What is success? If I were to go about asking 10 different people for their definition of success, I’d likely get 10 different answers. Success is subjective, and because it’s subjective, it makes it really difficult for an individual to strive for “success” if they don’t have a clear definition for themselves.

Growing up, I thought I would be considered successful if I made a six-figure salary. I remember a marketing professor in college tell me, “You’re considered a success if you make over $200k.” I remember laughing because that was the first time I had ever heard someone quantify success.  

I’ve realized through my experiences that money doesn’t do it for me. When I hit my goal it left me just as disappointed, if not more so, than when I was a broke entrepreneur launching my non-profit post-graduation. Thankfully I’ve pivoted away from money as my primary motivator, otherwise, I would likely still be chasing the rabbit down the hole.

So how did I begin to redefine success?

Crafting Your Success

When I was a sophomore in college, I interned as a financial analyst for Nestlé USA. I was assigned a mentor, their VP of Tax who encouraged me to write out my values which would in-turn serve as my personal mission statement.

Almost every company has a mission statement. Some abide by it more than others. I’ve always thought mission statements were “fluff.” They were something you were required to create when you started a business, but once it was done, you would never have to look back at it.  

When I was originally assigned this task I thought very little of it. I crafted an initial draft based on things I thought would make sense. This was my mission statement which, ironically, hasn’t changed throughout the years:

I carry this with me in my wallet so it’s accessible no matter where I may be. I flip to it occasionally as a reminder of who I am and my purpose. The main difference between now and when it was first crafted is that my mission statement now means so much more than something I was required to create during a summer internship. It serves as one of my anchors in keeping me grounded.

This mission statement has helped me learn to readapt my definition of success, and what it means to have a successful day. I’ll ask myself, “Have I executed my values to the best of my abilities?”

There have been many times in my career when the season or outcome has left me at a low point. In the world of sales, where rejection is a familiar friend, it can be difficult to use a metric like “number of calls made” or “revenue closed” to define if I’ve been successful. Even in life, there are so many things beyond my control that it only reminds me how far I’ve missed the mark. Not to mention, at the end of the day, do any of these things matter?

How to craft your personal mission statement

As I’ve written in the past, I think about death a lot, and to that extent, I also think a lot about the legacy I want to leave.  These are the questions I value others asking me:

Have I made a difference, today?

Have I stewarded my gifts and resources well?

Have I served other people?

Have I loved and respected all people?

Have I taken the time to learn something new?

Have I rejoiced in the hard times?

Have I continued to remind myself of my identity as a beloved son?

I encourage you to redefine your level of success to represent values you genuinely care about. If you don’t know what those values are, here are a few good questions to ask:

1) How do I want people to remember me?

2) What are the characteristics I’ve seen in others I’d like to exhibit?

3) Is this something I can commit to for the rest of my life?

The last thing I will say is: have your mission statement in a place where you can look back on it frequently. Perhaps it’s the wallpaper of your phone, on the side of your bathroom mirror, or in my case, I carry it in my wallet.

At the end of the day, it’s not about checking the boxes for “success,” but realizing your purpose and how that feeds into your everyday life. If I can redefine success as faithfully executing my mission statement day in and day out, then perhaps I can take it a little easier on myself. After all, the world will continue to spin with or without me. It’s now a question of how will I contribute to what’s already happening. 

And perhaps that’s where the answer to success is found.