06 Feb

Redefining Success

After “the year we panicked” followed by “the year we stood still” welcome to “the year that is already really annoying.”

By 25 January, my evaluation of 2022 was ‘fail’.  And I’ve been thinking about my relationship with failure ever since.

The old me would have written 2022 off as a failure already:

  • I’ve been meaning to write this blog for about a month, but I procrastinated.   
  • I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions, to avoid failing to meet those goals.
  • I set financial targets for LESS for the first time in my life. 
  • I even deprioritised writing my next book, blaming ‘the zone’ for my failure to commit.

Fail, fail, fail.  

Or is it?

The last few years have taught all of us a lot, and one important lesson for me has been about my relationship with success. 

  • Is challenging the immense internal pressure that we high-performers put upon ourselves a form of success? 
  • Is doing more than you did last year a pass/fail metric?
  • Is procrastinating instead of forging forward a sign of failure?

The problem I’ve always had was that in my mind goal achievement equated to success.  But here’s what’s wrong with that:

  • I achieve my goal – yay me, now what’s next?
  • I fail to achieve my goal  – therefore I am a failure.
  • I’m still working towards my goal – and I am unsatisfied until that day.

It’s a nil-sum game isn’t it? 

When I see both my priorities and my goals as measures of success, it suddenly changes the game.  If I achieve half of my goals, but do so based on my priorities that might be a success these days.  And if I achieve all of my goals but not based on my priorities, that could be deemed a failure.

Like a balanced scorecard – it’s not just what you achieved, but how you achieved it that defines success.  Why haven’t I applied this to my life? I apply it to performance reviews all the time! 😕

After all, my goals remain unchanged.

  • Did I write this blog? Yes.
  • Do I have the resolve for the year ahead? Yes.
  • Will I contribute meaningfully to family wealth and wellbeing? Yes.
  • Will I write another book? Yes.

But my priorities have changed in the last few years – and that’s true for many of us. 

I now prioritise my work goals based on energy, interest and urgency.  It’s already helping me to have more impact, more easily.  

Not sure how to redefine your relationship with success?

If your 2022 has already been characterised by rolling covid cases at home and work, canceled holidays, dinners and events, or even the odd freak weather system, then chances are you’re experiencing some goal anxiety already.

How much motivation are you wasting on nil-sum goal setting? How do you create success from set-back?  Are you always ‘getting there’ instead of ‘being there’? Do you long for more impact, more easily?

Here’s a few tips to try out.

  • Heidi Grant recommends introducing To-date and To-Go milestones – instead of stressing when you experience that inevitable setback, first review how far you’ve come.  Reviewing progress activates your reward centers and makes you feel instantly better about the setback.  Then check how far you still have to go.  That will tell you if you can afford to slow down for a moment and take a break to re-energise.
  • Frank Partnoy tells us to embrace positive procrastination and ask ourselves ‘what is the maximum amount of time I have to do this?’ rather than rush to get it done and off the desk.  By doing so, you’ll pace your work, allow your brain to do deeper thinking, still get the important sh*t done, but at a higher standard.
  • James Clear tells us to work on our systems of achievement rather than on our goals.  My granny would agree – she’d say look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.  In my leadership experience, that means prioritising how, when, and what you work on, how you manage your energy, and how you manage the expectations of those around you.

I’d love to know how you go!


Rebecca is Australia’s pre-eminent advocate for B-suite leadership – the expert in developing hi-impact B-Suite leadership at both a team and individual level.

Speak to Rebecca about:

  • Individual and group coaching
  • Team effectiveness and training
  • People & Culture Advisory

You can reach her on rebecca.houghton@boldhr.com.au

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