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WHAT IS SUCCESS?

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

How do you measure success, and how far does your perception of success rely upon external validation? These are questions my clients and I regularly ask ourselves; here are my thoughts.

What is success? For me? For my business? Are they aligned?

Is it about career progression? Or, more nebulously, about others’ perception of progression? Or is success something more personal, more internal?

It is both of these: the external and the internal. But measuring success by external validation, which I prioritised for many decades, is probably less interesting to me now than internal validation.

Fantastic. Brilliant. But what does that insight actually mean as we look to the future?

For me it means greater balance in my life. It means doing more of what makes me feel content or happy. It means being challenged and stimulated. It means stretching myself and learning. It means doing things that I feel are important, that matter, that have impact or purpose. It means contributing to society.

These are all evaluations made by me first, not others. Things controlled by me, not by others.

I’m not alone on this journey for a new definition of success. Look at the numbers of people who’ve decided, after two years of Covid, to step away from stable jobs to redefine their work life for themselves. In many cases they too have realised their old measures of success aren’t bringing them happiness.


Many of my coaching clients are going through transitions or taking their teams and their organisations through them. The CEOs I talk with are working to find a new way to motivate their employees in this new context. The entrepreneurs are building business plans that take into consideration the new expectations of their customers and their staffs.

Senior executives transitioning to a new definition of themselves are very much struggling with the same set of questions of success as I.

Any of this sound familiar?


This reconsideration of success by so many people also affects an analysis of global dynamics, given its impact on the future of work and changing public expectations for the corporate world.

Each of us has to find our own unique answer for our specific moment. It requires work and time. It requires deep thought. I realise that I will have to do this again in time: success this year might not be what I want and need for next year.

As I transition from the more externally to internally-driven validation of success, can I live without the affirmation that comes from others? I would like to think, yes. But over the past year I have found that it is quite hard; external approval matters.


As I close this train of thought, I leave you with another question I have asked of myself. Why, in fact, do I need to measure my success? Why is such an evaluation important? Why is living in the present not enough?


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