How the secret to success can be found in a two-letter word. Self-awareness.

We are blinded by what we see on social media, what we hear and read. We adopt beliefs and goals from our parents and expectations from society and the culture we live in. It’s not surprising the success bar is based on external norms.

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Guess what? The secret to your success is about defining what success looks like for YOU. Yes, as simple as that. And this begins with self-awareness. Regular check-ins with yourself and your goals and self-adjustments along life's wonderful journey of ups and downs are needed and highly recommended too.

I invite you to consider that success can be internal, is not always measurable, and changes as you grow. I also share my own perspective on success and leave you with some questions to ponder. Finally, I offer simple tips to focus on feeling more successful rather than having success.

What does the word ‘success’ mean?

Lexico defines success as ’the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.’

‘The achieving of results wanted or hoped for’ pops up in the Cambridge dictionary.

Both definitions leave me thinking that if the results are not achieved, then only failure remains. Success becomes a never-ending journey and personal quest to find, achieve or measure. Success is often equated with happiness so you find yourself thinking you will be happy when x, y, or z happens. This moves success into the future and away from the present. Leaving you to feel utterly exhausted as if you will never get there.

Never measure success with someone else’s ruler

Comparing will only lead to despair!

It is hard to focus on the meaningful things when there is so much distraction out there which forces us to zoom in on the BIG stuff like hitting a specific salary or job title, owning a home or dream car, staying in 5-star hotels or similar.

I asked three people in my network what success means for them, and I was intrigued to read three very different perspectives. They highlight that success will always be personal, and comparison is the thief of joy.

Inner peace and loving relationships. I’m still striving for this. As well as to feel content and have minimal worries.

Mid-life professional

Your perception of success will change with age. Like many, one person used to think a job, career, and money defined success.

“When I was younger, my view on success was heavily influenced by my upbringing / environment. I was encouraged to aim for academic success, get a good job, have a good life. Looking back, I think I was brainwashed a little.”

Academic writer and globetrotter

Success is having a purpose and finding the happiness to pursue that purpose, whatever it may be. From baking a cake to travelling around the world to creating the career you want. It’s a sense of completion too. It’s not measured against other people, only yourself based on what you want, need and enjoy. You can only be successful if you are satisfied with the goal in the first place.”

Mother of three

Why is it important to define what success means for YOU?

The payoffs are huge. Peace of mind, happiness, and joy in your heart to name a few. And a feeling you are not constantly chasing something which you may or may not achieve one day. It allows you to focus on the process, the being rather than the doing, the feeling rather than the having.

When you measure your achievements by your efforts and personal starting point, you are guaranteed to see more success in your life. Suddenly that 5 km run is a success to be proud of whereas a marathon is someone else’s.

What does success mean for me?

Time, choice, and values are important ingredients for success in my life.

Oprah Winfrey reminds us at the beginning of each Super Soul podcast, one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is time. We all have the same number of hours in the day and the choice on how to spend them. Personally, it’s important for me to have time to pursue what’s important to me (meaningful work, activities that support healthy living, and hobbies that bring me joy) and meaningful relationships.

How are you spending your time? And how does this support your success?


Recognizing you always have a choice in every situation will leave you feeling empowered. Working for employers and organizations aligned with your values is a good starting point for a meaningful career. Making choices based on your values, as well as honoring and listening to your inner whispers will help you live an authentic life. 

Live your values

Can you name your top five values? If the answer is ‘no’, you have some homework to do. If you do not know or cannot articulate your values, then it will be a challenge to live a life on your terms. You may find yourself living a life based on what others expect of you (e.g. parents, and society).

Small is powerful

Success is about feeling better so you can live more. Small is powerful. Therefore, I start all my coaching conversations by asking my clients to share a personal win. It sets the scene for success and leaves us both feeling and thinking, ‘hey, you’ve got this!’

What does success look like for YOU?

If there is only one thing you do in 2022, I invite you to dig deep and really define what success looks like for you. The answer to this question will be different depending on your age and the society in which you live.  Your success bar will change as you grow too. That is why I recommend asking yourself regularly, what makes you feel successful rather than have success?

To conclude, I would like to leave you with a checklist to invite more success into your life:

  • Avoid a life based on other people’s expectations.
  • Never compare yourself to others.
  • Take time to discover and live by your values.
  • Remember you always have a choice.
  • Living your values gives you the courage to live an authentic life.

I invite you to ponder one final question.

Does success = happiness or happiness = success?

Feel free to share your thoughts. I would love to hear them!


Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash


Karin Weiser

International Business Coach (ICF-ACC) and Writer,

Transition Specialist who supports ambitious professionals in transition in their career and life with conversations that matter. I help ambitious professionals to write the next chapter of their career story. To own it, walk it and talk it. I have rewritten my story many times - moved countries, climbed the corporate ladder, zigzagged in my career. I stand for diversity, well-being and lifelong learning. In 2019 I took a life leap to self-employment. Proud to be a Psychologies Ambassador and ICF Barefoot certified coach (ACC). My WHY is to have a positive impact on people - in person, virtually and through words. British by birth, global by choice - I'm based in Copenhagen and work globally. My personal recipe for a balanced life includes a splash of optimism, yoga and dark chocolate.