How to define success on your own terms

Do what you want

This article was updated on Jan. 12, 2018.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we think we should be doing to invite success into our lives. We read blogs, we subscribe to newsletters, we talk with family members and friends, we peruse Pinterest, we follow people on Facebook — there’s information and advice galore out there. We live in a remarkable time with remarkable tools for learning and social interaction. If you’re wondering how to define success, there’s virtually no shortage of information.

How To Define Success
Artwork from Jessica Swift.

While there are obvious advantages to having access to so much information, it’s also a bit of a slippery slope. It’s easy to begin believing that other people have all the answers. If you just do what so-and-so says, then you’ll be successful. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people who do similar things and wish you had their success. It’s easy to believe that everyone has it figured out except for you and that you’re doing it all wrong.

The thing is, so-and-so doesn’t know you. What worked for these folks might not necessarily work for you. They don’t know the details of your life, the things you like to do, what scares you, what your strengths are, your individual work/life balance … but you know who does? Yep, you!

Give yourself permission to take your power back and change how to define success on your own terms.


You know what you need to do, for you. No one could possibly know better than you. Take time to get quiet, listen, and then move deliberately forward — the answers will come. The more you work that inner voice muscle (we’ve all got one!), the easier it’ll be to live into your own version of success.

How to define success in 5 steps

Here are five powerful ways to start tuning into your own inner voice and defining what success looks like, according to you.

  1. Create [your name here] land.

  2. Unsubscribe from things that make you feel overwhelmed.

  3. Assess your current beliefs about success.

  4. Determine what you want success to feel like.

  5. Take three small steps toward success every day.

Ready to envision your future in a way that works for you? Take a closer look at each of these steps so you can define success on your own terms instead of comparing yourself to others.

1. Create [your name here] land

Close your eyes and dream up what your ideal life might look like. One where you feel the most like you, where you’re filled with joy, where you’re doing work that you love, where you’re surrounded by the type of people you resonate with. Don’t worry if it seems crazy or unattainable. Just sink into that feeling of a life you would love living, and let yourself marinate in it.

Here are some things to consider while you’re dreaming:

  • What do you see/hear/feel/smell/taste/etc.?
  • What’s the best part of your day?
  • What do you not have to worry about?
  • How do you feel? (Aim for three to five main feelings.)
  • Who is with you?

Write down every keyword and experience that feels important from your dreaming time. Then, circle the ones that intuitively speak to you the most right now.

Think about:

  • What can you do to bring more of those feelings and experiences into your life right now?
  • How can you use these dream discoveries to craft your personal definition of success?

Once you’ve jotted all that down, move on to the next step.

2. Unsubscribe from things that make you feel overwhelmed

If it makes you feel icky, it’s not for you — simple as that. Nothing that you’re taking in should make you feel bad about yourself. Unsubscribe from that blog or newsletter! Even if you think you should read it because everyone else is, or because they’re an industry expert, or whatever — if it makes you feel icky or small, nix it. Then bask in the feeling of empowerment that follows.

3. Assess your current beliefs about success

Take five minutes to quickly write down all your beliefs about success. Don’t think about it too much — just get your initial thought on the page as fast as you can. Look over the list. Really think about each belief you wrote down. Is it something you truly believe? Is it something you picked up from childhood? Are there beliefs that need updating?

Cross out all the beliefs you disagree with.

Make a list of new beliefs about success. Take a new mental snapshot of what success looks like to you. If it’s helpful, start with this phrase: “I am willing to believe that success is …” Sometimes this phrase is helpful because it can give you some space to move into the belief and try it out. Read this phrase every day to remind yourself of your new belief.

4. Determine what you want success to feel like

How To Define Success Happiness

Write down five important ways you want to feel as a successful person. Maybe you want to feel supported, creative, powerful, innovative, on the cutting edge, calm, joyful — there’s no right or wrong here. Only you can know how you ultimately want to feel in your life.

Next, for each feeling, think of five ways that you can start creating more of it in your life and your creative business right now. Consider what would change if you used those feelings as guideposts in your decision-making and strategizing. Doing more things that make you feel the way you want to feel will lead to more success.

5. Take three small steps toward success every day

Adopt the idea of doing three things every day that lead in the direction of your definition of success. Small steps in a deliberate direction can add up quickly and lead to big success! This is also a way to keep from feeling overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done to move in the direction of your dreams — choosing three things to focus on each day is manageable and is something our brains can easily understand.

Write down your three steps each morning or at the end of each workday.


And here’s the key: do your three steps every day so you create momentum, and it becomes a habit. You’ll be on your way to achieving goals and living your successful life in no time.

How to define success

Last but not least, remember that you are in command here. Step into your power, change how to define success on your own terms, and then start living it. You already have all the answers you need inside you. Get quiet, listen, and then move deliberately forward, and you’ll be moving toward the life of your dreams.

Image by: RebeccaVC1 via Compfight cc