How to Define Success


May 17

Success is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot. People say they want to be successful when they grow up. You might hear comments that a surgery or procedure was successful. The idea of success is an essential aspect of life so the act of defining success should be common practice.

When I begin working with a client to develop a strategic plan, it always starts with defining success. Typically, new entrepreneurs struggle with this process because they approach it from the wrong direction. I will come back to this point.

According to Merriam-Webster, success is defined as a “favorable or desired outcome.” Great, problem solved—end of the blog.

Okay, maybe not.

A favorable or desired outcome makes sense. But the heart of the question is, what exactly is the desired outcome? The answer IS, and should be, different for everyone.

Think back to the ideas of success at the beginning of the blog – what does it mean to be a successful grownup? For one person, success might mean living in a moderate house and having the freedom to stay home with the kids. Another person might define success as having all the newest gadgets and climbing the corporate ladder. Neither answer is necessarily wrong.

I said earlier that many new entrepreneurs usually approach this from the wrong direction. It’s pretty standard for people to think about success in terms of other people. It’s a classic case of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Some answers I see regularly are:

  • Success equals LOTS of money.
  • Success equals EXPLOSIVE growth.
  • Success equals fame, popularity, millions of followers on social media.

The reality is that it doesn’t matter how Merriam-Webster, the world, or anyone else defines success (the desired outcome). It only matters how you define it.

So, where do you start when it comes to identifying your desired outcome? When I work with clients, I have exercises to pinpoint their values and what truly matters to them.

Let’s take me, for example. I value my faith, family, strong character, hard work, building something from nothing, and helping others with honesty and integrity. And it’s not just the act of helping others. I value helping others in a way that demonstrates that I care about them, their business, and their success.

After 14 years, I believe I have achieved my desired outcome. I have the freedom to spend time with my family and work in a profession where I get to help aspiring entrepreneurs every day. This is a path I want to continue.

While my desired outcome may resonate with others, it doesn’t mean that they will want precisely the same desired result, and that’s okay. Success is all about finding your desired outcome and the path for you to reach it.

Take the time to identify your values and what is truly important. Once you’ve done that, you are well on your way to defining what success means to you and how that fits in with your overall strategic plan.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with this process, that’s okay. I would love to help you work through this progression. Feel free to shoot me an email at if you’d like some help or just want to talk. My desired outcome is helping you define yours.

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