How to Measure Success
Updated: Sep 1, 2018
How you measure success is an important way of understanding what drives your daily life. Are you truly aligned with current your definition?
So how do you measure success? Have a think about it for a minute. Maybe you have different ways of measuring different activities or goals. Business success. Personal achievement. In raising kids. Or simply, what does a successful day look like to you?
I've been thinking about this a lot recently specifically in line with the yoga classes I give. It's potentially important to mention here that I have recently redefined my life because of my shift into yoga, and recently it occurred to me like a brick in the face that in order for it all to make sense, I also need to redefine what it will look like for me to have succeeded.
I have always been a big believer in trying to understand, even if it's a vague idea, what life will look like at the end of a journey. Perhaps a throwback from previous paths I have been on, where success lies in reaching a goal that is defined at the beginning of a project. In engineering, did the product get to the customer on time? In fitness, having set a goal of being able to do 10 pull-ups in a row by March, was this goal achieved? If the answer was yes, then I felt successful, when the answer was no, then I felt like I failed.
Yoga has of course, as with many other areas of my life, turned this perception of success upside-down. My understanding of success at this point is less about achieving the end goals, and more about being in and enjoying each moment.
Let me expand on that for a moment. There are what I call 'rules' when learning yoga, and even if I take one of them, I might be able to explain a little better. So there's this one 'rule' called Ahimsa which means 'non-violence'. At first glimpse, and quite rightly, it is about not being violent towards other beings. Something we learn in civil society and it's fairly easy to grasp (take it seriously and you see for example, the practice of veganism where you vow to not hurt any other living being for your personal pleasure - for food, but also not using products tested on animals, and certainly not wearing leather or down, or fur).
But what Ahimsa also means is the practice of removing violence from your thoughts too, replacing a violent attitude with one of compassion and love. For example, really trying to understand why that person pushed in front of you today at the supermarket, deciding not to be pissed off about it, but instead allowing yourself to think they might be having a bad day.
If you go even deeper, it means not having violent thoughts or actions towards yourself. We flood our unconscious thoughts every millisecond with negative self talk, and Ahimsa gets us to appreciate ourselves more, and to drop the 'I'm not enough' thoughts and replace them with 'I'm doing my best and I'm pretty awesome'. It's not always easy, but think about how much more pleasant your day might be if you were your own very best friend.
So how has practicing Ahimsa changed the way I perceive success? Well, it's got me thinking about how I set goals, and what I do if, god forbid, I get off track and don't reach them. Using this one little example, it gets me thinking about what my daily self-dialogue is and almost flips my idea of success from the achievement of a pre-conceived end target to how I reacted in each moment along the way.
If I were to just practice this one 'rule', a successful day would be one in which I have acted compassionately in the face of obstacles or disagreement, and been aware of any negative self talk in a given moment and been kind to myself instead. This, I'll be entirely honest, makes many of my more unconscious mornings very unsuccessful!!!
So, is success about the end goal, or can it be measured along the way? In business, is it ALL about the money, or might it be about how many creative ideas the staff had today? In fitness, is it really about the pullups, or could it be that you're healthier than you might have been if you'd have made excuses instead? In raising kids, is it all about getting them to eat healthily, or could it also be that we all played dressups and noone threw up on the white rug?
I just want you to think about it, because if you are turned on by end goals, money, pullups, and your kid's 5 a day, then fair play to you, I'm not saying these things don't have value. This post is more for those struggling with finding joy in the potentially tedious, hard slog of trying to get to an elusive end goal.
What I'm saying is, that for the lovers of creative ideas, the uncompetitive folks just working out to feel good about themselves, and for those who like to dress up and keep their white rugs vomit free, you too are successful! Just change the way you view success, and life will be way more enjoyable.