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Redefining Success is the First Step Toward Achieving It

Are you deeply connected to your work or just going through the motions? Nicholas Pearce, author of The Purpose Path, explains why clarity of purpose is the first step toward authentic success.

By
Nicholas Pearce
the purpose path

In my experience, I have found that few people actually take the time to figure out what success is for them. Many mistakenly assume it’s universally defined, as though everyone on the planet has the same aspirations and keeps score in life the same way. Many others operate on the flawed assumption that someone else has the right to impose his or her personal view of success upon them.

While some people think success means attaining the goals that have been set for them by others—whether by their families, their managers, the media, or societal norms and expectations—others think success means following in the steps of those successful people who preceded them. Still others are blinded by the intoxicating sparkle of fame and fortune as the measure of true success.

Fully two-thirds of the American workforce does not feel a deep connection to the work they do; they are simply going through the motions, day in and day out.

Back in 2014, Strayer University and Ipsos, a global market research firm, conducted a survey to find out what success means to Americans. Fully 90 percent of those surveyed said that success is more about happiness than power, money, or fame. (In fact, only one in five respondents felt that monetary wealth is what defines success.) In addition, 67 percent felt that success means achieving personal goals, while 60 percent believed that success is loving what you do for a living.

success on a mountain

The problem is that relatively few people have the courage to look deep within themselves to get to the heart of what true success means to and for them. Granted, there are many people on the planet for whom success lies almost exclusively in making sure that their families have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, and adequate shelter. But for those of us who have the opportunity to choose what we want to be when we grow up, it behooves us to choose our life’s path in a way that allows us to pursue and accomplish our unique definition of success, rooted in our sense of purpose and core values. This isn’t just for the well-heeled Ivy Leaguers among us. This is something that everyday people can—and should—do.

For many of us, it’s a struggle to clarify how we define success for our lives, not to mention how we pursue it. And when we don’t, the consequences for our careers—and our lives—can be devastating.One of those consequences comes in terms of how we show up to work every day. Gallup has tracked employee engagement—the extent to which people are emotionally committed to their work and their employers—for years. Unfortunately, the news is not good. According to the Gallup polling organization, only 33 percent—one-third—of employees in the United States are engaged at work, and just 13 percent worldwide are. This widespread disengagement leads to lower productivity, decreased work quality, and lower job satisfaction.

When you think about it, this is an alarming statistic. Fully two-thirds of the American workforce does not feel a deep connection to the work they do; they are simply going through the motions, day in and day out.

One of my deepest desires in writing this book is to provoke people to come off the autopilot mode that allows them to somewhat mindlessly navigate through their lives, and to pause for a moment, and say to themselves, “Hmmm…I didn’t think of what my life could be like if I lived every day on purpose.” If people think through the questions I pose in this book, and if they engage in more intentional moments of self-reflection, then my firm belief is that his will both encourage and challenge them to live lives that are more vocationally courageous and ultimately more meaningful and impactful.

True vocational courage comes from defining what success is for us, based on our own unique purpose and core values, and then making the difficult decisions necessary to wholeheartedly pursue it.

True vocational courage comes from defining what success is for us, based on our own unique purpose and core values, and then making the difficult decisions necessary to wholeheartedly pursue it. True vocational courage does not come from following someone else’s definition of success, nor from having others define success for us. It’s not about trying to achieve the kind of success that your parents pressured you to achieve because they couldn’t achieve it themselves. And it’s not about trying to achieve the kind of success that your boss defines for you at work, or your spouse/partner, friends, and other influencers define for you in your daily life outside the office.

successful woman

It’s about knowing your own values and then allowing those values to guide what success means to you for you—and you only. It’s about being willing to honestly explore and answer the question “How do you keep score in life?”

Many people choose to keep score in life by how many material possessions they can accumulate. They keep score by how many trophies are in their capitalistic display case—sprawling homes, luxury automobiles, designer clothes, fine jewelry, and expansive bank accounts. It is important to note that these things are not inherently bad. But the truth about the relentless pursuit of this definition of success is that such success is fleeting, depreciable, and corruptible—in fact, it can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

To be a true success, we need to adopt a definition that is more intrinsic, more internal, and more eternal—a definition that is designed to support our faithful pursuit of why we are here. Defining success in this way allows us to measure our clarity, commitment, and consistency in pursuing our life’s work as the end and the means—not some goal that someone else has set for us.

So, the first step toward becoming an authentic success is making sure you have clarity regarding what success means to you and what you have to do to achieve it.

This excerpt was taken with permission from The Purpose Path (St. Martin's Essentials, 2019). 

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