What does success mean to you? We all want to feel successful in our personal and professional lives. But understanding how to define success and measure it is the key to achieving it.

Success is a popular idea for a reason. It feels good to feel successful – whether that’s being recognized through a raise at work, more visibility within your company or having your partner or child tell you how loved and valued you make them feel.

But despite the small successes we all experience each and every day, sometimes it can feel like it’s not enough. What’s more, our measure of success is likely to shift at different turning points in our lives. For example, seeing your friends achieve certain milestones sooner than you have, or watching coworkers be promoted and elevated while you’ve been passed over.

Success is a moving target – but identifying how to measure true success can help keep you on track and motivated towards your desired outcome. In this article, we’ll discuss what defines success, explore how to measure it in your personal and professional life, talk about what metrics can be used for this measurement, and finally lead to how you can prioritize success, using effective strategies to get there.

How do you measure success?

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There are many different metrics for success. Professional success, for example, can be measured based on growth in the company or through a measure of customer satisfaction. It can be measured in dollar value, either through the achievement of a larger compensation package at work or through positive year-end performance reviews. When running a business, employee satisfaction, business goals and achieving key performance indicators set for the company can measure success.

Discover your core values

If you’re unsure of how to find a true measure of success, getting in touch with your core values can be a powerful starting place. It’s hard to know what will make you feel successful without tapping into the areas of your life that are most important to you.

Here are a few steps to take in order to identify your core goals.

Make a list of what you value most – in order of importance

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Making lots of money at a job where you’re working long hours is meaningless if the thing you prioritize most is time with family and friends. List out the things you value most and order them with the top of the list containing what’s most important to you. It’s not impossible to measure success across various goals, but achieving success starts with prioritization and goal setting, so you can better identify both our professional goals and the important tasks needed to get where you’re going.

Set a goal that measures success

What do true measures of success look like to you when it comes to quality time with family? A lucrative career? Get specific about what your goal looks like and how you’ll measure success along the way. One way to do this is to use the SMART goal framework. Setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based goals makes measuring success much easier and more tangible.

Track your progress

Compare yourself to last month –- have you stayed on track with the goals you’ve set? What has been different, and what could have gone better? When measuring your progress, the key is to continue measuring it using metrics that make sense for what you’re working towards.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

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This advice is wise and important to keep in mind when measuring success. A common but flawed method for measuring success is looking at others and evaluating whether or not you’re doing better or worse by comparison.

What’s the problem with measuring success that way, you ask? There will always be someone who’s doing “better” than you – or who seems to be on the outside. The reality is we never truly know what other people are going through. They may live in a beautiful house with a nice lawn and fancy car – but at what expense? Maybe being able to afford that lifestyle has cost them time with family or has made them feel burnt out and depressed.

Achieving success comes from within. Success is personal to each and every one of us, and it means different things to different people. Instead of looking at others and feeling you’re not successful because you don’t measure up, measure success on your own terms. You’ll feel happier and more satisfied by doing so.

Metrics of success

If you’re still having trouble determining how to measure success, here are a few key areas to evaluate and measure moving forward.

Living a well-balanced life

Living a well-balanced life can be easier said than done. Job demands, family obligations and the tasks that come with keeping a household clean and running can all easily pile up if we let them. The long-term effects of living an unbalanced life can be tremendous and costly — a failed marriage, strained relationships with your children and even health complications due to constantly working in a stressful environment are all real potential consequences.

To measure success in your life balance, evaluate what areas of life you wish you had more time to prioritize, then determine what next steps need to happen in order to achieve success.

Sharing success with others

One measure of success that can be a powerful indicator is the ability to give back in some way. Whether that’s by means of making a monetary donation to a cause you care about, volunteering your free time to help others or acting as a teacher or mentor to young professionals in your field, having the ability to give back in a meaningful capacity is another way to measure success.

Maintaining good health

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As the old saying goes, health is wealth. Measure success in this area not just by how you feel each day, but by the necessary steps you take and habits you implement to ensure you’ll continue to live in good health. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, drinking enough water, establishing a healthy sleep pattern and meditating are all things that can support and lead to personal success when it comes to health and happiness.

Building and acquiring wealth

Money and material possessions are a common measure of success. But structuring this goal in a way that leads to success in the long-term, rather than in the moment, is key. For example, a measure of success can be whether or not you’re on track with retirement savings, purchasing a home you can pass down to your children, saving enough money to provide your kids with a college education, and others.

Conducting yourself with dignity and honor

Respect is earned, not given. Whether it be in your place of work, within your family or amongst your peers, if you’re someone who’s respected for their perspective and often asked for your thoughts and opinion on subjects that matter, you’ve achieved success.

How to measure your personal success

Measuring success doesn’t always have to be tangible. For some areas of life, measuring success equates to a certain amount of dollars in an account, a large purchase, a job offer or promotion. But what if your goal is to simply be happy?

Happiness looks different for everyone, of course. But if you’re wondering how to measure success for goals that don’t feel as measurable as some others on this list, here are a few signs you’ve achieved success.

You’re proud of yourself. There’s still work to be done, but there’s an overall satisfaction you feel in all or most areas of your life. At the end of each day, you feel you’ve accomplished what was important and feel optimistic about what the next day, week and month will bring.

You’re part of something bigger than yourself. When measuring success, it’s easy to get caught up in your personal goals and responsibilities. But success is often recognizing that you’re just one component of the meaningful things you’re part of. The relationships you have with others. The work that you do. How you spend your free time.

You have people in your life who care about you. What good is success if you don’t have people in your corner who will cheer you on and celebrate your wins? Having people in your life who love and support you is a key component of happiness – and an impactful way to measure success.

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You feel that you’re making progress. It’s hard to feel successful when every day feels the same. Seeing progression in areas of your life, such as your job, relationships or even monetary savings, can be used as a success metric.

Overall, you’re happy. You feel that you have a greater purpose – whether that’s in your professional or personal life. Happiness is truly the greatest measure of success – one that’s worth constantly striving for. Sure, you may have certain areas of your life where you see room for improvement. But as a whole, your life feels more or less complete.

Strategies to measure your workplace success

While measuring success for personal goals like happiness can feel less structured, success at work comes with more easily identifiable key performance indicators. If you’re unsure of how to measure success at work, here are a few suggestions that can help inform your progress.

Compare your progress each day

During particularly busy work weeks, it can be hard to take a look back and evaluate what went well and what could’ve gone better. But establishing a daily check-in with yourself can be a useful tool for measuring success at work. Identify what went better today than yesterday. If today felt like you made less progress than the day before, determine why that is and how tomorrow can be different.

Spend time on three annual tasks

In any job, daily deliverables must be prioritized. But losing track of the annual goals and achievements that need to be worked on as well can be detrimental to achieving success in the workplace. In order to stay on track, speak with your manager about the annual targets that he or she wants to see you hit, then allocate a specific amount of time each day to work toward these overall goals and achievements.

Spend time on communication

What makes for a successful conversation at work? Measuring success at work is not just about whether or not you’ve made your point in a meeting – it’s what you took away from what others said as well. Measure the success of your workplace interactions not only by the outcome but of the way your coworkers received and processed the information – and what happened next.

Build workplace relationships

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Building rapport with your team at work is essential to your professional success. In order to measure the success of the conversations you have with team members, take a look at how and when they approach you when you don’t initiate conversation.

For example, do your team members come to you for help when they have an issue? Do they expect you to do the work for them, or are they coming to you for guidance? Do they rarely interact with you unless you initiate? Keep track of your interactions at work and make it a priority to position yourself as someone who’s there to help.

Set meetings with your manager

You likely have time scheduled weekly with your manager to discuss the work that’s on your plate. But setting goals with your manager that pertain to your overall performance and career trajectory within the company is also important to do. If you find that months have gone by without an opportunity to check in and discuss your progress, take the initiative to put time on your boss’s calendar to do so.

Utilize peer reviews

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If you manage a team, allowing your direct reports to have a voice in the team processes, overall dynamic, and your management style is something to consider. Your team members may not feel comfortable coming to you directly with feedback or thoughts about what can be done better or differently.

However, giving them the option to convey this anonymously, such as through a survey, can help measure the success of the current processes and procedures implemented on your team and help improve your team dynamic for the better.

Summary

How do you measure success? We all define success differently. Whether you’re hoping to achieve personal success, overall life satisfaction, happiness or professional success, finding the motivation to do so starts with identifying what’s truly important to you.

When thinking about how to measure success, envision the kind of life that would bring you the most happiness. Set goals for how you’ll get there and track your progress along the way. The only person who can define how you measure success is yourself. Run your own race, don’t compare your success to others and keep your eye on the prize.

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