And I have had many successes in my life. I graduated first in my class in the College of Education at Virginia Tech. I made a positive impact on children when I was an elementary teacher. I know our survey software products have made a real difference in the lives of thousands of people in organizations worldwide during the past 15 years. And my husband Lee and I live in a beautiful home that he built for us seven years ago.
But I must say that none of those achievements comes close to the feelings of success I've experienced as a parent and wife.
Whether you're starting a business, leading a team of people at work, trying to raise responsible children, or pursuing any challenging goal, there are no guarantees that you'll have a successful outcome. You'll need to overcome an amazing number of obstacles along the way, many of them out of your control. And sometimes there are unexpected - even devastating - events that come along which you feel totally unprepared to handle.
I know. I've experienced them myself as an entrepreneur, as a spouse, as a parent and simply as a human being as I live my life. In those moments, I certainly didn't feel like a success. I felt lost, uncertain, less confident...more like a failure.
As a result of living through difficult moments like these, I'm now able to remind myself that these events do not define who I am any more than a single spectacular achievement does. Instead, I've developed a different attitude when faced with an uncomfortable or even painful challenge. Now I recognize it as an opportunity to grow. Deep down I realize that I not only will get through it, I'll learn from the experience and have new wisdom that can be applied to future situations.
That shift in my attitude represents a success in itself because it has made a huge difference in the way I react to events as they unfold.
Being clear about what "success" means to you will make it easier to set priorities, honor commitments and make choices that are consistent with your values. If you haven't thought about it for a while, I encourage you to answer this question and share your comments here:
What does SUCCESS mean to you?