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  • Christine Hourd

Why Your Meaning Of Success Keeps You From Achieving Life Goals & How To Overcome This

If you’re having a hard time achieving life goals your meaning of success maybe what's holding you back. You’re putting in a lot of work to make your personal and professional goals come to fruition, but it seems like you’re putting in a lot of effort with very little results to show for it.


This gets frustrating and you easily lose your motivation and your momentum to work on your goals. So, in order to make achieving goals easier you need to look at your definition of success.


How your meaning of success impacts your life goals


When you think of success, what comes to mind?


Many have a set of markers to measure success, that are dictated by your culture, your environment, and the people in it. But success isn’t a one size fits all definition, comprised of certain milestones, or criteria such as, university degree, being married, you own a house, have a nice car, 2.1 kids, or several years dedicated to a career.


Success is more tied to your identity. It forms part of the characteristics that define you. And this definition is unique to each of us. Because everyone is different—your values, beliefs, and your experience—everyone should define success differently.


The basis, or the foundation of this definition, is your wants and desires. But when your wants and desires are influenced by other people, and environments in your life, so do they influence your view of success. You try to fit into the model of success that others decide for you, yet that isn’t what specifically represents you.


Here forms this conflict of what success is, and can have an impact on achieving your goals.


Why it’s important to determine your personal wants and desires


In order to define your success and what that looks like, you need to be more aware of what you want out of life.


I’m talking about the personal wants and desires that are defined by you, and not by someone else.


If you’ve been going along with what others say and want for you, and taking their direction, then this distinction might be quite challenging. You’ll have to ask yourself, ‘Did I pick this career because I wanted it, or because someone said I’d be good at it?’ Or ‘do I like skiing because my spouse likes it, or do I really like it?’ Or ‘Do I really like going to pubs, or is it because my friends hang out there?”


How your definition of success is determined by external influences


Other influences that help determine what you want or desire is commercialism, entertainment, and the media.


That fear of missing out and the sensationalism of lifestyles on television programs makes us want to be that person, or commit to more of those characteristics, because of the feelings they portray, or say you’ll receive from it.


The House Wives series is a perfect of example of delivering reality TV that is not even close to what reality is for most people. Yet, there is that feeling of excitement within that lifestyle that makes viewers want to mimic that in their life, and capture that same feeling.


We want that good feeling! That feeling of belonging to a group, of feeling important, and being significant in the lives of others. But, how someone else experiences that feeling is different from the way you derive meaning from it.


How to determine what you want and desire in life


When you consider the amount of information you take in each day, there’s a great likelihood of that information shaping your opinion of what you like and desire. And within the information there is a lot of other people’s opinions and judgements.


That said, if I was to ask you what's your meaning of success? Who is answering that question?


So, how do you determine what your wants and desires are?


To get to the depths of this answer, it requires reflection, brainstorming, and a lot of getting to know you! Most people are so rushed in their day to day activities that they don’t take the time to reflect on what they really want out of life. Going along with what everyone else is doing, is easy, yet not always fulfilling.


Think of that feeling you get when you watch your favourite show, or experience a positive moment. Within that is your guide to success, and an indication of what you want out of life. It’s what makes you feel fulfilled.


If you were to imagine yourself as a success, what would that look like?


Most likely there are the comforts of having all that you need and more, and if you did, what is that feeling that you get from it?


One component that drives you to succeed in your goals


To really experience success there is this one component that tops it off. That tells you that you achieved success, and that is the reward. People are driven by reward and just by nature we need rewards to feel fully satisfied.


I think of myself sitting pool side at the hotel in Maui, with the beach in sight. And there is that feeling, as I sip a beverage from a coconut, that what I did, the work that I put into my goals and getting myself to this point—that holiday experience—represents the satisfaction and the reward. This reward is like the icing on the cake that completes a cycle of a successful experience.


In order to feel like we achieved success there has to be that complete cycle. We do the work and then get the reward. Although, if the reward doesn’t fulfill our specific wants and desires, as I mentioned earlier, then that cycle isn’t complete. We feel like there is something missing, and feel dissatisfied.


Now if I was to do a lot of the hard work, and there was no reward at the end to enjoy, success wouldn’t be entirely satisfying, nor fully achieved or experienced. It’s like coming to a dead end after a long, hard journey. And that can be very disappointing.


4 steps to achieving life goals

Whenever you set a goal there has to be these components:

  1. A goal that is achievable

  2. One that you personally want to accomplish, but there’s also that urgency to get it done and it matters to you

  3. One that puts you outside your comfort zone—in other words it requires effort

  4. And once complete there is that reward at the end.

Then you'll feel like you're a success.


If you strive to complete this cycle over and over again for each goal you want to achieve, you will not only succeed at completing your goals, but will also feel more successful in your life. No matter how small the goal is.


Christine is a success and leadership life coach located in Calgary, Alberta. She meets with clients online or in-person to help them define their goals and improve success in their personal and professional life. Discover what an accountability coach can do to help achieve your goals.

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