What does success mean to you?

I put this question out to a bunch of people at random last week. I was curious to hear what they’d say and though I had a hint of what they might, their responses took me on a journey.

It got me thinking about some possible associations to success and how my perception of the term has evolved over the years. If you had asked me that about 20 years ago, I would have probably said something along the lines of making infinity dollars!

Let me backtrack for a moment to put things into perspective.

I don’t know about you but when I was growing up, success was made out to be an objective and exclusive thing. It was perched high up on a pedestal and it seemed the only logic to reach it was to work hard to make a lot of money.

While there’s something oddly encouraging about that, it isn’t the full story – not for everybody.

In my line of work as a recruiter, I interact with all walks of life every day discussing career plans, personal values and experiences, along with all the challenges and frustrations that come with the world of work. It’s brought me to appreciate success as so much more than a thing of platitudes or the dollar figure on a paycheck.

It’s not enough to be good at what we do and make good money for it if we wake up miserable every day. Or if you’re a parent, success to you might be about embracing your 9-5 while still having the time to be there for your family and to be a part of their success.

How about perceived success? What if other people thought of us as successful? Would it matter if we ourselves didn’t feel like we’ve achieved much?

Yup, success runs deep and each of those conversations has served as a pleasant reminder of our individual values. The conventional notion of landing a high-paying job, amassing wealth or gaining a supreme status of power does not apply/appeal to everyone and frankly, it’s a relief.

Instead, intrinsic measures such as happiness, passion for work, sense of achievement and inner comfort were cited as more important.

There really isn’t a single, definitive bottom line to success other than the fact that we don’t have to be rich to live a rich life. Sure, money may ultimately be what we strive for in this world but it shouldn’t be our sole source of purpose. I mean just because our pocket isn’t as deep as the next person’s doesn’t make us a failure or less successful.

Reward has a new meaning once we’ve identified our key drivers for success and we should never lose sight of them. The little successes along the way matter too! Whether it’s upskilling at work, completing a marathon, public speaking in front of a large crowd or simply doing a good deed for another human being. There will always be something more and our measurement system will change as we take on new priorities at different stages of our lives.

Whatever our motivation, we’ll be doing ourselves a great disservice if we make money our only metric of success and likely setting ourselves up for failure if we allow others to impose their version of success on us. The same applies in business. After all, don’t people make money by offering others something of value?

It’s a psychology that will continue to evolve and surprise us.

But for right now, I’m excited to hear your views…

What constitutes success in your world?

Say you had the money – enough to cover all your expenses AND still afford a comfortable lifestyle. Would you still do what you’re doing now?