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How will you define success'

One of the most important activities you can engage in is finding your own definitions or models of success. This is important for a number of reasons: Because, if you haven’t done this, then how do you know what’s best for you' How can you make career decisions if you aren’t clear about how you define success' How can you be happy if you don’t know when you’re successful'

There is never a bad time to discover and be clear on your definition of success. Today’s economic realities make the timing even better. If your career hasn’t gone according to plan, or even if it has, re-examine what it is that you actually want. Doing so can make you a lot happier.

Success: On whose terms'

If you haven’t taken the time to define it, success has already been defined for you. You’re already following models of career and life success. The question is whether they are your own, or the ones you inherited. One of your greatest career challenges is identifying goals and definitions of success that are true to you rather than the ones you inherited from others. Your current model of success may or may not work for you. So it is important to understand your assumptions and to question them. If you follow a path to success that isn’t your own, you may achieve your goals, but when you arrive at the destination, you may not feel successful or fulfiled at all.

Keep in mind that your existing job may hold the key to your happiness. For example, if you were to discover that making your customers happy was the one thing that defines and inspires you, what would that do to your focus and state of mind'

Choose your parameters

You have the power to reaffirm existing models or adopt new models of success. All it takes is some honest thinking, clarity of purpose and the discipline to stay true to your values in the long run.

• Accept that there are always alternatives. The very fact that so many of us have not questioned the paths we are on speaks of a lack of awareness or acceptance of alternative paths. There are always options or other valid ways of defining career and life success.

• Examine your path. Do you love what you do' Do you do fantastic work as a result' Does your work complement your personal and family life or detract from it' Are you excited about your vision of the future' Is this the best use of your precious gifts and time'

• Time for introspection. Always ask yourself these questions: What makes me happy' How do I feel' What do I want' And then, answer a question from the coaching school CoachVille.com, “I know how successful I am by how (fill in the blank).” The answers to this question will point you in the right direction. You can have several definitions of success as long as they don’t contradict each other.

• Refine Your Responses: Ask yourself “why'” and “is that what I really want'” after each response to the statement until each rings true. For example, if your first response was, “I’ll know I am successful when I am a millionaire,” ask yourself why you want to be a millionaire. You might, for example, find out that success for you is to have the freedom to use your time as you wish, or the ability to travel or be rid of financial worries. This process may lead you to make other decisions in your life that will help you reach your goal.

• Ask friends: Test your responses with people who know you really well. Do they ring true'

One definition of success that puts this philosophy into simple words comes from the American author Christopher Morley, who wrote: “There is only one success ' to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

Being clear about how you define success will reap immeasurable rewards.

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