Career

How To Figure Out Your Own Definition Of Success

As of today I have been unemployed for 73 days. Not because I wasn’t good at my job, or because I was having a baby, or even that I decided to become a ground-breaking entrepreneur in an attempt to change the world and become a billionaire. It has been 73 days simply because I decided that I wanted to follow my heart and continue to learn about the world, and my place in it.

Looking back at this time it’s safe to say I have hit a few milestones, yet I would be lying if I didn’t say that it has been quite the roller-coaster. Naturally being the emotional sibling, I have broken down once (okay, maybe twice) questioning if I had made the right decision. I thought that by packing up and leaving everything again to move overseas, I was kind of going backwards in life.

I wasn’t just afraid that I was going backwards in life, but also that there was the chance I would fail; I would have to go back home and tell everyone what went wrong, I might need to ask for my old job back, I could end up forever being the person at the centre of gossip at the social events, the list goes on.

Face your fears

When you’re staring failure in the face, it can be quite daunting.

Despite this nerve wracking experience, which I felt I was the only one going through, I spoke to Steve Shepherd, CEO at career coaching firm TwoPointZero, who explained to me that fear is one of the most common reasons why people are afraid to change their careers and choose to stay in an unsatisfying role instead.

“Fear of what others may think, fear they’ve already put so much effort into getting to where they are. They don’t want to admit they were wrong. Or, they simply fear change and the uncertainty it brings,” he said.

After thinking this over for weeks, I disclosed how I was feeling to one of my close friends, which was a pivotal moment; what I thought was a step backwards in my career and my finances, she described as a step forward in life.

what I thought was a step backwards in my career and my finances, she described as a step forward in life

Thanks to this new way of looking at it, I realised that although I might not be successful in a conventional way by making such a drastic change five years into my career, taking a few steps backwards doesn’t mean that I am unsuccessful. I reminded myself I need to set my own goals, and that I should be measuring my success against these rather than what I think is expected of me.

Setting goals

Steve told me that the most important part of setting goals is to understand yourself. Easy right? Well not exactly; I’ve spent the last 27 years trying to understand myself. The first step is looking at what interests you. “You need to identify the things you like and the things you don’t. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Try and work out what really drives you,” Steve said.

“Don’t settle for something you are unhappy with. Invest in understanding what options your passions can create for you. Explore those options. Identify the ones that will truly drive you and build a plan that leads you to achieving your goals. And remember to follow your heart and don’t settle for second best,” he said.

If we are focused on finding out what really drives us to set our goals and achieve them, we may not be the richest person we know, or the CEO of a company, but we will be successful in our own way, and most importantly we will most likely be happier.

Challenge yourself and start setting goals

Over the past 73 days I have challenged myself; I moved to a new country with no guarantee I would find work, I have said goodbye to my closest friends and family and I have put myself in a country where the language, culture and traditions are quite different from what I am familiar with.  In my opinion, that is pretty successful for someone with a goal to learn more about the world and their place in it!

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 Some of the tip things I’ve done to set my goals for success, and stick to them are…

– Write lists: I’ve been told your thoughts have more impact if you write them down… usually on paper, but in this day and age a smartphone will do. And it works! Once you’ve cleared your head of everything that is complicating your thoughts, you can prioritise what is most important to you. I often ask myself, will I regret working longer hours, or not spending time with my friends and family the most when I’m old?

– Talk to your friends: Chances are your friends or colleagues have gone through a similar thought train at least once in their life. Confide in someone about how you are feeling, and like my friends did, they will often give you a whole new perspective. We often think worst case scenario and are blind to the alternative ways of looking at it… which are usually slightly more positive.

– Stop comparing yourself to others: Whether it be siblings, colleagues of the same age (or younger who have excelled quicker), or friends…stop comparing yourself to others. We are taught from such a young age that we need to be the best at everything, and to compete for the best grades or the winning medal. Life is not one big competition though. We are each unique and different things motivate each of us. Rather than compare yourself to others, start comparing your own achievements – can you do something better or different next time?

Life is not one big competition

– Challenge yourself: You will feel most successful when you challenge yourself. This could be in the form of mini challenges along the way, or one big challenge… but whatever you do, get out of your comfort zone. And if this makes you feel like you’re going backwards in life like it did for me, try and think of it as a step forwards in another direction.

– Remember your definition: No matter what we do, there will be times in life when we compare ourselves to what we think is successful based on how society has painted it for our generation. When you do find yourself thinking your not as successful as someone else you know, or even the 22 year old millionaire who gave up avocados and now has five properties in Sydney, re-visit how you define your own success.

– Identify your passions: This last tip is one that Steve shared with me, and since I’ve started to do it I have developed a better understanding of what truly drives me. Think about words you would use to describe yourself, your skills and competencies, the things you like to do at work and the things you don’t and the values that are important to you and you want to include in your work. Use this information, along with what has attracted you to past roles to develop a career profile that maps out the components of your ideal career and start to explore career options that address all these points.

If you’re still not sure, you could work with a career coach to help identify your passions and what career opportunities there are to fulfil these.


Emma Davey is a passionate story teller who spends her time challenging her understanding of the world and sharing her experiences of living overseas on her blog Another Aussie Abroad.