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Defining Success


“What does success look like for you?” My friend Janis asked me this just a few days ago.

I was indulging in a whipped cream topped crepe filled with Nutella and raspberry compote because we were celebrating. And I wasn’t in the mood for holding back. In calories or conversation.

It’s true Janis is my friend, we’ve worked together, I’ve learned from her, she’s advised me in all kinds of ways. But this meeting was officially a Strengths Finder coaching session. But because Janis was asking good questions and giving me her attention, our time felt more like a therapy session than anything else. Because we were celebrating my newest book releasing. And as a result she was hearing all of my performance anxiety.

You know…. I want people to like it. To say nice things. For it to sell. Because those will all be a measure of a good book, right?

But Janis and I were there to talk about how I am uniquely wired through my strengths. And based on that wiring she was asking me to think through how I define success. In my life. My work. This newest book.

And as her question hung there, right over my half-eaten crepe, I knew the answer. Success is emails. Not just any spammy emails. The emails.

My last book came out three years ago. And I received private messages from women around the world who told me how the book specifically spoke to their hearts. These women’s stories attached to actual names and email addresses were how I knew the book was effective. Real people with real hurts.

And I often thought, if I wrote this book for this one woman, that is enough. One life changed. One family impacted. I believe there is a ripple effect. At the same time I believe one heart moved toward healing is enough reason to celebrate. And given my Strengths Finder profile that definition of success fit my values and how I see the world.

I contrast this with how many define a book’s success: bestseller lists and units sold. Those are also important because they represent potential hearts impacted. I needed to recognize that hearts impacted is my personal motivator. This clarified definition of success is helping my sanity this week.

This conversation a few days ago has not only impacted how I’ve been viewing the book launch hovering over my next week, but it has made me think through the question of how I define success in life. So much of this new book is about paying attention to today. To lift my eyes from my screens and notice what’s around me. It is also about being available. To people and to God.

So as I stopped by the elementary school yesterday to check on a certain fourth grader’s allergies, I thought this is life success for me.

As I visited my parents for a few minutes on the way home from preschool: success.

As I sent emails to fellow writers while my kids ran in and out of the house chasing the puppy: success.

Success for me these days looks like being available and present with those in my closest circle. So work that allows me to drop off and pick up kids from school is important to me. The ability to write words others will read (like these) while sitting by the fire on a cold Colorado day while my four-year old naps is my version of living well. Having impact outside of my family, while still being present with those I live with…success.

Of course I would be thrilled if my book hit the number one, top, best list of all best lists. But I’m not going to define my success by whether it does or not. I am going to define it by the conversations in the carpool.

And the emails.


How are you defining success right now?



(Psst. Janis does coaching with women remotely. You can track her down at Facet Consulting Group. But only do so if you want someone who asks good questions and makes you see your life and work in new ways.)

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