Finding Your Definition Of Success
Article Published by: hr.com
Why lasting achievements outweigh fleeting moments
By Katie Rasoul
I used to define success in line with societal rewards. It is common for us to accept the definition of success that someone told us we should have or that we learned by gathering the context clues from what society seems to honor, like climbing the corporate ladder or going to college. In fact, I didn’t realize there could be another way to define it.
I started by beginning to think of success in bigger and longer terms. In the biggest and longest litmus test, I visualized what I wanted my final thoughts to be as I died at the end of my life. Never once have I imagined in that moment that I would hope I had worked more, answered more emails, or that I had won more awards. In that moment of reckoning when it all gets summed up, I would want to know with every fiber of my being that I changed peoples’ lives for the better and made a difference in the world. So that, in turn, became my purpose.
I then began to work backward from the end of life (which is hopefully many decades away) and think in smaller increments. Is what I envision twenty years from now in line with my purpose? What about what I am doing 10 years from now? Five years? One year? Right this moment? I am willing to believe that some part of you knows that what you are doing right now with your life does not fully align with the truth you are looking for on your last day of life. Now is the day you can begin to make small changes toward the future you want.
Let’s pause for a minute to step back into the reality of your actual current situation. You have a propensity for achievement, so of course, you have had moments in your life that were big accomplishments and made you feel wildly successful in that moment. I mean, come on! We are achievement addicts – it feels really good. I want you to think back to a time when you felt really successful, perhaps at work. I remember times when one of the top executives of my company would come and give rave reviews for the work my team was doing. That felt amazing! It felt like winning, like total success. And it was success.
In hindsight, there is a difference between that moment of feeling excited versus experiencing a feeling of long-term, lasting fulfillment. On my deathbed, I will not be thinking of accolades or those short-lived shooting star moments, but I will be cataloging whether or not I changed peoples’ lives, whether the work I did matter. If you imagine on your deathbed that awards and winning will be your focus, that is perfectly normal and okay; no judgment. I am simply trying to clarify the difference between when we feel “successful” for a moment and things that match our definitions of success for long-term fulfillment.
If I reflect on those fleeting moments of feeling successful, they do not withstand my test:
• Do they feel successful? Yes.
• Is it good work? Yes.
• Will it matter a year from now? Probably not.
• Does it alter the course of the world for the better? No.
What is my definition of success? Creating something that alters the course of the world for the better, and maintaining the life I love. Success would be creating something that alters the course of the world for the better.
So… What’s yours?
About Scott Livengood
Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.
Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.
Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.
He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.