The Definition of Success

It’s interesting to think about how my personal definition of success has changed and evolved over the years. In my early to mid twenties, just starting my career and becoming a newlywed, success meant a great job, a nice house, and enough disposable income to buy what I wanted and travel often.

All of that came fairly quickly and easily, which of course meant taking my definition of success to the next level. My late twenties were all about achieving freedom in my career, which I did by leaving my full-time job and becoming completely self-employed. Those few years were magical — I built a thriving business while working from home, we vacationed several times a year, and never had to worry about money.

And then we entered our thirties. Three days later, I had a baby, and everything changed.

Not for the worse; things were just…different. All of the sudden, success meant showering and emptying the dishwasher during naptime. It meant an entire afternoon and evening of music therapy sessions and lessons with no hiccups in our carefully crafted childcare lineup. It meant being fully present for bath and bedtime with my baby after a long, frustrating day.

My big picture definition of success remained: we had plans to eventually move to a bigger house, add another baby to our family, and become more financially secure, all while reducing my workload a bit. But I kept tabs on how I was doing based on those small, day-to-day successes, because ultimately those were what dictated my overall happiness.

When I was pregnant with my second child, expanding my business, and taking care of my toddler, those small successes seemed fewer and farther between. Success meant making it to my bed at the end of the day, rather than passing out from pure exhaustion on the couch. It meant getting Parker and I out of the house even if it meant just a trip to the grocery store. It meant finding enjoyment in my work rather than feeling resentful of all that I had piled onto my very full plate.

As hard as that time was, and as unsuccessful as many days felt, we did manage to reach our big picture goals. We moved into an amazing house, had our daughter, and I was able to step back a little from the number of direct service hours I had been providing previously.

Each season of life and change has brought its own set of challenges, none more challenging than 15 months of staying home with a baby, learning how to parent a 3-year-old, and dealing with the ups and downs of a very quickly growing business. I am beginning to come out of that season, now that my daughter is in part-time daycare and my business is beginning to reach a steady point (though my threenager still has me stumped most days).

And to be completely honest, the big picture hasn’t changed over that time. But we made it through to the other side, and we’re still happy and smiling most days. I feel like now is the time to revisit those bigger goals and start working towards them more intentionally, all while making sure to celebrate the smaller victories of everyday life.

So right now, my definition of success includes spending quality time playing before my kids leave for school in the morning. It includes spending time with my family and friends without feeling the pull of work in the back of my mind. It includes telling my son an extra story at bedtime no matter how tired I am. It includes holding my daughter every time she puts her arms up to be held, because I know in a year I will wish for that back. The big picture stuff is incredibly important, but these are the things that make me feel like a successful person at the end of the day.