“Defining Success and Climbing the Mountain on Your Own Terms”

How many books have you read that trumpeted the message: becoming tremendously successful is simply a matter of making the commitment to be more successful, becoming more focused on your goals, or renewing a passion for your chosen field of work?   The number may be 2, 20, or 200, but undoubtedly you have read them. Unfortunately, those type of books often only convince those people who are already hardworking, diligent, and successful that they could be even more successful if they just became fixated on their work. Paradoxically, people who internalize any of these messages often become disenchanted with their career, feel burned-out, and come to view themselves as inherently unsuccessful. Why?  Their definition of “success” is limited, and their obsession with their career causes their lives to become out-of-balance. The good news is that “success” really is yours for the taking.  That is, success, as you choose to define it.

The first step in defining what your Personal Pinnacle of Success will be is to think about what “success” and being “successful” really mean.  Webster’s Online Dictionary (www.m-w.com) defines “success” as a “degree or measure of succeeding,” a “favorable or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence,” or “one who succeeds.”  “Successful” is defined as “resulting or terminating in success” or “gaining or having gained success.” 

I believe that most people decide whether or not they are successful by focusing on reaching one particular objective rather than assessing if they are leading lives that are rich in a number of areas. Usually, the objective is a substantial amount of wealth or fame.  At least, they categorize someone else as “successful” because of that person’s observable power, prestige, fame, or wealth. Yet, when I work with people who others consider to be highly successful, I often find that they do not share that perception. In fact, they perceive themselves to be quite unsuccessful. They think of themselves as failures, even though they have met or exceeded their own goals, because the amount of wealth or fame that they obtained was their singular measure for determining if they were indeed successful.  The lesson to be learned is that fame and fortune are only one component of how success should be determined.

Before sliding down that slippery slope of unsatisfactory self-worth, I encourage you to adopt a new and powerful plan for successful living: the “Personal Pinnacle of Success.” This model expands the definition of success. Rather than measuring success in terms of a desired result in one area of your life (e.g., becoming president of a corporation), the concept of success is expanded to include the notion of “successful living.” What does “successful living” mean?  Rather than focusing the majority of your time and effort in one area of your life, your energy is distributed between five key areas. This multifaceted approach significantly impacts how you organize your life, set your priorities, and ultimately define your goals. Each area is important in and unto itself.  However, if any of these areas begins to monopolize your time, it can have a toxic effect on your effort to live successfully.

The five key areas of the Personal Pinnacle of Success model are outlined below:         

Career: The scope of this area includes not only your chosen vocational field or profession, but also your educational background, relationships with your colleagues and clients, affiliation with professional organizations, and any other relationships that you have associated with your career.

Community: This area encompasses your friends, acquaintances, religious affiliation, neighborhood organizations, and any community group in which you actively participate.

Conduct of Life: This area includes your moral, value, and belief systems that cause you to conduct your life in a certain manner. It also includes the important aspect of extending courtesies to people you interact with, professionally and socially.

Family: This area includes your spouse (or significant other), children, and extended family.

          Personal Satisfaction: Happiness, inner peace, spirituality, a feeling of wellness, maintaining a positive outlook toward life, the ability for introspection, and other factors all are components of the area of personal satisfaction.

In order to understand the significance of each these five key areas in your life, draw an analogy to the elements and preparation that are necessary for a successful mountain climbing expedition. Behind every good expedition is a support group of sponsors and facilitators.  Your nuclear and extended family serves as the support group in your own life. In order to endure the physical stress of climbing a mountain, you must have a certain level of training. In life, your value and belief systems assist you in carrying on in spite of the stress placed on your character as you move toward greater heights of success. In order to for your to scale a mountain and reach its summit, you must have premium equipment and superlative technique.  In conquering your Personal Pinnacle of Success, your education, career experience, and aspirations for future success will enable you to reach the summit on which you have chosen to focus.  Any arduous expedition requires a partner or team that you can depend on when your equipment fails or a boulder obstructs your path. A life journey also requires a connection with supportive friends and community members. As you achieve increasing greater levels of personal satisfaction in the course of your own life, compare that to reaching plateaus and ultimately the summit of your Personal Pinnacle of Success. This design for living successfully assures you that your life will be rich in a wide variety of areas rather than having depth in only one and shallowness or emptiness in others. This model also allows you to define on your own terms what it means to be successful. 

          If you suffer from “chronic career over-focus,” you may be concerned that bringing the five key areas of your life into balance may be detrimental of your career.  My response is simple: don’t be. Living successfully allows you to enjoy many aspects of your life.  That enjoyment will likely have several unintended, but positive, consequences.  For example, the plan that you create to balance the areas of your life may lead you to invest more time and energy in your own community.  Think of all the potential business related networking contacts that you may make while donating time at your child’s school or to a community service project.  Bringing your life into greater balance will energize you, expand your opportunities for success in all five areas, and lead to many exceptionally interesting and beneficial unintended consequences!

How can you use this model to assure that you will be successful and live successfully? This question can be answered by preparing for and embarking on an expedition to your Personal Pinnacle of Success. During the initial planning and mapping phase of your expedition, you will set a series of goals or benchmarks to be achieved in each of the five key areas I have discussed. The goals that you set in each area should be related to either improving how you function in that area or the level of connectedness that you have with the area’s other group members. You should expect to make periodic adjustments to your plan throughout your journey to your Personal Pinnacle of Success. Just as a planned course must be altered due to a rock slide or weather change, so too may you alter your objectives within each area as you meet a goal or find that a life change necessitates an adjustment in your plan.

Another required element of insuring your future success is designating the balance that you want to achieve between the key areas. In making that determination, you must ask yourself whether each area is of equal importance to you, or if the areas will have varying levels of importance. Please remember that successful living depends upon being connected with each of these areas. As with most teams, each area will have its own strengths and weaknesses for you.  Each area will have its moment in time when it is the most important member of your team. Many experienced mountain climbers will tell you that climbing requires more balance than strength. As with climbing, achieving and possessing strength in only one of the key areas of your life may cause the other areas to atrophy and become dysfunctional. You may then be left with the feeling of failure that some outwardly successful people experience that I described earlier. Attaining and maintaining a balance between these five key areas of your life will assure that you live successfully.

In your quest to reach your own Personal Pinnacle of Success, I encourage you to periodically obtain the assistance of a success coach. Like an expert guide, a coach will help you navigate the difficult straits along your journey and help you to live more successfully.

          At this point you may be thinking, “It seems that there will always be something to work on. The journey to the peak of a mountain concludes when you reach the summit. Does the journey to my Personal Pinnacle of Success ever end? ”   It is true that there will be things for you to work on throughout the course of your life. Just as you would not attempt to climb Mount Everest when you are a novice mountaineer, you will not immediately reach your Personal Pinnacle of Success.

Having a successful career, maintaining a successful relationship with your family, conducting yourself in a manner deserving of people’s respect, becoming a productive member of your community, and feeling satisfied all require planning, hard work, and perseverance. Success is not a static event or single goal to be met. There will always be a higher mountain to climb. Today you begin your training to commence the greatest expedition of your life.  Charting the course and scaling the mountain that is your Personal Pinnacle of Success is a life-long process. If your definitions of success and successful living evolve throughout your lifetime, you will ultimately derive a sense of satisfaction with your achievements as well as a feeling of being successful.

          Undoubtedly, you have thought of additional questions such as:

          “How do I achieve success in each area?”

          “How do I determine what the balance I would like to achieve between the key areas should be?”

          “How do I move toward that balance?”

Those, my friend, are topics for other articles!  I hope that you look forward to reading about them in future issues of The Pinnacle Perspective.  This philosophy will be more fully described in my upcoming book: Your Personal Pinnacle of Success: Balancing Your Life and Achieving Success.

Until then, may you soar toward your dreams and achieve balance in your life.