Why And How Your Definition Of Success Should Change

“A Goal without a Deadline is just a Dream”

– Chinese fortune cookie, 9/7/13

I’m in the entertainment industry, and so my version of “Success” changes with each audition. Did I memorize all my lines in time?  Success!  Did I get a great headshot?  Success!

“Success” comes from the Latin successus, which is a past participle. For those non-grammar nerds, let me explain. Success refers to the PAST, which the Latin form clearly points out. It describes something that has already taken place and is bestowed only when the event is over with. (Phew, no pressure there, right?)  Wrong. There are infinite opportunities for us to be successful before the end of life, but no worries — we find we can meet these opportunities with “success” when we set smaller goals and change the definition of success as we proceed.  Let me explain.

I’ve learned to take pleasure in the small things, and use them as way posts for the larger goals. It’s important, I’ve realized, to change my definition of success as life progresses. We change, right?  So why shouldn’t the measurement of our goals change as well?

For example, my long-term success goal is: “To make a living off acting.” I don’t care about being rich and famous, or becoming the next Jennifer Lawrence in three film genres within the year. (Don’t get me wrong, that’d be a great blessing! But realistically, that’s not a likely career path for the average Joe.) Why am I pursuing this industry then? Because my goal is to make a life with this job choice. It’s what I’ve felt called to for a long time, how I feel I can best serve my common man and make the world a better place while also growing individually. My goal, then, is to be able to pursue this for a very long time, and pursue it well. I’ll need to devote a lot of time, energy and money to it, and thus not share these valuable resources with other jobs. I’ll need to make money at this single outlet, enough to survive on my own, and then with a family (God-willing). Still, I feel “successful” even when I land an audition because I feel like a small victory has been won.  I learn to recognize success each new way it presents itself along the way, even when it doesn’t seem to amount to much, or takes some creativity to recognize.

Here are some common definitions, by persons great and small, to help narrow down your diagnosis of discontent and recognize the successes along the way. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves, and fix the yardstick instead.

Dictionary: SUCCESS. (n) 1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted: attributed their success in business to hard work. 2.  a. The gaining of fame or prosperity: an artist spoiled by success. b. The extent of such gain. 3. One that is successful: The plan was a success.

Poetry: “If” by Rudyard Kipling

Philosopher:  Alain de Botton’s “ A kinder, gentler philosophy of success” found on youtube.com

Business CEO: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

Historical Leader: “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill