Many of the people I meet have no difficulty telling me what they don’t want in their life or business, and yet can struggle to verbalise what they do want.  And that’s true for so many of us – we don’t know (or think we don’t know) what we really want.

Why does this matter?

It matters, because if you don’t know what a successful life, career or business looks, feels, or sounds like to you.  If you don’t know what success means to you, then you’re likely to be making choices and decisions on a daily basis without being aware of them, or certainly without questioning them.

Decisions in business like ‘How much should I charge?’  And choices in life or work like ‘Shall I say yes to this?’ or ‘Will this move me towards my goal?’

What this often means in practice is that you do what everyone else does.  You go along with accepted custom and practice, with what’s traditional and with what’s expected. 

Which in business makes it very difficult to differentiate yourself, to stand out from the crowd – the very opposite of what you need.

It’s like a default setting – buying into other people’s ideas of success – whether that’s society at large, the government, the media, your sector, organisation or family.  Meaning you sleepwalk into roles, activities, even relationships without conscious thought yet with apparently pre-determined ideas about how fantastic it will all be and how happy it will make you when you have what ‘successful’ people have!

Even if you’re not someone who buys into other people’s definition of success, if you don’t define it for yourself, if you’ve never really thought about what it means to you (or if your circumstances have changed and what it used to mean no longer applies), how will you know how to create success?  How will you know when you’ve achieved it?  

Please don’t think I’m blaming anyone here.  It’s not your fault if you’ve never done this, as it’s not generally encouraged at school, other than in the context of academic achievement.  Most pupils have no real idea when they leave school of the type of life they really want.

They may have ideas about a profession or work role, but not what they really want for their life, in terms of their lifestyle, the type of work that will fulfill them and help provide that lifestyle, and even in terms of their relationships.

So what can you do if you recognise that you’ve not really thought about your ideal, successful lifestyle?

What can you do if you’re stuck in the ‘I know what I don’t want, but not what I do want’ trap?  

You can flip it! 

Divide a sheet of paper in two, and on the left hand side write down all the things you don’t want, then on the right hand side write down what that means you do want. 

For example, if you don’t want to work weekends write down ‘I want to work weekdays only’ on the right hand side.  If you don’t want to have to chase clients for payment, write ‘I want to be paid prior to work starting’.  If you don’t want to spend your evenings or weekends doing housework write down ‘I want help with my housework.’  I’m sure you get the idea…..think about what you don’t want in your work and in your life, then write down what that means you do want.

This is a simple and revealing exercise and your start point for becoming consciously aware of what you do want in terms of success and happiness.  As one of my mentors used to say ‘You have to name it to claim it’, so get naming to create success and claim it for yourself!

I’d love to know your thoughts on defining success and happiness for yourself.  Do please leave a comment below...