5 Steps to Define Success and Achieve It

Define and achieve success with these 5 steps. Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Money. Fitness. Education. Job title. Number of friends. House size. Quality of friendships. Simplicity. A healthy family. Free time to create.

These are all standards by which some people measure their success. And, predictably, these standards can often contradict each other.

You should know that the quickest way to become dissatisfied with your life is to adopt someone else’s view of what success looks like. It isn’t the fault of the media that there are so many definitions of success. However it is our fault when we fail to choose and pursue those things that make us happy.

Following these steps will help you define, purse, and achieve success.

Five steps to achieve success

First, define what makes you happy. Review the list above. Which of those things is truly important to you? Which of those things bring you deep joy and satisfaction? Perhaps none of them do exactly but some of them come close. List them on a piece of paper and draw a circle around those that come close to your definition. If they don’t quite get it right, draw a line away from the circle and choose a new, related word. Now choose 3 of them to focus on in the short term. You can expand your list later.


Second, create standards based on your current level of happiness. Perhaps you put “money” on your list, then you circled it and drew a line out to “make enough to retire comfortably.” We often use words like “comfortable” in describing our goals. However we seldom define that word. What does “comfortable” look like in this situation? Put a dollar value with it, and a date. Break it into steps.

You should focus on taking a dream goal and making it an actionable goal, with real steps. You can do this with money, fitness, education, and most of the goals there. Some may take longer than others, but worthwhile goals are seldom easy.


Third, do a tiny bit more every day. Perhaps your goal was fitness. You can start by examining your current level of fitness. Perhaps your best mail running time is not fast enough. Perhaps you get winded walking up the stairs in your house. Either way you can set goals like steps between your current level and your desired level of achievement.

One friend of the author was unhappy with how she looked in her daughter’s high school pictures. She knew she could not lose 60 pounds overnight. She did know that she had time every day to exercise, and that she could make better eating choices. So that’s what she did. One year, and 100 pounds later (!) she was walking every day and had completed multiple half marathons. To this day she even schedules her vacations around exercise – traveling to walk and run in half marathons in cities she has not visited before.


Fourth, set intrinsic goals. It is easy to get caught up in setting extrinsic goals, especially in an era of social media. Many of us have multiple social media accounts: Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more. Each of those has built in meters for their purpose of selling advertising that count the number of likes, views, shares, or referrals each post creates. This has created a tendency to base our happiness or our definition of success on factors that are outside of our control.

You can’t make people like your blog post. You can’t make a meme go viral. You can’t force people to love your potluck dish the best. And you shouldn’t set a goal over which you have no real power. It sets you up to fail or to succeed independent of the amount of effort you put in. However, choosing intrinsic goals allows you to define success based on your effort.

It puts YOU in control. There is no healthy outcome of placing the community on social media in charge of your success.


Finally, foster a sense of resilience. We have all had good days. Days where everything fell in line, where we woke up feeling productive, and our positive frame of mind carried us through the end of the day. Mid-day our task lists were done, and we were adding new things. The world seemed to be our oyster.

We have all also experienced the opposite of those days. The day when a sense of gloom seems to hang over us from the minute we wake up. When the coffee spills, our pet tore something up, the car won’t start, and that one colleague left an irritable message on our phone. The day where we got to the end and looked at our to do list in horror, seeing that none of it got done.

Expect that both positive and negative things will happen along the way. Most days are just ordinary days. But understanding the good and bad days both happen will help you foster a sense of normalcy when things go wrong. Bad days are recoverable. Good days lay ahead of us. Understand that if we couldn’t do a little more or a little better today, we can do one last thing before bed, and wake up to a new day tomorrow.

Maybe a counselor can help you achieve success

By following these five concepts, you can create a list of goals and work toward achieving them in a reasonable amount of time. As you become more confident you can add new goals and expand your possibilities.


If you struggle and find that you have more than your share of bad days talking to a counselor can help. Reach out to Sakina Issa directly, or read more about how to set personal goals, settle family strife, or even improve your communication with your child.

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