The Straight Truth


Urgent and important. Define success.

When we conduct our on-line Mindset of Accountability Assessment, there is an important and vital mindset measure that answered truthfully delivers unspeakable power to you and your professional success.

I am totally responsible for my success at work.

Think about it. Are you totally responsible for your success at work or do you just think you are? Granted, success is a big word that must be defined by YOU. And then, you have to keep defining success. Short of that you may have grabbed life by the tail at some point but now find all you are doing is holding on for the ride. Maybe you are challenged by keeping a secure hold on your definition of success while enormous, unanticipated changes are occurring all around you. You realize you have to adjust your grasp now and then. The challenge of adjusting can be fun, at first, but not very satisfying over time for many reasons. More and more of your work life and how you define success may seem “out of your control.”

“How can I be totally responsible for my success at work when so much is out of my control?”

What is your definition of success? When is the last time you stopped to think about it and write it down? When is the last time you shared your definition of success with someone who is committed to your success? Consider that you cannot expect support in your success journey if the destination isn’t clear with full ownership to get there.

“But I don’t know what I want!”

Knowing what you want isn’t the same as knowing what success is to you. Usually we think of success in terms of setting and achieving goals or knowing what your interest is and going to college to get a degree to work in that field. The panic or pressure of “undeclared major” for some is all too real and that’s a pity. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“How do you develop a professional definition of success if you do not have one?”

Well, you have just moved into step one if you’ve read this far and asked this very question. First, it is important to know that your professional definition of success is individual and unique to you. There is no right or wrong or “committee of others” that gets to weigh in. A definition of success is about what makes you professionally successful according to you. If professional success isn’t what you are after and you want to focus on “success in life” because your personal life is a wreck, fine…look there. For some it is a combination of both and may even go a little further to their volunteer or community life. Second, you can be as general or as specific as you want to be. It is up to you how you define your success. And to do so is a big step.

“The purpose and importance of your definition of success is to live in it now.”

You may or may not subscribe to the power of now but at the end of the day, for all of us, now is all we have. It is possible to be successful moment-by-moment of living with a definition of success that works like a compass. Point the compass where you want to go and it works with you to get on course based on where you are. You may change your mind and point elsewhere and that’s fine, a definition of success can adjust accordingly. But you have to keep it in hand and pay attention to where you are and where you are going. You don’t turn your GPS off once you have defined the destination and start your journey. Stuff happens and you may need to adjust your route or redefine success because your destination just dropped into a sink hole in Florida. It’s no longer available. If you think of your definition of success this way, you are demonstrating you have accepted 100% responsibility and accountability for living successfully in your life – you own, act on and answer for your results.

There are barriers and bumps on the road to results.

Your definition of success can change as your life situation changes. For example, your professional definition of success while in your 20s and not in a significant relationship may be very different when you are in your 40s with a family. If you are in integrity with your professional definition of success you can make those changes and remain totally responsible for your success at work and in life. Your definition of success is not to be confused with a goal as in you meet it or not; or that you are working hard and striving to achieve something.

“Your definition of success is a commitment that you make to yourself; an intention of how you will live and conduct your life everyday.”

The definition of success is not a hard and fast rule; there is no right or wrong – however, being in integrity with how you define success allows you to make conscience choices regarding external conditions. This is a critical point. At the same time that you have defined success for yourself, you acknowledge outside conditions aka “things outside of your control” will begin to test your focus. That’s why it is very important to have a mentor that knows how you define success. Like a personal trainer, you invite someone into your life to affirm your accountability to being successful as you define it. Are you ready to get started? Do you want to go exploring and see where you are and what success is to you? This is exciting!! I’d suggest you not look ahead to the writing exercise until you are really ready to give it your full focus with quiet time that won’t be interrupted. Those who are living in their success as a result of this exercise reported this is singularly important –

“Do this alone and where there is no interruption or distraction.”

If you are handwriting the responses pick a favorite pen and paper you like. If you are on your computer, turn off all the dings and beeps and signals so that it is just you and the blank space after each question. Invite the “committee of others” to leave you alone for the hour or two you may be engaged in this process. The writing exercise is designed for those specifically wanting to define professional success. Sometimes the line between personal and professional is blurred and that is fine. Don’t fight it. Respond to the questions as responses come to you. Filtering and editing can come later. If you attempt to filter and edit as you go, you will fall into what is often a control pattern that will circle back to where you are now. Ready to take off? Give it a try! Define Success.

Developing Your Definition of Success

A. Think about and respond to the following questions:

1.    What about your current job provides you with the most satisfaction?
2.    What about your current job makes you feel professionally successful?
3.    What set of conditions do you need at work to create an atmosphere that lets you thrive?
4. What support would you need to create a situation where the conditions you attribute to success are present?

B. Read your answers to the above 4 questions. 

Underline or highlight key words or phrases that really resonate. Look at what you have written and FEEL where your energy and motivation are. Maybe there are words or phrases like “flexibility, control over my time, challenge, teamwork, independence, resources” – read your answers over and underline and highlight. (You might even add or delete things on second thought.)

C. Now you are ready to write statements that represent your Professional Definition of Success.

You can write four sentences or one. Four is the average so that’s what’s provided here, space for four.

Write each statement in present tense starting with “I” – this is where your “feeling” needs to override “thinking”.

For example – after you have read your responses to the 4 questions and underlined or highlighted what resonates most, you might write something like:

“I work in a supportive environment of like-minded professionals who value relationships and creativity.” Then the voice in your head says “No you don’t! Why did you write that?! It’s not even possible where you are! What a dumb definition of success.” OK, if something like that starts up – face it and kill it, then keep going.


Done? Put it away. Sleep on it. Proceed to the next step tomorrow.

Day Two: Read each statement. Do you want to change anything? Edit as needed.

When you have your final statements rate on a scale of 1 to 5 the extent to which you are experiencing your Definition of Success now. 1 = not much to 5 = happening now.

You now have what to bring to your Mentor. If there is any success statement rated less than a 5, a Mentor is an excellent resource to create the plan to get that success statement to a 5. Then, the Mentor can also be a resource for ideas and strategies that could include access to their connections. For a Mentor, it is clear based on how you define professional success, who and what to connect you with. It is not as clear if you present a Mentor with your list of professional goals.

And, it’s important to keep one thing in mind. Your boss should not be your Mentor. When you are a really fantastic employee a boss often unconsciously and unintentionally tries to keep you right where you are so their lens on your Definition of Success comes through a bias that is not going to be supportive, even though they know their role is supposed to be to support and develop employees. This is not always the case, but if you suspect it is, seek a Mentor outside of your department or work place; someone who will be committed to your success as you define it.Well over 50% of the C-Suite professionals (CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, etc.) I assign this activity to end the coaching engagement. Your guess as to why is as good as mine. I tell you this to encourage you not to use others as an excuse to not be clear about what professional success is to you. I can connect you with many individuals who completed and followed through on the assignment myself included. It’s really exciting to define success albeit risky. Thus the need for a Mentor. Support is vital.

“I am totally responsible for my success at work” is a mindset second to none and a way of being that attracts opportunities that create a new challenge for you.

If you are comfortable in your discomfort where you are, that is totally understandable. If you are ready to create success for yourself try this exercise out, you have nothing to lose (that I’m aware of). If I’m wrong about that, let me know.