Create a success plan: 4 questions to start

Create a success plan: 4 questions to start

The definition of success changes. Success is to live your life with integrity and not give in to peer pressure to be something you’re not. Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else’s path; unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, then by all means, you should follow that. -Ellen DeGeneres

A client once shared with me she felt she wasn’t achieving enough.  She thought she should probably be “doing more” in her career.  And yet, my client had built a life balancing a successful career while maintaining plenty of time to be with her family.  When asked whether she was happy and satisfied, she said yes.  But the thought nagged at her that she needed to achieve more.

What could be happening?

My client had not defined success for herself.  She was ‘feeling’ something was missing.  But she didn’t know what that was.

I wondered, “Is it that she isn’t successful and needs to do more? Or is it that she hasn’t taken the time to reflect on what success means to her?”

Whatever the answer, her model of success is out of alignment with her current day-to-day life?

Are you feeling unsuccessful?

Most of walk around with some sort of feeling of not feeling ‘good enough.’ This is a pretty crappy feeling and you don’t want to hang out here very long. Part of you might feel like giving up. Another part of you might be looking to take action to get out of the rut.

More often than not, we look to get busy. We start action plans so we ‘feel’ successful. But then we don’t feel anything – just busy. Believe me when I say the answer isn’t just about getting busy. Sure, you need to take action. But first, you want to crystal clear about what is means to be successful.

If you feel you have been banging your head against the wall your current model of success may not be working for you. Getting clear on what success means for you helps you aim your energy and your precious time toward what you really want.

In addition, you want to take stock about what is already working. There are parts of your life that are likely successful. But maybe you aren’t giving those things a moments notice. If you aren’t, then you won’t be acknowledging those places where you are making and want to keep progress.

Avoid the pitfalls! What to avoid when creating your success plan.

Part of the reason why we might find our definition of success out of sync with our lives is because we’ve fallen into some traps . As you unfold your definition of success, consider these pitfalls discussed below.

Pitfall #1:  Letting others define your success

The very first people to define our success were our parents or caregivers.  Then, others (friends/peers, teachers, coaches, church leaders) weighed in with their views of success.  Over time, many of us have crafted – intentionally or by default – a definition of success heavily driven by these key influencers.  To be sure,  these trusted key influencers were critical in our formative years and helped shape us into strong members of society.  But we do not want to adopt their lens of success wholly without doing our own inquiry.  The key step to avoiding this pitfall is to be more introspective about our own personal definition of success while considering this external advice to be a potentially useful input.

Pitfall #2:  Comparing yourself to others

It is no secret that we can fall prey to comparing ourselves to others to measure our success.  All around us are people who appear on the surface to have more than we do.  Facebook and the popular media seem to drive the point home that others are doing better than we are.   But is this really true?  Focusing outwardly on what others have can be a significant pitfall to defining and measuring your own personal success.

Ultimately, many people are seeking meaning and happiness – not wealth and status.  And your personal definition of happiness is completely guided by your intrinsic needs.  Paying attention and feeding this part of yourself can help you find the “wealth” you may be longing for.  This is why it is critically important to best understand your own needs and wants first.

Pitfall #3:  Only defining success as achieving something

Since we were wee little people, we’ve been taught that meeting a goal = success.  Getting a promotion = success.  Getting a good grade = success.  This is not a terrible thing!  But it’s no wonder we define success solely or even mostly as something at the end of a process.  If that is our only definition of success, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Consider whether success is less about the destination and more about the journey.  Let’s take training for a running race. Sure, we want to achieve that goal, but what if we take some time to enjoy part of the process along the way, our milestones, and the feeling of learning more and improving?  What if we defined success as also considering the feeling of getting better, stronger, and more empowered by running longer distances?  If you approached training this way, you would feel more success along the way, not just on the day of the race.

If you follow a path to success that isn’t your own, you may achieve your goals, but when you arrive at your destination, you may not feel successful or fulfilled at all.

Ian Christie,


Create your success plan

Part 1: Understand what YOU mean by success

In truth, there isn’t a “correct” way of defining success.  There is your way.  Success is dependent on each individual.  You have the power to design your own success model.  Defining success on your own terms means answering four important questions to get you started:

How do you want to feel in your life? Grounded? Curious? Calm? Driven?  Here you want to think about the exact feelings you want to feel in your day to day.   It is not about your action plan just yet. You want to know how you want to feel exactly once you have achieved your goal or how you want to feel day to day.

What actions will help you get you that feeling?  Once you define that feeling, identify some specific actions that will help you achieve this feeling.  For example, if you want to feel more energized at work then what could you do to feel more energized?  If you want to feel a sense of calm in your life, what specifically can you do to feel more calm

What do you really value? If we stop and think, we will see that really matters to us are linked to what we value in our lives. Often, we don’t really value working or money. When we think about what is valuable to us we tend to focus on family, friends, rich experiences, causes we belief in, and well-being. We also look to our core values.

When you think of having a meaningful life, what does that mean for you?  This is another question that gets to the heart of success. If you step away from the day-to-day to do list, you step away from the pitfalls of how others define success (read the Pitfalls above!!), you and truly take in the big picture. What does a meaningful life look like? What is an ideal day? An idea year?

Part 2: Create success statements

Once you spend some time reflecting on these questions, you can take the extra step of completing success statements. Your success statement will include 3 elements: a feeling, an action, and a time frame.

Here are some examples:

I am feeling calm because I am exercising and creating more space in my calendar on a daily basis.

I am feeling accomplishment and a weight off my chest because I launched my website by creating space every day to complete by March 31.

I am feeling light-hearted because I am creating space to discover new things with my family every weekend.

There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in your own way.

American author Christopher Morley


Part 3: Define your Plan

Once you have gotten very clear about what success means for you, you can write your plan. This is the stuff you already know. It is about defining Specific Achievable Measurable Realistic Timeframe specific action items.

I won’t belabor how you can do this because I trust you know how to do this already.

The one thing I want to urge you to think about is focusing. Too often, we create unrealistic plans for our lives. We decide we must work on five different things at once. And then nothing happens.

I urge you to pick one or maybe two success statements and start there. You might have written out 5, 7, or even 10 success statements. That is great. There are many different aspects of our lives.

But when you focus your energy somewhere, you will make actual progress. Focus first.

Defining success is itself a journey

I have personally transformed my definition of success. The old definition was heavily focused on work and the new one is now defined more by my strengths in helping people feel empowered and connection with other people. But I am routinely (several times a year) refining how my lens of success. It is a never-ending journey.

As for my client?  When she took the time to think about what success really meant for her, it was in fact the life she had already created for herself.  She began to realize that nagging thought she needed to “do more” was driven by something that was planted inside by her parents long ago.   And she was relieved to know she was already further along on her success path than she thought.

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