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How to know if you’re actually successful

Oct 18, 2022

Have you ever really stopped and thought about what success means?

Like, to you. Not to your mom, or your dad, or your spouse, or Instagram. 

For instance: Is it a fancy title? A lot of money? (Also, what’s a lot? Have you thought about it? Hint: there’s no right or wrong answer.) Is it getting your book published? What about getting a book published and making a lot of money? (Again, what’s a lot?)

Is it a fancy car? (Also what is fancy? A brand new VW, or a Lexus?)
You see where I’m going? Success is relative. And it means different things to different people.

The real question is, how often have we thought about success enough to define what, exactly, it means, down to the smallest detail?

I’m guessing the answer is, probably not much. Amiright? I know I didn’t really think about it much in any tangible way for a long time—yet I’ve spent my life chasing it. But since I didn’t know what it actually meant to me, I’d throw up random milestones and feel good for a few minutes, until I decided that, no, the next thing would mean I was really successful. 

Got my first book published? Yay – a huge success for sure. But how many books would I get a contract for? If I only got three, would that mean I was less successful than someone who got six? If I had a long series run and made moderate money, would that still make it a success?

The problem with this word is that it’s such an elusive concept. It’s tossed around in homes, at workplaces, online, in pretty much every circle in very serious terms. I knew from a very young age that success was important. I knew I needed to achieve it. I knew it was supposed to make a huge difference in my life. 

Only problem was, I had no idea how. Because I had no idea what it was supposed to look like. So I latched onto the current definition of success wherever I was spending the majority of my time. In the corporate world, it was a title. Then it was salary. But what about a bigger team? Does that mean I was successful, even if I made less than a male counterpart? In the book publishing world, the bar also kept moving. Do I measure it in money? Awards? Number of books published? The fact that I have traditional contracts? At one time, yes. But now? Not so much—I know some self-published authors making a hell of a lot more money. 

This has been a big concept on my mind lately. Over the past year through so much change and so many realizations, I’ve had to have a real come-to-Jesus with what real success means to me. And my biggest aha moment was realizing that someone else’s definition of success wasn’t it. 

Sure, it feels good when you achieve some milestone that you’re lauded for. Or when your bank account reflects a tangible result. But if these things don’t ultimately give you peace and joy at the end of the day, they really don’t matter much at all. 

Now when I’m thinking about success, I think about things like – Do I have time to enjoy my actual life—the beach, my dogs, my friends? Do I feel free at the end of the day, or am I trapped in someone else’s time constraints? Do I have time to work on the things I enjoy, or am I just checking things off someone else’s to-do list? Can I take 15 minutes to rest if I need to? 

And for me, the most important question of all: Do I wake up in the morning and look forward to my day, or do I want to crawl back into bed and forget I have to get up at all? 

Taking some time to nail down exactly what success looks like in your life is the only thing that’s going to help you achieve it. Otherwise, it will remain a vague term that sounds good but really doesn’t mean anything at all. 

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