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What Does Success Look Like For You?

Written By Jessica Williams | Jan 18, 2018

To make the most out of your efforts to grow as a professional, it is important to define what success looks like so you can track your progress along the way. Make sure to take the time to stop and notice when you are successful. Celebrate your wins!

Maya Angelou defined success by saying, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

So if success is happiness, what will make you happy?

In order to figure out what will make you happy, let’s look at some of the areas where you might define success:

Money can buy emotional well-being, but only up until a point, says Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton. It’s important to look closely at your lifestyle choices and the amount of energy you want to spend on your career to figure out where the line is for you. For example, if you want to buy a nice home in the city, but don’t want to work too hard to afford it, you might have to make some compromises along the way.

Do you crave the status that comes from being in a high-profile position? For example, do you want to run for the state legislature or city-council and be in the public eye? Perhaps you’d like to win lots of awards in your industry for your extraordinary work? Or would you prefer a more private existence? It’s important to consider your desire for status when it comes to measuring success.

Many people see having lots of freedom to travel and the ability to spend time with family and friends as a form of success. This kind of reward often comes with a compromise in how you spend money, how much you are willing to work, and in what ways you prefer to work. For example, if you want loads of freedom, you could become an entrepreneur and set your own schedule. But going out on your own comes with significant risk in time, energy, and resources. What sacrifices are you willing to make for this type of success?

The responsibility to run projects, lead teams, and drive the direction of a company can be incredibly rewarding. Does it make you happy to be in charge? This can also be a huge measure of success for some people.

Having the opportunity to get creative at work is something that you might love. The exhilaration that comes from passionate creation can make you incredibly happy. Is this you? Do you love the reward that comes from creative projects? If so, make sure you include the opportunity to get creative as a mark of success in your professional development. This one thing can often mean the difference between happiness and discontent.

Whether you’re a working parent, a world-traveler, or you have a side-hustle, having the flexibility to leave work early, arrive late, or work remotely from anywhere in the world can make you feel like you’ve won the lottery. Flexibility can enable you to balance your work and personal obligations, goals and dreams, so make sure you include this in your professional development if this matters to you.

You might feel like you’ve hit the jackpot when the culture of your workplace — your coworkers, the perks, and the tone in the office — feel in alignment for you. So you’ll want to know exactly what kind of culture you’re looking for in your next job.

Where you work matters a lot. A long commute can make you unhappy and anxious, which can feel like failure instead of success. Also the style of the office and the nature of the workspace (open workspaces are very common these days) can make a difference in how much you enjoy being at work. What kind of location and office space will make you feel like a success?

Rewarding Work
At the end of the day, you might want your work to contribute to something bigger or know that it made a positive difference in the world. If your success is defined by making the world a better place, you have options — work at a socially responsible company, a nonprofit, or a for-profit company that has a social good arm like Warby Parker.

Whatever success looks like for you, at the end of the day it’s all about being happy. Make sure you’re tracking towards a healthy and joyful life by getting your priorities straight and working towards those goals.

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