Updated: Jun 13, 2019
My questions about life satisfaction and what my successful life would look like arose after the death of my father.
My father died in 2011 of prostate cancer. He was a month shy of his 60th birthday.
As you can imagine, I began to see the potential timeline of my life through a very different lens.
What if my life was not going to be as long as I would hope? Was I making the most out of it? Was I living up to my potential? What impact do I want my life have?
In the next few years, after having my own children, the questions became more pronounced.
As I created clarity around these questions, I began to work with others who are asking themselves the same thing.
Reframing success on your own terms is a process. Here's what I've learned from my own journey and from my clients:
1) The Definition Of Success Is Highly Personal
My clients often start our work together by saying "I want success on my terms."
For some it’s achieving high levels of professional accomplishment. For others it’s feeling deeply engaged in their day to day work whether it be as a parent or a craftsperson (or both!) It could be the mastery of a set of skills, financial freedom, time freedom, or making an impact on the world.
My definition of a successful life is likely to differ from yours. So there’s no use in comparing your version of success to someone else’s or judging others against your version. It’s a personal pursuit that evolves as you do.
2) For Most Of Us, Success Comes From Satisfaction In More Than One Life Domain.
Research has suggested that the amount of satisfaction that can be derived from a single life domain is limited (Sirgy and Wu, 2009). Our diverse human needs cannot be satisfied by one dimension alone.
Some of the dimensions my clients evaluate in our work together include: work, money, health, social relationships, love, spirituality, fun and enjoyment, learning, and giving to others.
Most of us are highly successful in a few areas of our lives yet feel sense of deep wanting in others.
For my clients who are busy professionals, a significant investment of time and energy in their work domain often leads to a sense of lack in others like family, spirituality, health or fun and enjoyment.
For many parents (especially moms) the investment of significant time in their family dimension means they lose sight of their personal needs. They recognize a longing to pursue achievement in other domains.
Like a healthy diet or balanced investment portfolio, we need to thrive in more than one domain of life to feel fulfilled.
3) Forget Balance. It’s About Choice And Conscious Investments Of Time.
These days everyone is talking about “work-life balance” and how difficult it is to achieve. And it is! Especially if you define balance as equal.
We can’t create more time in the day. We have work to do and bills to pay. We have families to provide for and business to run.
And yet, many of us want more. More health, more time with loved ones, more fun, a deeper connection to others.
We can't spend equal amounts of time and energy in every life domain. We have to make choices.
It's helpful to think about life domains the same way you would about your investment portfolio. Diversification is what most advisors suggest. If you want to diversify your investments it’s helpful to determine what areas of life are out of whack and make choices about which domains are most meaningful to you now.
Is there an area of life you want to feel more engaged in or positive about? What is one thing you can do each week to increase your level of satisfaction in that area?
The definition of success is highly personal. Creating clarity on what it truly means to you will help you pursue goals that are aligned with your sincerest motivations.
So now, a parting question...What are your terms for success?