining, please. It is just 10 questions. Nothing overwhelming. You can do this. I know and believe you can. You can take it even you find out your definition of success is radically different than what you thought. And I am here to cheer you on. Ready?

The rules are simple here: You have to be honest with yourself.

If you say you are hungry for nothing in particular, is that really true? Because that means you never ever have an itch, a craving, a desire to do something. Is that really true?

If you say you daydream about being on a beach in a resort somewhere, do you see yourself there all the time, every day? Is that really a definition of success or are you maybe just in need of some overdue R&R to get your head clear?

So use common sense in these questions. Think long term. Don’t give knee-jerk reactions. Really envision your answer and put yourself in that situation and try to smell and taste and feel the situation and the duration of it. Then check to see if your answer still holds.

I am not dividing this into personal versus business. This is our Weekly Business Strategy Post, but success is a universal theme and it has to run smoothly across personal and business matters. Let’s figure out what success is and then apply it to your business.

Oh and just for a few minutes as you do this exercise, please forget what you think you know about success. Forget what your parents, bless them and their great intentions, may have drilled into your impressionable ears. Forget what your first teacher or your favorite boss said. Forget your grandma’s favorite mantra. Forget the famous quotations that you like to share and repeat. Forget all expectations of success as you know them to be.

Start over. Take a deep breath or better yet, do a meditation session before you start. Be true to your values. Be honest with yourself. And take a few minutes to answer these questions.

1. What are you hungry for?

2. What do you most often daydream about?

3. Who do you envision yourself becoming?

4. How do you want to feel about your work?

5. What do you want most said about you?

6. What do you want to leave behind?

7. What do you most want associated with you?

8. What do you yearn to see as the impact of your work?

9. What do you see as your best contribution to humanity?

10. What is success to you (in 3-5 specific words)?

Now take your answers and see if you can find a common thread, maybe it’s obvious, maybe not, but there is a thread. Even if it’s an underlying thread that weaves all the answers together. What is it? That’s your definition of success. And feel absolutely free to share your answers below in the comments.

If you want to read more articles like our Weekly Business Strategy Post, and get your 21 Insider Secrets for Career Advancement at Corporate – FREE, then hop on the list below:

  • ZenPresence

    Wow Farnoosh, really good stuff. I think this is my favorite article so far. Very useful. I’m going to print this so that I can really put it to use.



    • Farnoosh

      Hi dear Dan, so this is the most favorite? Wow! :) Great to hear it, really great. Thanks again for dropping by.

  • Carmelo

    This is exactly where to start before you decide to go off on some career changing or career starting or entrepreneurial adventure! Good stuff Farnoosh.

    It’s the foundational platform from which we blossom into our own personal success. Your admonition that we shouldn’t listen to society’s definitions is spot on. We don’t even know how much we rely on traditional and accepted models of living and definitions for our existence.

    It’s also rather crazy how most “gurus” are following the same traditional models that end up having us defining success and other things in ways that simply don’t serve us. (actually, most of them are just selling products and not really serving our needs.)

    Great advice … I must say. :-) Now, don’t go becoming a traditional guru Farnoosh! (I’m kidding, you’ll never go sour on us.) 😉

    • Farnoosh

      Carmelo, we just don’t understand how much we get conditioned by it until we start to move away – so true. I am not going to become a traditional ANYTHING, worry not ;)! Great comments, thanks Carmelo. Nice to see you here.

      • Carmelo

        ha! thanks for understanding my playful jab. You are you and that’s what makes you awesome. :-)

  • Clay

    Awesome, thanks for sharing this post! I think we should also ask ourselves these questions regularly and wonder if the answers have changed after 1, 5, 10 years. Success is specific to every person, but it is also specific to the person we are at a particular time of our life

    • Farnoosh

      Hey Clay, thanks for weighing in here. Regularly asking them is VERY key, you are right, we change and evolve as people and our goals do change too. Thank you so much !

  • janet

    i had an insight last night and its ‘confirmed’ in your list of questions too… I think success is really about living the life you want, that you’ve designed. What do you REALLY want? If life is but a dream, then the challenge is to figure out how to live lucidly, lucid dreaming. Realize that you have control and can shape your reality.. it’s hard enough to do so when we sleep, let alone when we’re “awake”. are we really AWAKE? 😉

    • Farnoosh

      Hey lovely Janet, so did you find out? And are you quoting Shakespeare there, my dear/ Life is more than a dream but then again, good poetry can change my mind ;)! Thanks for the prose today here, Janet and let’s stay awake, dream or reality.

  • Chelle

    I really love your 10 questions here. Too often we get caught up in what other people define success as (money, freedom, fame, etc.) – having your own unique definition of success will definitely help make finding the path to success much easier. Thanks for a great read!

    • Farnoosh

      Hi dear Chelle (what a pretty name!), oh we do get caught up in that trio you just said, and it’s a heavy weight to carry especially if it doesn’t resonate. I hope the questions help you come to your own exact definition of beautiful success, Chelle. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Graham Dragon

    Some very good questions, Farnoosh.

    I recently wrote a blog article about how to achieve goals, and one thing I stressed was the importance of ensuring your desires and goals are congruent. We often have goals that are not actually aligned with our true desires. And sometimes we also have desires that clearly conflict – in which case we will almost certainly fail to achieve any goals related to them. So I particularly like the holistic approach you have suggested, of trying to find a common thread. I think that is SO important!

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Graham, love the emphasis on true desires and true values … alignment can make all the difference about those goals. Thanks so much for your big nod here.

  • Pingback: Michelle Barber: Using Google Calendar to Prompt the Big Questions | Michelle Barber()

  • Pingback: How to Shut Up the Inner Ego | Deal with Success()

  • Pingback: What is Success? | Kevin Bemel()

  • Pingback: Where do I stand now? | ahmedshenawi()

  • Pingback: Create & Thrive : Sunday Reading {Week 42, 2013} | Create & Thrive()

  • Pingback: Round ‘em Up: Defining Success | The Patterned Blog()