I’ve been thinking a lot lately about success, or specifically what it means to be successful in life. I’m not really talking about living a successful life in general, but I guess I could be.

I’ve been thinking more along the lines of being successful in a career, or as a student, or as an athlete. Then I realized I was mostly trying to define success in terms of my specific situation, or the different roles I currently have or have had in life.

I work with college student-athletes, and we are constantly trying to define success. What does is mean to be good at what you do? Or what does a successful track season look like? Does winning define success? Or how much money you make at your job? What about using your college degree, or getting married and starting a family? Which of these things can be used as a way to judge whether or not you are considered a success?

I know I’m kind of repeating myself, I’ve said the word success like 100 times already (actually only 10). But it seems like many times, we are judged by these undefined standards of success.

I understand everyone’s situation is different. We all have different goals in life. You may want to become a millionaire, and that’s fine, while someone else may want to volunteer at a soup kitchen, or coach a men’s softball team. What does it look like to be successful in each of these endeavors? I’ll tell you what success looks like to me.

It’s not about winning, or earning a lot of money, or helping the most amount of people. Success isn’t measured by the number of degrees you have, or your GPA, or how attractive your spouse may be. To me, success boils down to one question…

Do people respect you? 

Are you the type of person that earns respect through your actions?  Do those you work with on a daily basis respect how you conduct yourself? Is it apparent that you value your various roles in life and take them seriously as to where others notice? You don’t always have to be right, or have all the answers, or be the best in your class, or the leading scorer, or employee of the month to be seen as a successful individual. When you’ve gained the respect of the people around you, it causes them to want to be respected and that’s good for all parties involved.

So, next time you are reflecting on your life, or trying to gauge whether or not you are a success, start by thinking about how others view you. This may not be how the rest of the world judges success, but if more people thought this way, I think we’d be taking a step closer to attaining a realistic perspective on what it means to be happy.

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