What does success mean to you? Is success material things – a flash new car or huge house – or a state of mind, a feeling, a meaningful place of comfort you wish to achieve?

Success comes from setting out to achieve something. You make a plan and have an expectation of how it’ll turn out. Then, it will either work as you expected it to, or it won’t.

When a client tells me that they want to set a goal to achieve something, we work on defining what the outcome looks like. My post G is for Goals explains how to do that. My next question is, “How will you know when you’ve got there?”

KPIs and CPIs

In business, we talk about KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Within each KPI is a subset that I call CPIs (Critical Performance Indicators). That’s because every KPI has one or two Critical indicators – if they don’t work, everything else falls apart. In most businesses, the CPI is about cash flow, especially if that’s critical to the result.

So, KPIs and CPIs are one way to measure if we’re on track towards a successful outcome.

Physical and Emotional Success

Physical success is material things, such as a bigger house, a faster car, or a level of income to maintain a desired lifestyle. They are easy to measure, but they’re not what most people find satisfying. Material things don’t truly make us happy, just a level of comfort or pleasure.

Emotional success is less easy to quantify. I’ll ask, “How do you feel? How will you know, on an emotional level, whether you’re successful?” They usually reply, “Well, I’ll just know!”

Much of the work I do around personal success is getting you to the point of feeling happy, fulfilled and content with what you have to live the lifestyle you want. That feeling might be hard to define and quantify to measure, yet they are what makes us happy.

Combining Success with Purpose

Success is usually linked to purpose. Practical, material measures might be linked to tangible short-medium-term goals. Your longer-term sense of purpose, though, sits above them. Purpose provides genuine motivation, your reason to get out of bed, and a deeper level of satisfaction.

Satisfaction is linked to emotional success. Perhaps you’re a business owner creating a legacy for someone. Success might be a happy retirement where you reflect on life, satisfied with what you achieved.

The Emotional Scale

Success has many different facets. If success for you is happiness, I’ll use my trustee 1-10 scale when asking how happy you feel today. If it’s not 10 out of 10, what’s getting in the way? Let’s find some goals to change that. That simple 1-10 scale helps you recognise how you feel emotionally, measuring emotional success.

We’re all different, so your level of satisfaction will need its own scale. For instance, if a major emotional event has occurred, such as a bereavement, your happiness level will be low. If you’re still getting out of bed and accomplishing tasks, your scale may be eight because you’re pleased with how you’re managing your sadness.

Comparing yourself to others will always have a negative impact. Your perception of their success is based on what they say – remember, it’s a façade! If we genuinely knew the pressures they were dealing with, we wouldn’t trade lives. Material wealth isn’t necessarily going to satisfy a sense of purpose or a genuine desire for happiness.

When people keep wanting faster cars, bigger houses and luxurious holidays, maintaining that lifestyle puts more pressure on them.

My success is based on simply having time. Time to enjoy a cuppa with a friend or sit quietly in the garden with a book. Those moments come from managing my day, balancing my life. My success could be measured by cups of tea I’ve had or meetup dates in my diary!

Success is being satisfied on your own path irrespective of what others are doing.

Tracking and Measuring

Once you’ve defined what you want to achieve, work out how to track and measure your progress. In business, we have monthly reports. Individually, it can be far simpler:

  • Journal your days or weeks and reflect on them regularly
  • Gratitude journals are a helpful reminder of the positives on a bad day
  • Make notes whenever you receive a special thank you or testimonial to keep things in perspective when a day isn’t going to plan

When we don’t feel successful, some people consider that failing. I help people look at failure as just information, a bit of data. Then, you can choose what to do.  That data could be highlighting a gap between your expectations and what you actually achieved, depending on the circumstances.

I don’t generally use the word failure – I say it didn’t go to plan. If someone feels like a failure, I’ll ask about their expectations and reality. Exploring those shows us whether the gap can be closed by managing expectations. Most likely, Plan A wasn’t fit for purpose, so let’s make Plan B. That’s a healthier point of view that helps you progress, instead of the thought of failure stopping you in your tracks. You’re still travelling towards success; we simply need to adjust the path.

Do you dwell on feeling like a failure? Or fixate on one bit of negative feedback despite having lots of positive ones? Knowing your personality style will help you deal with those feelings. This is where coaching is really valuable, helping you to put things into perspective.