How Do You Define Success?

I’ve notice a common question in a job interview is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Given the context, most potential employers probably want to know your professional goals and assume that you want to be successful at your job by advancing through the ranks. January 2014 will mark my five-year anniversary at my current job and will also mark the longest that I’ve ever worked at one place.

So it got me thinking about whether or not I’ve accomplished what I had hoped to during the last five years. Turns out that actually led to a bigger question about how I was defining success overall. So when I found this article on, I thought it was worth taking a look at how I was thinking about success five years ago. The author offers three questions to ask so that our definition of success is more than just the number on a paycheck or driving a nice car:

“1. What is success to you? When I discussed this question recently with some friends, we all approached our answer differently. I redefined success as ‘a simple and local life that is professionally-exciting, relationally-connected and spiritually-inspired.’

“Here were some additional pieces of the definitions that came out of our time: ‘No matter the income, my work has a sense of purpose and progress.’ ‘My wife has life in her eyes and my kids are emotionally empowered.’ ‘The time and geographic location to foster relationships with people who challenge, encourage and inspire me, and of whom I can reciprocate the same.’

“2. Why do you want this brand of success? When we inherit our ideas of success, we are often pushed by fear or what we feel is expected of us. When we define it for ourselves, we can be drawn onward by purpose and vision, which is ultimately more powerful.

“Again, here are some examples I’ve come across in recent conversations with friends: ‘For the time and energy to invest into my family and friends.’ ‘To offer my wife and children the opportunity to fully experience and enjoy life: education, international exposure, skill training, adventures.’ ‘To take care of friends and family with finances, quality time, a safe place, life wisdom.’ ‘For independence from “the system” and freedom of choice.’

“3. What’s one thing you’re willing to give up for this brand of success? Answering this question helps you identify that resistance, put a target on it and in essence, overcome it before you’ve even begun.

“Recent examples I’ve heard include: ‘Obsession with working too much.’ ‘Fear of criticism and preference for hiddenness.’ ‘Need for security and financial control.’ ‘Finding my identity in what I do.’” 

I tend to think about my accomplishments as either professional (a certain salary, job title, developing specific skills in my field) or personal (getting married, training for a race, paying off student loans) but I was challenged to think about success more relationally. How should I define success in my relationship with my family? What does it mean to be successful in my friendships with my married friends? Or with my church involvement?

From a relational or spiritual standpoint, how do you define success?