The Good

Are you successful?


A great friend of mine made such a valuable observation yesterday. In short, that “Success” looks so very different for everybody. Everybody has their own version and this is a golden nugget worth pondering regularly. 

What does success look like to you?

In many ways western culture paints a successful person as someone who has risen to influence and wealth. The ‘successful stereotype’ typically has a lofty position at work where they can be the boss (the more people you can tell what to do- the more successful you have been, right?), they drive a fancy car, own a house in an affluent suburb, and parade in stylish clothes and matching accessories. They have the VIP tickets to the sought-after events, and are top-tier members for all the cool programmes and clubs. All driven by success at work and the benefits that result.

But this implies that career has to be the cornerstone of success, the only gateway through which the status symbols can be accessed. But, what about the other building blocks of life: relationships, health, spiritual state (let’s call it state of happiness)? Surely keeping those in focus and maintaining a good place should be part of the success picture?

Turning to the thoughts of others, a lovely poem on the topic by Emerson:
 “SUCCESS- To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) American Essayist & Poet 

Upon reflection, my definition of a ‘successful me’ would definitely include: supportive and loving husband, role-model father, superbly healthy, in a calm and inspired state. Oh yes! Those resonate deeply with me, and to think about the pursuit of those ideals, and with or without a perspective on career, that is some good stuff to work towards. Scoring well on those would feel like part of the game plan, regardless of career progress.

Career is vital. That is not up for debate. But, in so many ways it is allowed to eclipse the rest of our view on a successful life. I remember so clearly times in my life when my sense of self suffered when career was in flux. My very being was directly linked to the state of my (then confused and uncertain) career aspirations. Disempowered, under-confident, vulnerable- just a horrible space to be in.

Are we giving too much power away by defining and judging ourselves and each other on what we do as a profession? I believe it is something for each of us to ponder…

A great temperature check tool on the topic is the “Wheel of Life” (see example below). A simple, but effective tool to check in on how we are feeling about a variety of facets of your life.

It is easy to do.

-Rate where you are for each topic on a 1-10 scale.

-Plot that on the chart similar to below…

Try it…a really nice way to affirm those areas where you are tracking well, and importantly to identify where there may be areas that are not being nurtured enough. And a great way to actually weight which areas are important to you. Try choose which facets are actually most in line with your purpose on the planet. Work on improving your score on those.

Take it further and use the insights from the exercise to formulate a personal definition of success that takes into account those areas of critical importance to you. 

Let’s try defining it together:

A successful life looks like this to me:

I am …

I am …

I am …

Have a go, and when you feel you have covered all facets, place it somewhere that you can view it regularly and keep the alignment.

Have fun!

Duncan Woods Profile


Personal Development Coach

A personal development coach committed to living out my life purpose in evoking positive transformation in the lives of my clients. For more information please visit

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