“Success” is such a loaded word, isn’t it? So many of us are raised to believe that we don’t get to define this word for ourselves. We’re given a set path—go to college! get a good job! buy a house! raise a family! retire at 65.5 with a solid nest egg!—with little room for error. We feel judged if we deviate, or if things don’t go as planned. Our parents fret if we choose an alternate path.
Even one of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of success feels judgy: “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.”
But what if success could be defined differently—what if it could be defined by you?
I understand what it’s like to be bound by society’s definitions. I, like so many of my peers, felt a deep pressure in my chest to succeed by all measures. And I did a lot of the things my community told me to do: I went to college. I found a partner and got engaged.
But here’s where my own definition of success began to deviate from the norm. In 2009, my fiancé (now husband) and I decided to take a very different life path. We began dreaming of what success could look like for us. I turned down a full scholarship plus living stipend for graduate school (sorry, Dad!). We took jobs as teachers at an international school in the Dominican Republic. I started my business, and while it didn’t go so well the first year, I kept at it as we moved to Vietnam and then Ohio. I spent time clearly defining the vision for my life, and taking steps to make it happen.
To me, success includes: freedom of location and choice; a happy home life; financial stability and wealth creation; and a life of everyday adventure. I love our life in Portugal. It’s not perfect but it is something we chose, and I am grateful.
Many of my peers back home in Idaho probably look at my life and wonder what the heck I’m doing. And I get it. My life path has deviated so much from the American norm that it’s nearly unrecognizable. I’m cool with it. When you define success yourself—and you go full-on after the life you want—other people’s opinions don’t really matter, do they?
So, what about you? How do you define success? What does your success path look like, and are you currently on track to reach where you want to go in life? Below, I’ve curated some resources to help you: 1) define success for yourself, and 2) take active steps to reach that vision.
#1 Create a life vision with my life visioning guide.
Defining success begins with defining a life you truly want to live. From there, you can work backward to create a strategic plan and define the immediate action steps to help you make that life happen. (If you want to be a super-nerd like me, you might even use project management software to build out an 18-month plan!) To get you going, here’s my life visioning guide, which leads you through a step-by-step process to define your 1 year, 5 year, and 10 year life vision: https://stacyennis.com/lifevisioningguide.
#2 Understand your breaking point (read about mine).
I shared how my husband and I have worked together to create an alternative family life. But the reality is, I haven’t always been brave and adventurous. Everyone has moments in their lives that cause them to reflect or maybe even completely change their lives; my breaking point was transformative and helped me redefine success for myself. Have you had a breaking point—or do you need to? I got vulnerable about mine in this article: https://stacyennis.com/breakingpoint/.
#3 Focus on what you can control and how you can collaborate with others (listen to how).
Once you’ve defined success for yourself, the next step is to take action in your life. In this episode with Ron Price, we discuss how to regain control, take advantage of collaboration, and avoid draining your energy with concern. Ron is an internationally recognized business advisor, executive coach, speaker, and author—and altogether an incredible individual. Listen here: https://stacyennis.com/podcast/episode38/.
#4 Learn from others who can mentor and guide you (listen to my story).
My life has been forever and irrevocably impacted by the mentors in my life. As a kid, I turned to books to imagine new possibilities for myself; as an adult, I cobbled together the life experiences of people I admired to help me understand how to get from point A to point B. How about you? Who is someone living the life you want to live? How did they get there? If you desire location independence or to become an author, this radio interview I did might be helpful as you envision your own path: https://soundcloud.com/radioboise/ids-083-stacy-ennis-co-author.
How about you? How do you define success? What does it mean to you, and what active steps are you taking to reach your definition of success? Share with me in the comments—I love hearing from you!