Defining Your Own Success (Part 1)

Define success and productivity by your own metrics

Everyone wants success. The problem is that we often stumble in defining our personalized metrics for success. It doesn’t help that the general consensus is to strive for typical stuff like expensive cars, large houses and luxury vacations. If you’re like me, you agree none of that stuff qualifies as success. The contrasting effect feels like a rift in the overall success metric of the world. And it’s a disheartening experience; to feel at odds with the apparent worldview. But I’ve reasoned that it’s a flawed premise to look to societal norms for our personal measures of success. Surely, everyone wants to be happy and fulfilled in their life. The missing piece is that each and every person’s metric for success must come from a personal revelation. Let me show you how I’ve arrived at this theory from my own journey, and how I’ve used the perspective gained to find my fulfillment in productivity.

The internal journey

Defining success is tricky. Tricky because it requires a completely individualized definition, not one handed to us by society. Initially creating this personal metric requires a deep knowledge of the self. And maintaining focus on the new path that comes from it also requires constant self-evaluation.

If you have no idea where to begin, start by asking yourself “what am I all about?”, or “why am I even bothering with anything?” In the definition stage, one needs to turn inwards to find the deeper answers to these questions. Analyzing your internal motivation, judgement and justification is a good place to start. The path to discovering your unique brand of success is therefore an internal journey of self discovery.

Know yourself to know your purpose - work in your purpose to know success

This is a great example of life being about the journey and not the destination. Traditional success targets are akin to the destination in this metaphor: The shiny pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Although it's an illusion, the rainbow does serve to give guidance. If you take a few steps towards a rainbow, you quickly remember it is just a matter of optical perspective. Yet the visualization still serves! It becomes a beacon of potential, out on the horizon of life. A reminder of what a goal should be: an idea not fully formed, intangible by definition.

Try thinking of goals in terms of intention. What is the motivation behind said goal? Why does the energy surrounding this intention, coalesce in a particular manner? Getting to the core of your personal motivations will enable you to understand what success really means to you.

Alignment with purpose

Success to me is about being in sync with my purpose. My continuous self-evaluation serves as the tracking mechanism for this moving target. This is why I constantly work to keep myself in check; to know myself a little better each day.

The best way I know how to stay on track with my purpose and understand its meaning is through the 'emotional guidance system'

Our emotions function as indicators of the driving energy. As a tool, they’re simple to use:

  • Negative emotions are telling us to retreat, let go, try again, regroup, redirect
  • Positive emotions mean keep going, more of the same please!

For example: when we feel apprehension, we should probably withdraw. When we feel excitement, we should probably proceed. And when we feel love, we feel the greatest affirmation of all... How cool that this system exists within us all; guiding us naturally, honestly and for free! You just need to take a moment to pause and feel.

Using the internal emotional guidance system, we can navigate to what matters most in our lives: to our purpose and living through this in success. In this way, it is a truly personalized experience. No one can tell you how you feel. You just know it. It’s one hell of a commitment, but once you learn to know yourself and trust your feelings, you can unlock the great guidance from within. You can then seek out that which lights you up and makes you feel alive; and take the steps towards it.

Productivity = Success

Productivity to me is the most ideal use of time in the present moment. (Working efficiently, observing an optimal allocation of resources, while remaining present and optimistic.) I know I’m successful when I’m on; when I’m in the zone, being effective and being creative.

I love systems and process. They are the tools that will enable humanity to breach through to new levels of global success; with the next generation of projects, of unprecedented ambition and reach, helping more humans more effectively than ever before. And of course it begins with the individual (that's you and me) and how we use our space and time. I choose to use my time to keep myself in check.

The external application

My follow-up post, and part 2 in this series, discusses the bare minimum Morning Ritual: The first system built from my thoughts presented in this initial post. The Morning Ritual is the basis of my daily mental, and spiritual calibration. It’s what enables all of my productivity! It's so crucial that I’m almost useless without it. It is also my main self-evaluation tool; what I use to keep myself in check and on track.

The Morning Ritual was also the first aspect of what grew into my full Incremental Approach: my personal methodology for managing projects and ramping up productivity. Covered in part 3, this methodology is the natural evolution of the theory presented in this post. To date, it is the greatest tool I've developed to enable my fulfillment of purpose and success.

Stay tuned!


UPDATE: Questions, feedback and comments are always encouraged. You can reach me at contact@michaelterwindt.com. If you prefer the more structured approach, you can complete this survey. If you know someone you think would appreciate my work, you can share or point them to the link for this post. If you'd like updates of my major posts delivered to your inbox you can subscribe to my email newsletter here. Thanks!