How to Define Success || 4 Theories from 4 Successful Business Women

The following is a guest post by Jessica K.  Her bio follows.

Life’s been moving at the speed of light for me lately. All within the last 3 months, I quit a 6-figure job, got married, got into a nearly fatal car accident and totaled the car that I’d just paid off 2 months prior, bought our first house, and now about to move into that house. Throughout all these ups and downs, one of the constants that remained is my writing and blogging on Cubicle Chic. Since I’ve started freelancing, content ideas have been flowing and I’ve gotten quite a number of new collaborations.

This got me thinking…

Am I successful? Or at least… am I on the verge of being successful?

Let’s look at how conventional wisdom defines success:

  • Consumerism and American culture pretty dictate that success is material possession. Having a lot of “stuff” – a nice car, a big house, or expensive jewelry… means success.
  • Religious and spiritual teachings say that the state of contentment or a state of no more “wanting” is the ultimate goal.
  • In Corporate America, in the most black-and-white-no-gray-area way, success is defined by power and high positions.

But all of us can name at least one person in our life that has one of these things but still not happy, satisfied, or fulfilled.

Whether you’re on an uphill, downhill or a flat-out slump in life, I’m sure this question has crossed your mind about where this pursuit of success is supposed to lead you. When would you ever feel OK to not hustle and strife anymore, and would we ever be able to stop and pat ourselves on the back and admire our success, and just be content? It’s human to instinctively want to pursue success, but it’s also human to wonder just how to define success so we know we are “successful”?

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So, what is success? How do we ever know we are “successful” and how do we define success?

Success is a process. Recognize the bits and pieces as it happens

If we recognize the state of pursuing success as a continuous process, we must admit that it isn’t about what happens at the very end, or the big bow that we’re able to put on this whole process. It’s about counting all forms of success like the way we are told to count our blessings. Success isn’t one big thing, it’s many small things. Finishing a marathon isn’t the only form of success, it’s the pre-training, the start of the race, the persevering in the last 3 miles, and crossing the finish line. Success only feels fleeting because we recognize it at the end and we forget to celebrate the beginning and the middle.

“It feels like we constantly chasing a goal and even after we reach it, we’re ready for something more. The chase seems to be what drives us more than the actual “prize.” This happens to millennials more often because we’ve grown up in a world of instant gratification— binge watching a show, order anything to be delivered, and even getting SAT scores instantly. These things make it difficult to grasp and enjoy success when it’s happening to us. To help me recognize my “success” and at the very least enjoy it more, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal and each night I write down 3-5 things that went well that day and I’m grateful for. I do this because I’ve defined success as a process, and the process is that I’m moving forward so keeping a journal helps me with that.”- Lauren McGoodwin, CEO of Career Contessa

Success is being in the driver seat of your life and taking it wherever your heart desires

We know we’re supposed to “follow our dream” and “pursue our passion” but the truth is not all of us graduate college knowing what we want to do in life. And even for those of us who have a clear goal, we may not always be in the position (financial, education, resources, what have you) to pursue that goal.

So, whether you mentally will yourself to put in the work after your 9-5 to grow your blog (Cubicle Chic has been my after-work project for almost 2 years now!) or you have saved up from a salaried job so could afford to be unemployed and pursuing your true passion, or that you went through years of schooling to be able to work in a profession that you’ve had a calling to do, I would count these all as success.

“Success isn’t what you think you should do, rather, it’s following what you want to do. The biggest success in my eyes is using your talents and skills daily to achieve what your heart truly wants without thinking about society’s definition of prestige, wealth, and expectations. Crafting an ideal life you truly want to live is the ultimate definition of success. “ – Emily Liou, Career Coach and Founder of Cultivitae

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Have your own measure of success

Social media has fundamentally changed our way of life. Most significantly, it changed the way information travels. We are now 100x times more aware of what people have accomplished, not only because people are more likely to flaunt it, but also because our eyes are peeled to our phones where such information is displayed.

How can we not look at our own wardrobe and feel like we need to buy one more dress when we see posts after posts of beautifully styled outfits? How can we not feel like we need to work harder when we see our college classmate getting a coveted promotion? Or how can we need, or  feel like we need, to renovate our kitchen when we see our neighbors brand new cooking space?

Make it YOUR definition.

The answer is not letting others dictate what you want to create, own, or achieve. If you see someone else achieving something you want to achieve, understand where achieving those goals fit in your life. I’ve seen so many bloggers creating a blog for the wrong reasons – fame or quick money, and they get burned out so quickly because their goals they chase were never theirs. When you chase someone else’s goal, you tend to get lost in the process because you never fully understood the WHY. Have a goal, YOUR OWN goal, and know why you want to achieve this goal. That’s when the “chase” becomes meaningful and you don’t get burnt out.

“From what I’ve learned, the perception of success comes from setting an aim and accomplishing it. Life is always changing and there are always going to be another aim or goal. Don’t ever think that you’ve done enough but don’t let that bring you down. There are always going to be people ten steps ahead of you but there are also going to be people ten steps behind you. It’s the nature of the business. I really believe in going at your own pace and running your own race in your own time. I’m still learning and don’t exactly feel “successful” but I feel satisfied with the progress I’m making so I guess that’s a kind of success!” – Sangyay Chen, Model and Blogger @ Itssangtime

There’s no such thing as a selfish success. True success is always a collective one.

This is one of my more recent realizations. It dawned on me that helping others makes me feel really good about myself, so good that I’d call that feeling successful. When I answer a reader’s question about salary negotiations, when I point someone who’s lost in their career in the right direction, when I help someone pick out a week’s worth of outfits for a really important conference… all of these things make me want to do more what I do on Cubicle Chic.

And being in a position to help others, to have materials to teach others, to me, is a success. Being successful means being willing and able to help others achieve their goals, and through that, help them become successful.

If you exclude others in your process of reaching success, you won’t feel successful.

“Success is a team sport and is only achieved by bringing others along on your journey and lifting others up to achieve their goals. “ – Kelly Hoey, Investor, Business Strategist, & Author of Build Your Dream Network 

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Have you felt lost in the pursuit of success?

Remember, when you feel the urge to find the definition of success, just do the following:  1) recognize smaller successes because it’s not about the finish line, 2) know that if you’re actively pursuing success, you’re semi-successful, 3) pursue your own goals so the process of pursuit will feel meaningful, 4) help others succeed along the way. You don’t regret it!





About The Author

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Jessica is the writer behind personal style blog Cubicle Chic. In her early twenties, she has contemplated many career paths, such as a novelist, a physician assistant, a research scientist, a court translator (English to Mandarin Chinese), and a clinical research specialist. Eventually, she found her passion in marketing communications for life science companies. She continues to cultivate her interest and skills in many other fields, such as writing, career development, and self-improvement and hopes to help others do the same.




Image credits.

Main.    Success Def.  Dream.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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