Get Out of the “Success Trap”

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When I was in the work force every time I got promoted it never seemed to be quite enough. Sure, it was fun for a while, I got to go to meetings that I hadn’t been invited to before and I had a new set of peers to rub elbows with, but eventually I’d find myself looking at the folks the next level up wondering “What do they have that I don’t?”

I thought I’d left that behind when I became a Life Coach and blogger, but lately I’ve found myself in the same trap, looking at other, more “successful” blogs wondering “What do they have that I don’t?”

Success is the quintessential slippery slope – the more success we have, the more we want. But there are some simple ways to manage the quest for success.

Decide ahead of time what success looks like

It’s simple: you can’t achieve success if you don’t know what it is. When I started my blog, all I really wanted was to get my work out there and provide information to people who might benefit from it. At first, I was elated with each and every reader, each and every comment , it was great to hear that I’d made someone’s day. But as I started reading other blogs, I noticed that they had lots more comments than I did, and suddenly my blog seemed piddly.

The secret is to define what success looks like when you start, and stay connected to not only your definition of success but the reasoning behind it. I started my blog to help people who struggled with the same type of issues that I struggled with. Period. Sure, I get pulled into wanting to improve my numbers, but I’m careful about how I spend my energy. I don’t want the quality of my blog to slip because I’m spending too much time promoting it.

Continually Improve

I learned about continual improvement in my corporate life and it feels like a concept that applies not only to business processes but life in general. Continual improvement requires that we constantly monitor and evaluate our progress and implement improvements as needed. Which means that I can’t just blog away in a vacuum, I need to pay attention to how my words are landing. It’s important that I consistently check to see that I’m focused on my goals, to make sure that (in this order): 1) my message is meaningful 2) I’m hitting my target audience and 3) I’m attracting new readers.

Without continual improvement we can end up stagnating, losing touch with what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s only by consistently growing and moving forward that we’re able to move naturally and organically toward our vision of success.

Measure yourself against results, not people

Early this year when I’d just started blogging I connected with another blogger who is a wonderful writer and a master at promotion. Over the months I’ve seen her blog take off – she’s guest posted all over the place and has become a regular blogger for the Huffington Post. It’s a struggle for me not to compare myself to her, I have to constantly remind myself that our goals aren’t the same, that my path is a different one.

What I’m looking for more than anything else is evidence that my words are connecting with the people I want to reach. Thus, my success is most accurately measured primarily by the comments I get. Sure I need people to read my blog to make those comments, and I do play the numbers game to some extent, but what is foremost in my mind is the desire to craft little bites of wisdom that people enjoy.

When we measure ourselves against other people we can never succeed – there is always someone more talented, more experienced, and yes, more successful, than us. But when we stop comparing and simply see if we’re doing what we set out to do, we’re able to celebrate our successes more fully.

Hold on to your uniqueness

In the section above I talk about how I struggle not to compare myself to another, more successful, blogger. If I did allow myself to measure my success against hers, I would begin to want to do what she does, to copy the techniques that got her where she is. And I don’t want to do that. Because what makes my work special, what attracts my precious readers, is my unique style. If I alter my style in order to compete, then I end up merely a copy of someone else and my contribution is lost. What you offer in your work, what you offer the world, is your unique way of looking at things, your singular combination of skills and personality.

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I spent many years in an environment where I allowed others to define success for me. They would tell me if I was good or bad, a star or a failure. The fact that I didn’t temper their definition with my own vision of success made it all pretty meaningless.

What should be most important to all of us is the definition of success that we hold in our hearts. One that takes into account what’s meaningful in our lives and incorporates an expression of who we are. Because in the long run, success isn’t measure by status, money, or things – those can be lost and won many times over a lifetime. Success is measured by what we contribute to the world and who we are while we’re doing it.

Photo by Unfurled