We all want a successful life, career, and startup, but most of us don’t really think about what success means to us.

If you ask a startup founder if he will be successful, he will, of course, say YES.

If he didn’t believe he would have success, why would he be working 70 hours a week.

But what is this success, that is worth spending 70 hours a week for, working hard and maybe not spending time with friends and family.

  • Is he hoping to get a million dollars in return, a year down the line?
  • Is he hoping to help a lot of people?
  • Is he hoping to be world famous, for solving a global challenge?

I guess the answer depends on the person and who he spends time with. Particularly the latter, Jim Rohn said it very clearly:

You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.
Jim Rohn

So if all the people you spend time with are focused on optimising profits, earning more money and having expensive habits, then that is most probably gonna reflect on you.

On the other hand, if you spend time with people who wants to make a great and positive impact on the earth and don’t really mind putting salary and earning money off for some time, then that might reflect on you too.

Many things affect our own personal definition of success. Our values, our goals in life, what passions we have etc. (tweet this)

Our personal definition of success is not always the same as the one we have adopted through our external environment (tweet this).

Actually, it may take several years before we discover what really means something to us.

But it doesn’t have to take years!

Why should I care?

The reason it is so important to find out what success means to you is because it determines the outcome of many of the decisions you have to make in the future. And to put it in simple startup terms:

What Gets Measured Gets Done.

If you know what success really means to you, it is much easier to set goals and milestones for reaching the success. It is much easier to avoid wasting valuable time doing stuff that actually has no influence on reaching your goals.

So where do I start?

I think a great resource for wisdom is people who have tried the thing you want to accomplish.

Who knows more about life than those who are about to leave us.

If you take a look at the 5 most common regrets among the dying you will find some life-wisdom:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying

#1 on the list is basically what we are working on here, be true to your own values, live the life you want and don’t set goals according to what your surroundings expect from you.

Many entrepreneurs work 70 hours a week for several years even though there is a great risk they might fail anyway. During this time, they might lose touch with their friends and risk sliding away from their girlfriend or boyfriend. This addresses both #2 and #4.

(The other regrets are also very important to note. I won’t discuss them in this article, though.)

I am not saying you shouldn’t work hard. I am saying that you might end up one day thinking that you wasted time on work, that you could have spent getting to know your friends or your kids. So why not make a conscious decision now, on how you see a successful work / family / friends balance.

If you think it is a good decision to take two years away from family gatherings and meet-ups with friends and focusing on your startup in this time, that is OK.

Now you at least have a milestone and you have made a decision you can share with the people around you.

If making solutions for people’s struggles is your passion and you are creating it with friends then you are most probably all set.

The success, you think you want, might not be the success you really want

As Vishen Lakhiani (founder and CEO of Mindvalley) put it, is it a means goal or and end goal? (http://www.mindvalley.com/goal-setting-redefined)

For many people, success equals money, but if you think about it, money isn’t really that exciting, in itself.

It is what you can do with your money, that is interesting. In this case, money is a means goal, because it is a means to an end.

Now to the interesting part, what is the end goal? What do you want to do with the money you have earned?

  • Do you want to go travel?
  • Do you think it will attract a new girlfriend or boyfriend?
  • Do you want to give it to a charity?
  • Do you want to buy a boat so you can sail the world?

Think about it! All of your dreams could actually come true without being a millionaire! (tweet this)

 

If your passion is to travel, why not become a travel photographer or writer and travel every day of your life?

If your passion is to help a charity, why don’t you quit your job and go in full time?

To sum up, it is important to select goals that are directly connected to something you are passionate about and that you don’t postpone pursuing your passion until you have had success.

If you have enough to get by, why look for more?

In his book The 4 Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss tells a story about a Mexican fisherman.

A Harvard MBA is visiting a small village in Mexico and one day when he is walking he meets the fisherman.

The fisherman explains that his life is very easy and he catches his fish very fast and the rest of his time he spends hanging out with his friends and family.

The Harvard MBA sees great opportunity for the fisherman to expand his business. He asks why the fisherman doesn’t stay out longer, catch more fish, buy an extra boat and expand his fleet and business, if it is so easy for him. The fisherman explains that he has all he needs and even enough fish to give to his friends, why would he ever want more?

Do you want to spend 4 hours a week earning a weeks salary or do you want to work 70 hours a week and earn more money than you can spend in two months?

Both choices are perfectly fine, but it is very important that you are aware of the consequences.

If you choose the first option you might end up with a lot of time on your hands that you don’t know what to do with.

If you choose the latter you might end up earning a lot of money, but what are you going to do with it and more importantly who are you going to spend it with.

A mini guide to defining your success

Finding the answers to the questions above and coming up with your own definition of success can seem both time-consuming and a bit daunting. Therefore I suggest that you just think for 5min about the questions below, that makes the most sense to you.

My Life goals

  • What would I do if I had 10% more confidence?
  • What would I do if I had $1 million in my bank account?

My Values

  • What do I wish to be written on my tombstone when I die?
  • What would I like to be remembered for?
  • What would I like my friends and family to love me for?

My Passion

  • What am I particularly good at?
  • What was I doing the last time I was in flow (forgot everything around me, my worries, and thoughts)?

Key takeaways

  1. Define what success is to you. Already now, think about what your values are, what your passion is, and how you want to spend your life.
  2. Make goals and set milestones. This will let your mind relax a bit.
  3. It is not easy to reflect on these very essential parts of our life, but when you got the answer you will know it is the right one.

This article was originally posted on Medium

© Kim Døfler 

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