Friday, January 8, 2010

How Do You Define SUCCESS?

When I was in high school, the senior class voted for individuals who were standouts in some area,  such as "Most Popular" or "Most Athletic." I was voted "Most Likely to Succeed."

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.

To see the person our 25 year-old daughter Alison has become and the joy she brings to our lives each day - and to reflect on the 27+ years I've shared with my husband and best friend - make everything else pale in comparison.

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?


  1. As you say, success has little to with wealth or having things. And it's different for everyone. There are four or five things that are really important to me. If I can achieve them in my life, I would call that success.

  2. All true, Meredith. One thing leads to another.

    Love the happiness in that picture.

  3. Denny, you're right, success is different for each person. And there really are just those few key things that matter most. We each need to be clear about them so we make them priorities in our daily lives.

    Kathleen, I appreciate your comment about the photo. Glad that joy comes through!

  4. Great Post! Great Photo! Great Truth! Thank you for the reminder to "bring it all home" (and your classmates' prediction was right!)
    Happy weekend! Hal

  5. Success to me means learning to really love myself. This is the basis for so many other things - really being there for others, enjoying everything I do, being present, feeling connected to the world, having love and peace in my heart no matter what is going on around me...Thanks for the post, Meredith!

  6. Hal, Thanks for all the affirmations! They sure feel good.

    Linda, I appreciate your sharing what success means for you. That first one sure is key. I really have to work on being present. Sometimes I completely miss the moment I'm in because I'm focused in my mind on something else.


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