What is success? Is it money, the corner office, raising a family, running a marathon, or giving back to your community? While there is no right or wrong answer to this question many of us find it challenging to articulate our own definition of success. Often, this is due to societal expectations regarding success, our own past experiences with success, and pressures from those closest to us.

Why is it important to define success? Well, in order to be successful we need to know what success looks like for us and what it means to us. Success means something different to each person. In her newest book, Perserverance, Margaret Wheatley asks, “What are your measures of success? Both your conscious ones that you proclaim, and your unconscious ones that manipulate you invisibly?” These questions challenge us to recognize and reflect on both our conscious and unconscious measures of success, and to understand the relationship of these measures on our own understanding and definition of success.

Occasionally, our work in leadership development and executive coaching reveals a disconnect between the conscious and unconscious measures of success. Outwardly, an individual may appear to be satisfied with their professional success, however, we discover that the individual is actually experiencing feelings of disengagement and frustration. Working hard for that next promotion is great, but what happens when, unconsciously, the person values work/ life balance as success?

Daniel Pink comments in his book Drive, “The most successful people, the evidence shows, often aren’t directly pursing conventional notions of success. They’re working hard and persisting through difficulties because of their internal desire to control their lives, learn about their world, and accomplish something that endures”. When defining success for ourselves we need to be sure that the conscious and subconscious measures of success are in alignment, and that we ensure that it has personal meaning and importance.

Do you know what success looks like for you? Do you know what it means to you? Are your conscious and unconscious measures of success in alignment?