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My Definition of Success

#empowerment #flourish #success #womeninleadership Jul 04, 2022


“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

- Maya Angelou


Two of my goals last month were to consolidate or eliminate 1 thing per week (preferably in my business), and somehow create space in my calendar. If you know me, each were a pretty big ask. As an enneagram 6w7, I'm very loyal and dedicated, and I love to say YES! 

I've been working diligently toward my goals for my business, health, and personal growth for 6 months, and as I shared in Episode 89 (Rhythms of Reflection), I have a regular practice of reflecting, evaluating and recalibrating that allows me to determine where I am on those goals at the month, quarter, and 6-month marks.

As you may know, declaring a goal to others who are willing to hold you accountable increases your chances of achieving that goal by about 90%. Even when you don’t actually know HOW you’ll accomplish it when you begin.

That’s where I was. Overwhelmed, a hamster on a wheel, with no idea what I could eliminate, let alone how. 

My goals make a little more sense, now, don’t they?

Here's the thing though, when you practice solid growth principles, share your goals, and work in community, things begin to happen. Amazingly, it became clear, each week, what was supposed to be eliminated. 

Of course, the inability to see the paradox that eliminating things would actually create the space I was craving, is always frustrating when viewed through the rearview mirror. But the resulting room for expansion is worth that frustration. 

As a leader, it’s important to be able to move through these experiences, both for ourselves and those we lead.  Even when moving forward doesn’t outwardly look like what we expect “moving forward” to look like.

My conversation with Amber Fuhriman, in last week’s podcast episode (#92), put it all in perspective.  Amber went through quite a transformation in her career, nearly tossing her law practice, only to find out she could use it differently than originally planned just by changing her own definition of success. If you’ve not heard that conversation, I encourage you to check it out.  

But it got me thinking - “what’s MY definition of success?”

Entertaining that question gave me some interesting realizations, and that’s what I’m going to share with you today. My current, personal definition of success, and my thoughts and processes for getting there. 

First, though, I want to reflect back on something Amber mentioned in our conversation. The idea that your definition of success doesn’t need to be one, big thing. It can be applied to each area of your life, and shift and change based on where you are in your own growth, circumstances and journey. Similar to how I describe your purpose. You can have an overarching general one, but each task, or process has a purpose of it's own.

I’ll start with my processes.

Amber and I both use a tool called a life wheel - just a simple pie chart (made popular by Zig Ziglar) that allows me to rate my satisfaction with any one particular area of my life. I use it as part of my reflection and evaluation process, and never really thought about the fact that what I do on a regular basis is actually redefining success in each area I review, every time I do it.

So, "hey, Andrea - good news - you already do this. Whoot! Let’s just take it a bit deeper."  

When I looked at my Rhythms of Reflection, setting up my own standards and calibrating to them, I realized this is the language I use for “success.”  You see, the dictionary definition of success is: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. So setting my own standards or goals gives me an aim and purpose, and when I accomplish them, I’m “successful.”

So as far as I’m concerned, last month was a success! At least in the two goals I shared (eliminating one thing per week and creating space in my calendar). Those were MY goals, MY standards, and MY desires.

I think the problems have always come - at least for me - when the goals have not truly been mine. When I set standards against which to measure my achievements (or growth) that aren’t mine, I never actually achieve success. I never FEEL successful. As Amber said - "there’s always a void you’re trying to fill."

This is such an important point to understand. It applies to every area of life, but specifically, let’s look at four major ones.

  • It applies to work/career: when my goals were set by my job, my boss,or my organization (whether or not they were in my areas of strength, skill or ability), to meet the goals of the organization - I never felt true ownership, or engagement. I did them to gain someone else’s approval, or worse, to get a raise. As much as I hate to admit it, that’s a hollow win.
  • It applies to health/wellness: when my weight or appearance standards have been set by others (family, society, even health care professionals), without understanding who I am and where I want to go and be - I may have achieved them at the time, but they’ve never been permanent. I’ve started over so many times, and experienced all the guilt, shame and regret that went along with every single one of those “failures.”
  • It applies to personal growth: when my personality traits are seen as weaknesses to be overcome or alleviated (think - talkative, loud, strong, bossy, leader), when I am working toward an external or societal expectation of acting in a certain way - I live in a constant state of fear that I’ll never measure up, because these things are NOT my strengths. They are not my unique traits and characteristics.  
  • It applies to spiritual life: when my spiritual maturity is measured against a set of religious cultural standards of behavior, or specific patterns of belief in an organization - then I’m performing for the approval of others. I’ve felt the hollow ring of working harder and harder, more determined and passionately following all the rules, only to find there is no way to truly meet any standard of any other human. I will always fall short. These standards are not inside the heart, mind and spirit, where spiritual growth and maturity actually takes place. 

With that understanding, I’m still learning to set my OWN standards. To calibrate them based on who I am, who I want to be, where I want to go, my values, my mission, my passion, my interests, my beliefs, my strengths, skills, experience and wisdom. This is WHY I practice reflecting, evaluating and recalibrating on a regular basis.

Thinking all this through helped me realize that my definition of success is pretty darn close to that Maya Angelou quote from above: 

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” 

If I don’t like myself, what I do and how I do it, I will be in constant turmoil. I would go so far as to say that MOST of us would be. I also believe, wholeheartedly, that this is why I’m actually achieving my goals this year, in ways I never have before. Because I’ve come to the understanding that they truly need to be mine, based on knowing who I am, knowing what I want, and knowing how I want to do it. Thank you, Maya Angelou, for articulating it so perfectly for me!

Here’s my advice to you:

If you’ve not yet determined your own definition of success… If you’ve not yet figured out how to create your own standards by which you will measure your satisfaction, happiness and achievement, NOW is a great time to do it. 

One caveat - if there are external standards that (like Maya Angelou’s quote that works so well for me) you have found that line up with who you are, GREAT! If your job, work or career truly IS who you are, what you want, and you can do it in a way that makes you happy - AWESOME! This advice is designed to fit into any situation. Just figure out where you need to apply it in your own life, and go from there.

My mission is to equip and empower female leaders to think critically, create imaginatively and lead effectively - in any situation, team or organization.

This is for YOU, my friend. Just ask yourself how honest you’re being in these three areas. 


Know yourself - this means understanding your:

  • Strengths - Do you know them? Do you celebrate them? Do you use them? Do others know them?
  • Skills - All of them. The ones that come naturally. The ones your experience has given you. The ones others come to you for help with.
  • Values - What are they? Are you honoring them daily? Are you making choices and decisions with them as guardrails? Are you paying attention to when they are not honored?
  • Beliefs (yep, different from your values) - Are you hanging on to some that no longer resonate? Have they changed and you’ve not really acknowledged it? Do you need to better articulate a few?

Of course, this is my wheelhouse - I have tools and assessments to help you figure these things out, if you’ve never really taken the time to discover them.  But when you know yourself, truly KNOW yourself, it will open your eyes to the rest of the equation. 

So do you honestly know yourself? 


Know what you want to do

  • Work - What type of work? Where would you like to work? How much money would you like to make? What work makes you feel fulfilled? Is there a passion or mission that draws you to do a specific kind of work?
  • Play - What makes you happy? Where do you spend your free time? What brings you joy?
  • Future - Is what you’re doing what you always want to be doing? If not, what would that be? What do you want your future to look like? 

When you start contemplating these things based on WHO you know yourself to be, they won’t be as mysterious. For example, knowing that I’m a born leader (literally, my DISC type is called “Leader”), with skills in speaking, teaching, and managing, and values like freedom, authenticity and community - it should come as NO surprise that I want to be self-employed, doing WHAT I do NOW. Talking to you here. Equipping and empowering female leaders, helping them become everything they can be.

That may not be YOUR path. You might be a professional who's truly dedicated to your industry and the clients you serve, based on your own values, strengths, skills and beliefs. When you KNOW, you know. 

So, are you honestly working to know yourself, and based on that, what you want to do?


Know how you want to do it - that’s what Intentional Optimism is about.

I say this phrase at the end of every guest interview: we all live unique and different lives, and while what we DO is different, Intentional Optimism is HOW we do what we do. It’s the attitudes and mindsets we employ and embody to live out our own goals and dreams with excellence. The six tenets are:

  • Optimistic - I am hopeful, positive, proactive
  • Present - I embrace a sense of wonder, I'm generous, kind & open
  • Energetic - I am industrious, joy-filled and life-focused
  • Courageous - I lead with a sense of adventure, cultivating resilience
  • Wise - I seek understanding, am careful with my words, and model respect
  • Intentional - I move with a sense of purpose, plan, grow

Whether or not you embrace these six tenets as HOW you want to do what you do, isn’t the point. These are my “how,” and I offer them to you. If you have your own, even better! You’ve done this work!  Now all you need to do is apply it!

Be honest with yourself in these areas, and you'll be able to define your own success on a daily basis. I promise.

To recap:

My definition of success - I’m using Maya Angelou’s:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” 

My process to get there - Rhythms of Reflection (regularly reflecting, evaluating, recalibrating). You can call it regularly redefining success, but it’s all based on knowing yourself, what you want to do, and how you want to do it.

Remember, my work and passion is to equip and empower YOU. 

I’m here to offer guidance - in the form of the advice you get here, on the podcast, postings on social media, or my email newsletter - but if you need support, or help, I’m here, and I’m ready. I absolutely love watching women realize their own leadership abilities and qualities, and begin moving in a whole new way. So - how can I help you?

You see, I like doing this work.

I like who I am when I do this work, and I love how I’m doing it.

I hope that’s coming across to you, and you are benefiting from me doing what I’m here to do.

If you’d like to chat more, you can email me or set up a 30 min consultation, all my links are available here: Andrea's Information

Tell me how you are becoming more successful based on working toward your OWN goals and standards.

I look forward to hearing from you!


If you'd like to try out using a life wheel,you'll find it on this page: Rhythms of Reflection Downloads.


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