What is success?
Most of us, if not all of us, want to be successful or rather, if you’re reading this, more successful than you see yourself today. If you’re reading this then you might very well be at the start of a journey to transform yourself, and the lives of those around you.
What is success? What is it in your mind? Think quickly and write down your answer.
What is success is a question that pops up in quiet moments, on vacation, when we have pause to look at life and what is really important, perhaps also after a crisis, or series of them.
What we believe success is, powerfully guides not only our work and life direction, but how we feel about those things now, and as we reach milestones on the way to our vision of success.
The challenge is that we often define success too narrowly and as a result we either never finally reach “it”, or don’t actually feel sustainably fulfilled or happy when we finally get there.
What is success?
This article is about a model called The Well, which I’ve developed to answer that question, to get to know yourself and what you really want better, then to act on that to make your vision of success a reality.
Here is a picture of The Well:
Let’s begin with the concentric circles. Each represents a different level of success.
- Attainment i.e. what I have. (things: money, job titles, possessions...)
- Gratification i.e. what I feel. (experiences: seeking pleasure, avoiding pain...)
- Importance i.e. what I need. (needs: relationships, health, meaningful work...)
- Meaning i.e. what I stand for. (values: the meaning making process)
- Being i.e. what I am. (existence: connection, big “L” Love, Self-realization/ actualization...)
In principle, the level called Attainment is what most of us associate with success, at least at first, but we need to get deeper to uncover other levels of success that also represent reality.
We go deeper through reflection (including self-knowledge exercises, looking into the past), through awe inducing experiences (in nature, through stories, video, virtual reality) and also through activities and experiences that we can build into our everyday such as meditation, engaging in certain types of creativity (engaging with and producing with great art, music), walking in nature, and physical exercise, for example. In the diagram these paths to explore the levels of success are represented by the purple arrow.
Knowledge is power, if you use it. So, the orange arrow represents the process of realignment. After going deeper, you redefine success to a more holistic or complete definition that is tailored to you. Then you go about realigning the different parts of life: work, people, health, self-expression and spiritual practices (in the broadest sense), to begin to live your definition of success.
Of course, this is easier said than done since there are many obstacles to change. Firstly, if we’ve been used to living a certain way it can be difficult to change, even if the way we’re living and working isn’t that great. The reasons include inertia, fear of losing what we have and even who we are.
What is your definition of success as you’d like it to be?
How does that match up to how you’re living now?
What is one thing that you could do to change, to live a more complete definition of success?
The good news is that authenticity is power. As you dig down into deeper levels of success, you get closer to your core values, essence, who you are and what you were put on the planet for.
By existing at deeper levels of success, you can begin to nurture what I call The Wellspring of creative vitality (read more in a future article). You tap into your passion, and a valuable source of distinctive creative ideas that can be channeled to make your dream and aspirational success a reality.
You also feel better.
Putting aside your ego, such as when you’re regularly involved in mediation and creative practices, looking after your mental and physical health, or spending quality energy with people you care about, helps you feel more connected and grounded. It sets the scene for life transforming ideas and how-tos to emerge when your mind is cleared of keeping up with the Joneses or what restaurant you’re going to eat at, or place you’ll visit.
In practice, The Well model is more than a one-shot exercise, it is a model for living. Each definition of success is a reality, a state of living. You’ll find that if you’re walking the talk and living the Importance level of success, for example, you’re doing the things such as exercising, investing in relationships and expressing yourself that help other parts of life such as work to flourish.
Look out for a longer article in future that explains the levels of success in more detail, and explains a bit more of the backstory of how I came up with them. For now, I’ll link to an article I wrote on LinkedIn just after leaving my corporate career. Rest assured, all the information I’m sharing is based on personal experience, how life pushed me to go deep on what success really meant.
Those insights were enough to support my decision to change careers, and start a new chapter of life. I love teaching people, learning and sharing information, creating experiences that help people live on a higher and deeper level, and what I’m doing now is more of that, much more.
So, while I was conventionally successful before I’m more holistically successful now, more complete, even as I, like all of us, need to keep working hard to optimize money and meaning. I don’t believe that just because you want to be more authentic that you have to be poor. The trick is in navigating the levels of success from the inside-out, rather than the other way around.
I hope this brief intro to The Well has been useful. Please ask any questions you have in the comments, on socials, or email me. You can also visit http://thegoodlifebook.com/ and join the mailing list to get the first chapters and self-knowledge exercises from the book (also check out the resources page), or of course you can buy The Good Life Book (2017), and that will help support me bringing you more content in future.
All the best,