Have you updated your view of success?

what is success

Success is a big word. It’s a word we all know and use frequently yet it has as many different meanings and measures as there are people that use the word. It’s a concept that we use to define ourselves and if we are honest, others. Even with its frequency of use, it’s a concept we rarely update when we consider how successful we are as our roles change and evolve over the years.

In the last decade I have worked with many women who have left their jobs in the corporate world to set up their own businesses. I call these women Corporate Crossovers.

Leaving the world of work behind can be extremely exhilarating and it can also be massively challenging – sometimes on the same day, or even the same hour!

These women will seek my assistance when they are fed up with their business and they don’t feel like they are succeeding. They are often at the point when they feel like they should get real and get a job and start making decent money again. They don’t feel like they are succeeding.

So I ask them “When did you last redefine your criteria of success? “

Most of the time, they haven’t taken the time to really ponder and define what success means for them now. If they were working for a company for many years their success criteria were defined by their role, their departmental objectives and the company’s targets. Or maybe not…..maybe they defined their own success based on job title, salary and benefits package, overseas trips, class of business travel and number of staff reporting to them.

  • When you had a job, how did you define your success?
  • What happens when the constructs that we defined our success (and sometimes ourselves) by are no longer there?
  • Does this mean we aren’t successful?

Starting up your own business means redefining many things, finances, working location and tax status but often we forget to redefine our own success criteria.

From my own experience and working with many Corporate Crossovers®, not redefining our success criteria can leave us with that nagging doubt wondering if we made the right decision to leave. If left unchecked, it can also grow into vacillation about whether to stay self-employed or to go and get a ‘real’ job again.

Personally, I went through an 18 month period of wondering if I should ‘get real’ and get a job and it wasn’t I took stock and thought about what success meant to me now in my own business, did I realize how successful I was!

Taking stock for me involved:

  • Examining what was REALLY important to me about the life I wanted to live (my values)
  • How much time I spent working now vs. before (daily hours and vacation)
  • My income
  • Comparing my stress levels with now and before
  • Focusing on myself and not comparing myself with former peers

After my period of reflection those years ago – I was stunned! Stunned at how much money I was earning with low stress and lots more time for my own pursuits. That was the real turning point for me to grab hold of my business with both hands and fully commit!

So whether you have just left corporate to start up your own venture or you have been doing it for some years, take some time to reflect deeply on what your success criteria are for you now.

Your chance to update your success criteria!

Step 1: Acknowledge the Past

When you had a job how did you define success then?

Jot down 10 elements that were important to you and made you think you were succeeding.

Some ideas to help you along…..impact on the bottom line, working with a large team on important projects, doing something that made a tangible difference to people, salary, business class travel, meeting with senior decision makers, large budgets, feeling respected, working for a great brand, job title…..

Step 2: What’s Precious Now?

What is most precious to you now? How do you want to spend your time and your energy. What are your dearest values?

Write down between five and ten areas that are really key to you now.

Some ideas to help you along…..independence, feeling like I make a difference, family, variety, freedom, financial security, time with children, state of mind, time to pursue other interests beyond work, working with people I like, creativity, opportunity, growth

Step 3: Take A Measure

Reflect on your ‘Precious Now’ list. How much is your current work and personal life reflecting those values?

Could this be success for you now?

How does it compare to your past criteria of success? What comes up for you when you read it and think about the two lists?

As we go through our life we are constantly evolving. Our values may shift and evolve to represent who we are in that moment. It’s important we feel successful on our terms as when we feel successful and believe we are, more success comes our way.

It’s through loving and committing to what you do with your whole heart, spirit and passion will bring you the success you deserve.



Wendy Kerr

Director for The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Auckland University.The Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the hub for the development and promotion of innovation, commercialisation and entrepreneurial activities within the University.We create experiential programmes, workshops and events to unleash the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, to transform the mindsets of our students and staff to support the growth of New Zealand as a prosperous and creative nation.

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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