There is a personal element to success – my definition of success may well differ to yours. Simply put, success is in the eye of the beholder. My ultimate measure of success is the power of choice that I have over where and how I spend my most precious resource of all ‘my time.’
Each of us have been given the same amount of hours in the day — how we choose to use them determines how we experience life.
My ability to choose what my life is like is more valuable to me than any material possessions. I have often said if I lost it all – and was down to my last penny — then it is the people that I am with, our shared experience, which will make the difference. In fact, overcoming adversity can be one of the greatest shared experiences of all.
But I digress, I do not measure success based on the idea of ‘work-life balance’ — in fact quite the contrary. I think that this ‘label’ was coined just to make people like me feel worse about themselves. For me, there is no balance. And I think about it this way… if I was trying to balance on a fit ball, it would take incredible energy to try to stay upright. Little movements to try and maintain the status quo. Yet if I am going on a run, one step in front of the other — the rhythm of my steps gives me power and energy — I have run half marathons and this for me takes less energy than balancing on a ball. I know the direction I am taking and I single-mindedly go for it.
Once I realised that life for me was never going to be in ‘balance,’ I could focus on what I really wanted to achieve, how I really wanted to contribute. I could focus on the ‘one thing’ that I needed to get done.
Instead of having ‘to-do lists,’ I focused on the actions that would move me toward success… so I would speak out loud each morning the one thing I needed to get done. I created a ‘winner list.’
The trick of course is to know what your ‘one thing’ is. It is the most important thing (maybe the most important thing is to find out what your most important thing is).
The most important thing is the thing that you need to do so that if you do it – then everything becomes just that bit easier. There is an 80/20 rule for energy and effort too. Have you ever noticed that 20% of your actions will deliver 80% of the outcomes? The trick is to choose the right 20%. It takes focus and energy to make that powerful choice. Reviewing, questioning and evaluating all the options to ultimately determine what the thing is that will bring you success is worth the investment in time. If you did more of the 20% rather than the other 80% of activities that you spend time on that make you feel busy (and exhausted), this may get you closer to where you want to go.
If you have worked out your ‘one thing’ — your focus point, your road to success — then your measure needs to celebrate that.
You may well have heard of the BHAG: the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Many people when they read the work ‘big’ — they often equate it to ‘hard’ or scary.
Jim Collins wrote about BHAGs in his book Good to Great, published in 2001. He explored the question of why some companies achieve greatness while others don’t — and it is the same for your life. Have you created a vision for your success?
Don’t be scared of the word ‘big’ — if you don’t aim ‘big,’ you will only ever achieve small. Try creating your own BHAG. It needs to be both time-based and specific. In other words, it is a scorecard that lets you and all those around you know that you have achieved your dream.
A BHAG by definition is possible — but not probable. Saying that you want to climb the highest mountain on each continent, for instance, is possible but not probable. Committing to run a marathon is possible, not probable. But what about when you consider your work, profession, job, or career… do you set the same level of personal goals that seem just a little out of your reach unless you put a whole lot of effort and energy in to make it happen?
Maybe you would like to be a senior manager in a large corporation, maybe you would like to have a passive income – perhaps you want to start your own business. How could you express your vision for yourself as a goal? Be prepared to dream. Choose ‘one thing.’ Know that life is not perfect, and it is definitely not in ‘balance’ — choose your big game and play full out.
I wonder how many people simply give up their dreams because they tell themselves that they are too old or too poor or not clever enough to achieve them. Turning your dreams into reality will take a degree of risk taking, and it may take giving up a fear of failure (or looking bad).
To achieve any dream, you need to take a first step, then a second and a third – until finally a dream is your new reality. Dreams can be work-related or personal – they might be held in a bucket list, or even in a dream catcher – but one day that list needs to be tackled. It needs to be your ‘winner’s list.’
Your BHAG is your scorecard for success.
This post first appeared in my series on LinkedIn