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Want to Be Successful? Rethink How You Define Success

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Want to be successful without sacrificing your health, relationships or happiness? Feel like you’re working too hard for what you’re receiving (and it’s not really worth it)?

You’re not alone. I see this a lot in my clients (who are also high-achievers). And it happens easily because:

  • You want to be respected, which often translates into saying yes to too many things.
  • You don’t want to be judged harshly (and people-please).

That’s how so many high-achievers end up successful on paper yet unfulfilled. They’ve been following the wrong path – one laid out by other people.

If that’s you, I have good news. You don’t have to stay in this place. If you want to be successful – truly successful – it’s time to redefine what success even is so you can create success on your own terms.

 

Success Isn’t Just About Achievement

We all tend to think of success as:

  • Making a certain amount of money.
  • Being considered an expert in our field.
  • Having a big house and/or expensive car.

And we’ve been convinced that all we need to do is work hard to achieve our goals and we’ll find success (and be happy).

I get it – I used to do the same thing. And so I tried to have it all by doing it all (and would just double down every time things got difficult). Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Every time I achieved something new, it felt somewhat empty. Even when it felt good, the good vibes were short and fleeting.

Eventually I found myself teetering on the edge of burnout. Everyone thought I had it all yet I was questioning why I’d ever wanted it. It wasn’t a good place to be in.

That’s when I began to realize success wasn’t what I had always thought it was. I hadn’t been thinking about it quite right.

Want To Be Successful At Life? Redefine Success

The truth is: you can work hard and amass all the money in the world, be the leading expert in your field, and be thought of as successful by others. . . yet feel empty inside. That’s not success.

If you don’t feel successful, then you’re not. Success starts – and is created – from within you. Based on your values, your needs and your priorities. And that means it includes your own happiness, fulfillment or contentment (whatever word resonates with you).

The key to creating your version of success is to redefine it so that it’s tailored uniquely to you.

Please note: I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have goals or work hard for them.  Instead, I’m telling you that you’ll never feel good about your success if you don’t set the right foundation, regardless of how hard you work.

And that means understanding yourself more deeply so that your definition is correct. That way, you set the right goals and end up in the place you want to be.

 

Woman working with intention at her desk

 

If You Want To Be Successful, Use What I Refer To As The GROW Method

How I Discovered Real Success

During the early days of my legal career, I thought I was successful.  I certainly was by society’s terms.  I was an attorney in a big Texas law firm (a life-long dream) and made great money.  I could buy myself whatever I wanted, had a nice car, and lived in a big house in a great neighborhood.  Initially, it felt good.  After all, I was a long way from the young girl who was made fun of for wearing the same clothes over and over at school.

Yet I quickly felt like something was missing.  I couldn’t put my finger on it for some time, but something felt off despite how hard I worked and all of my achievements.  Instead of feeling happy, I was stressed and felt like I was wasting my life.

Thanks to my husband pointing out that I had a choice as to how I lived my life, I eventually realized that I was the problem.  I’d been defining success all wrong. The definition for success that I’d been using didn’t have any real meaning for me.  It wasn’t based on who I was on the inside.

This realization opened a new door for me.  I knew that I had a choice and that my definition needed to be based on my needs, my values, and my priorities for my life.  That’s when I came up with the GROW Method (although I didn’t give it the fancy name until recently). The GROW Method is a process for redefining success on your own terms so that you can achieve success and happiness.

What is the GROW Method and How Does It Work?

The GROW Method is a process to help redefine success your own way so that you aren’t merely successful on paper but happy with your success (and frankly, when things don’t go as planned because that’s life!).

It’s a different way of looking at what success means and will transform the way you think about it. Instead of thinking as success as something that you achieve (and includes a bunch of stuff you don’t really care about), you’ll transform it into a way of living and being.

Implementing the GROW Method will make you happier and more confident – even before you achieve your goals.  And it will increase the likelihood that you’ll achieve your goals too.

G = Get Rid Of What’s Not Yours

The first step in the GROW Method requires you to ditch the “shoulds”.

A “should” is an unwritten rule, familial expectation, or societal standard that you’ve adopted because you feel you’re expected to – often because of a role you play, your career/profession, societal norms and/or family expectations (or what you think they expect of you).  And you’ve undoubtedly adopted some of these standards as part of your definition of success without knowing it.

It’s time to root your “shoulds” out and leave them behind.  Because, although those definitions may work for others, they’re not yours.  And if you use a definition of success that doesn’t align with who you are, then you’ll never feel very successful.  Even if you achieve “success” as you’ve been defining it. 

Once you start getting rid of your “shoulds”, move onto the next step…

 

Woman conducting a self-review

 

R = Reassess Your Needs and Values

Since success requires you to be happy and fulfilled, it’s important to ensure your success definition enables you to feel content in who you are and your decisions. That means that you must meet your core needs and honor your values.

Unmet needs make you needy – and meeting them help you feel more satisfied with yourself and the world. Your values are a large piece of what brings purpose and meaning to your life. And so your definition of success should be based upon both your core needs and values.

Let’s dig a bit deeper so you can get clarity around what these are and how to meet them.

Core Needs

Your core needs are those needs that must be met if you want to feel cared for, respected, and whole.  To help you get clarity around them, consider when you’ve felt:

  • Disrespected or deeply hurt by other people.
  • Exposed and/or insecure.

Look for common themes (commonalities will point to core needs).

Ask what need wasn’t getting met or was being disrespected in these instances. And then identify what must happen for this need to be fully met.

For example, let’s say that you have a core need to feel secure.  That could mean different things to different people.  One person with this need could be talking about financial security (and hence needing to have a certain amount of savings and investments).  Someone else with this need might define it as feeling secure in their job and the role they play within their family.

Personal Values

Personal values act as a compass for your decision-making. They’re the rules you consider important for meeting if you want to live a life that’s meaningful. When aligned with your personal values, you’ll feel more content. When not aligned, life will feel chaotic and purposeless.

To determine your core personal values (meaning, those that are so important that they must be honored if you’re to feel fully YOU), look again to your past.  Consider when you’ve been most upset with yourself and ask what you did (or didn’t do) that made you so upset.

And again look for common themes.

As with your core needs, define your values with specificity (otherwise it will be difficult to move on with the GROW Method).

For help with how to identify and align yourself around your personal values, read my article about How to Redefine Yourself For Happiness.

 

Picture of woman at coffee shop working

O = Overcome Your Objections

You’ve likely been taught that it’s wrong to place too much (or any) value on certain things.  Things such as: risk, attractiveness, having fun, wealth, to excel, to have influence, to win and so on. And yet these are common values.

When you let go of societal and familial standards and adopt your own definition of success, it feels vulnerable. You might worry about being judged. Some of your newly discovered needs and values might make you feel a bit uncomfortable, even anxious.

I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. It’s time to stop judging yourself and overcome this thinking.  Because everyone wants to be successful.  It’s normal to want to make money, live well, be thought of positively, influence others, feel good, look good, and excel at what we do.  It’s even okay.  Wanting these things isn’t bad.  And you can do much good with them.  It’s time to trust yourself and accept who you are.

One other thing that may be holding you back is fear.  Fear that you’ll start caring about being successful, yet won’t make it.  But here’s the thing: you’re more likely to succeed if your definition of success is defined your way.  Because it will be something you’ll want to work towards.

Besides, you’ll never be or feel successful if you don’t define it appropriately for yourself.  It’s time you own up to that.

 

Picture of content, happy woman

 

W = Way of Being

If you truly want to be successful, it’s time to stop thinking of success as a static place you get to. Success is a way of living and being.  To be your best, you must continually learn and grow.  And that’s part of being successful – to acknowledge that there’s always something more to do, learn, and achieve.

For more about how to view success in this way – and create it from the inside-out – listen to my Life & Law Podcast episode about How To Redefine Success From The Inside-Out here.

Being successful requires curiosity – about life and those around you, about yourself and about how to continually learn.

This means that your definition of success isn’t an end-point.  It’s your vision for how you want to live your life.  And you can start living this way now. 

This doesn’t mean that you won’t have goals.  Because you will.  But you’ll no longer define success purely based on achievement of these goals.  Instead, your goals (and the actions you take to achieve your goals) will be part of how you choose to live out your success definition.

When you view success as a way of living (and view your goals as pieces to your overall success puzzle), you’ll find that you’re more open to learning.  Especially from any surprises or setbacks that occur while you’re trying to achieve your goals.  And, instead of seeing these as failures, you’re more likely to learn from them and change course.  Which will lead to more success along the way.

[Recommended Reading: How To Be Confident Again After Failure (5 Strategies)].

If You Want To Be Successful, It’s Time To Put This All Together

It’s time to redefine what success means to you using the GROW Method – and start living your life to its fullest YOUR WAY. Let’s quickly recap how to do that:

  1. Get rid of what’s not yours (especially the “shoulds”).
  2. Reassess your needs and values.
  3. Overcome your internal objections.
  4. Make success a way of being and living (not a destination).

Do this to start living life the way you want, and create success on your own terms. It’s the only way to become happily successful.


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Hey there, I’m Heather

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FORMER BIGLAW LAWYER (FOR 18+ YEARS)

LAWYER LEADERSHIP & BUSINESS COACH

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I’m here to help purpose-driven lawyers and other professionals (like you) build your ideal career to support the life you actually want. Because you shouldn’t have to choose between professional success & personal happiness.

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