A Year in Review: How Do You Measure Success?
Written by Lisa Montanaro | December 17, 2013

So we are coming to the end of another year. And a particularly popular exercise that a lot of people do at the end of the year is to look back and reflect on their activities, goals, achievements to determine if the year has been a successful one.

measuresuccessBut this begs the question: How do you measure success? It seems to me that it’s important to have metrics in order to measure success. But these metrics are going to be very different from person-to-person, and from business-to-business.

Is success based on earning a certain amount of money? Maybe. But to me, not if it means working 100 hours a week, rarely seeing your friends and family, and never taking a vacation. I value financial wellness, but not at the expense of my life. For others, making a lot of money, even at the expense of their personal life, is a very important measurement of success. Only you know where your metrics lie when it comes to money.

Is success based on ticking off a huge to do list? From a personal productivity standpoint, I’m all for being effective and productive, which often includes ticking items off of your to do list. But sometimes the better option is culling down the to do list and only focusing on what’s really important and is a priority. An overflowing to do list can become a regimented replacement for enjoying the moment in favor of often unimportant activities.

Is success based on receiving external accolades, winning a competition, or getting some other type of attention? Again, it depends how important this is to you and what value it adds to your life or business.

I think success is highly personal and varies widely among people and organizations. What is considered a huge overarching success to one person, can be considered a colossal failure to another. Success is usually made up of activities and goals that lead to achievements that then lead to feelings of accomplishment, value, and self-worth. But for some people it’s not even the achievements that lead to success, but the activity of striving for a goal itself. In other words, it’s not the completion of an activity or goal, but the progress and effort of working towards it. As Greg Anderson so eloquently stated “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but doing it.”

Too often, we are measuring success using the wrong metrics. We need to be crystal clear as to our definition of success in order to know if we are, in fact, successful. To me, success can be defined as taking consistent action towards achieving my goals personally and professionally. I tried to reward myself for progress and consistent action, not just results. Sometimes results are delayed, and sometimes for very legitimate reasons. If I only measured success when I actually achieve the results, it would certainly make the journey seem much longer and laborious.

So look back on your year, keeping your definition of success in place, and deciding on the metrics that you will use to measure it. Make sure that your metrics are not so difficult to achieve that you set yourself up for never feeling like a success. On the other hand, try not to make your metrics so easy that you have nothing to strive for.

I hope you’ll join me in a toast. Here’s to a successful year — no matter what your success metrics are!

Meet the Author

Helping others be the best versions of themselves gets me jazzed!

I’ve worn many hats in my lifetime—often at the same time—while enjoying fulfilling careers. I’ve been a performer, teacher, sign language instructor, lawyer, career counselor, law professor, coach, consultant, mediator, entrepreneur, speaker, trainer, writer, and author. 

I’m an eternal optimist and life-long learner, constantly researching ways to improve personal and professional effectiveness. And it brings me great joy to then pass on the results of that persistent curiosity to my clients and audiences. 

Of all the career hats I’ve been privileged to wear, my favorite is owner of this business since 2002. Why? Because it provides me the opportunity to work with wonderful organizational and individual clients. On any given day, I get to connect deeply with audiences, work with dedicated teams, improve workplaces, watch clients have a-ha moments, and know I’ve made a difference in their lives and careers. And that is very satisfying.