She was stuck. The only thing she could think of was measuring it in financial terms, her productivity and the ability to provide for her family. Her challenge sparked a lengthy conversation about what success truly is, and how women are notoriously tough on themselves when considering their own significance.
Let’s reverse engineer this. Envision yourself at 90 years old, reflecting on your life with those who are most important to you. What will you tell them are your greatest accomplishments? What milestones are you most proud of? How will you complete the sentence “I’m so glad I ________ instead of letting my fear hold me back.”
This one exercise can point you to your definition of success. Are working more hours and making more money part of your legacy? How about your relationships, or the impact you made through volunteering? Will you remember how many speaking engagements you had, or instead how many family gatherings blessed your life? And how about your faith-walk? Deep down, what’s most important in the long run?
Now, consider the unique gifts and core values that God gave you when He lovingly created you. Are you using those to the best of your ability? Or are you sitting on them, afraid to step out of your comfort zone to let your brilliance shine? All He wants is for you to do your best. In the end, that’s all that really matters.
At the end of our discussion, my wrap-up thoughts seemed to have the greatest impact.
Everything you have done in life has brought you to this moment—your relationships, your challenges, your education, your work, your spiritual growth. Now, what are you going to do with all that you have been given from today forward? If you are doing your best, using those experiences to make a difference in the lives of others, in honor of One who created you, you are already successful.
Too many of us don’t consider ourselves a success, and we set ourselves up for constant disappointment and failure because we never believe we are enough. If you simply keep your priorities in order—faith, family then career—then success takes on a whole different meaning. Think of the most vivid example: if money and material possessions define success, then Jesus certainly never reached that benchmark.
In Scripture, we are given clear instruction about the measure of success. Here are just few of the many examples.
Luke 12:16-21, The Message
“Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’
Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”
Joshua 1:7-8 ESV
“Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
Psalm 1:1-3, God’s Word
“Blessed is the person who does not
follow the advice of wicked people,
take the path of sinners,
or join the company of mockers.
Rather, he delights in the teachings of the Lord
and reflects on his teachings day and night.
He is like a tree planted beside streams—
a tree that produces fruit in season
and whose leaves do not wither.
He succeeds in everything he does.”
Proverbs 3:5-10, The Message
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.”
In the big picture, consider eternal success, including
- The depth of your relationship with God
- The quality of your relationships with others
- Your stewardship of the gifts and resources God has given you
I hope you, like my client, are now feeling a little less pressure to measure success by the world’s definition, instead trading it for success in God’s eyes.
Put God first in your life, give generously to others and keep moving forward every day. Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Eph 3:14) That is true success.