For many of us, January signals a time to think about the year ahead and start making some decisions and plans.

What will make this a great year for you?

Our energy, motivation and resources are rarely limitless, so how will you choose to invest yours in 2016?

I was recently reminded of a conversation I had with a teacher friend of mine.  She had set an assignment for her Year 6 junior school pupils and asked them to write about “What do you want and hope for in your future?”

When reading their work, there was a distinct pattern; iPads/gadgets/new technology, a good car, a big house, some said a family, others said to be famous but mostly they wanted lots of stuff!  All except for one child who said they wanted a happy life.  Such insight and wisdom at the age of 10 don’t you think?

It made me wonder what people set out to achieve – be it at the start of a new year or over a lifetime.  What constitutes success for each of us and how will we know when we’ve got it?

So let’s try a quick experiment.  If I were to describe someone as successful, what image does this conjure up for you?

My guess is that you see someone affluent, prosperous or well-off, possibly in a position of high status/respect in their chosen field.

If you were to consider it for longer the image may become more multi-layered, but generally we use “successful” to define someone who has “done well for themselves” – someone who has pursued their goals and achieved them.

Of course success is a very subjective term, influenced by our own personal value system, and the definition you apply to your own success may look quite different.  Perhaps your success involves being good at something, achieving or discovering something noteworthy, having positive relationships with others, giving something back, being happy or simply getting to the end of each busy day knowing you have done your best……

The point is, how clear are you about what you want to succeed at? 

Here are 4 thoughts to help you think through what success means to you in 2016 or beyond:

Thought #1

The critical bit is identifying and prioritising what you want your life to be like – I mean what you REALLY want.  Because this is what will drive your decisions; this is the clarity that helps you to compromise on the right things and helps enable you to feel happy with the outcome.

Try writing it down – you are more likely to achieve what you want if you write it down and review it regularly.  Music to the ears of those who love writing lists, and worth the pain if you don’t!

Thought #2

We tend to focus on and be motivated by the outcome we want from our success i.e. what it gives us, how it makes us feel etc.  So it is important to consider what your success would look like and what would be happening in your life if you were achieving it.  Does this match what you really want?

Thinking back to those children in year 6, what choices might they make in their quest to gain the stuff they desire?  And what other areas of their life might they neglect as a result? On further discussion, they may re-think their hopes – fortunately they still have plenty of time to think about it.

Thought #3

Our view of success can change. For example,  I often speak with people who made career choices based on what they wanted in their early 20’s, then hit their 30’s or 40’s and realised those things no longer  held the same meaning for them.  Priorities shift, perceptions evolve and we (hopefully) learn from our choices.  Listen to the voice in your head if it says “this doesn’t feel good anymore”!

Thought #4

I recently read that successful people ask questions – sometimes seemingly impossible questions or ones they don’t (yet) have the answer to.  So, ask the questions, be curious, dare to face ambiguity. How about considering these ones:

  1. What gives you purpose and gets you out of bed in the morning?  To earn money yes, but what else?
  2. What needs to be happening to help you feel you are living a happy and successful life:
    • in a little way?
    • in a big way?
  3. How much energy and time do you currently give this?
  4. What would you like to start, stop or continue in 2016?

I leave you with possibly my favourite quote on success, by Maya Angelou:   “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it”.