Get Out of the “Success Trap”

success trap

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.


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

27 thoughts on “Get Out of the “Success Trap””

  1. This is awesome advice. I think no matter what we achieve in life once we get there our ego moves the line. Kinda of like dangling a carrot. It’s a good idea to define what success means personally. Comparison is suffering we bring on ourselves. Who needs it. If I’m in the moment, my needs are met.

  2. Thanks for this Melinda. This is a great post, full of the very subject it speaks about; integrity. I have to say reading this slowed me right down and helped me come back to my own sense of purpose, which is to be fully present authentic in my work, and to communicate from there.

    I too find myself chasing the carrot of increased traffic, and I have to be disciplined and frequently sit down to write useful, inspiring content for my readers.

  3. This is such a fine post Melinda. Thanks. When we are at peace with ourselves, and with what it is we can offer into this world — and concerned to offer that and keep on offering it how can we fail? We’ve succeeded before we even start.

  4. Hi Craig,

    Thanks for your comments. It is a constant battle for me too – writing this post helped me reconnect with what I’m really trying to do. The desire to be a star can creep up without warning – my friend and I joke about “being on Oprah” as the ultimate symbol of success.


  5. I have been a silent reader of your blog
    and I never thought how valuable comments are
    until I started my own blog.
    I earlier thought that big time blogger
    don’t need another comment to attend to.
    So what I’m saying is, you do connect and make a difference!

  6. Great article, Melinda.

    I think it’s also important to know your purpose and live it. Following your purpose helps you to lose the self-conciousness about your success.
    Thanks for the great advice,


  7. The section about holding onto your uniqueness really reminded me of a great quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’- “Tis’ better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else’s perfectly.”

    It’s so true we all get so caught up in taking notes on how the person above us did it and we forget how to trust ourselves and our gut instincts. Trusting ourselves often requires that we are confident and without this confidence true success can never be achieved. Maybe the image of success is just that an image. Nothing will ever be perfect, but as you stated it is the intention of your action and the drive to manifesting that intention that should be most important. We’re a generation of insatable creatures who have had our egos stroked in the ‘me me me’ society. I like you often struggle with keeping tabs on myself versus others and we also often forget it’s not all about us. It sounds like you’ve discovered the fact that doing something that is truly within you rather than seeking to build an image on the outsidevoid of passion is the true key to connecting with others and yourself. This is the first time I’ve read your blog and I hope to see more. Kudos :)

    1. Thanks, Lauren :) As you can tell, even though I’m lucky enough to be doing my heart’s work, there is a part of me that still wants to achieve society’s definition of success. That darn ego :)

      I appreciate your comments,


  8. Melinda, great points. I think that holding on to our uniqueness is very important. It’s what makes us stand out. We shouldn’t compare ourselves because we’ll always find some flaws. Not comparing ourselves to others help us to realize our own uniqueness as well as helping accept our own flaws so that we can constantly improve and learn from our mistakes.

  9. Great post…My favorite part was “measuring yourself against results, not people.” In everything we do we try to be like the best, but something that motivates me and is a little different, is looking at the less succesful then myself. I see what I don’t want to be like and continually improve what I currently do in order not to fall down that well…

  10. wow i got your point, and as i consider myself a successful student i always compair myself with my previose self and see if i am increasing educationaly and the personal phase

  11. great post , i really like it ! i usually measure my self against people , which makes me sad all the time , because i feel like a failure , no matter what i did , i feel its not enough , and i do say that i don’t care about how people judge me , but in fact , i do care ! and it affects me , “do they think am a successful person or not “, i know its not good to do that , and i wish i can change it , i will try to work on “Measure yourself against results, not people” :) hope i can measure my self against results ..

  12. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!1 your so encouraging, at 22years and still a civil engineering student i had almost lost hope but thank you for making me believe in my self.

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