We all define success differently. For some, it might be the ability to purchase a nice car or take a fabulous vacation. For others, it might mean being able to provide for one’s family. I think it’s important to take the time to explicitly define what success means to you. And of course, you don’t have to settle on just one definition. 

I’ve been doing some reflecting lately, because my youngest daughter is about to graduate college. It’s an exciting time, but she’s also wracked with nerves, unsure of whether she’s making the right decision in regards to what she does next. Her decision-making process has me thinking about the choices I’ve made over the years -- in particular, what actions have lead me to be the most happy in my personal and professional life.

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When I think about my successes, and the successes of my peers, several practices immediately jump out at me. Want to be a successful person? Do the following:

1. Seek out new experiences. It’s easy to get caught up spending your time doing the things you already know you like. If that's all you do, you won’t grow as much as a person. The wider the range of experiences you pursue, the more you will be exposed to different people, lifestyles and perspectives. If you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you will have more empathy. Seeking out new experiences means you’re willing to challenge yourself and want to keep learning about the world around you. Those are two keys to success.

2. Abandon your expectations. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that having expectations is a surefire road to disappointment. Why not walk into an unfamiliar situation with an open mind? It’s impossible to be let down if you don’t make assumptions about what should or shouldn’t happen. When you open yourself up to possibility, not necessarily expecting anything immediately or directly in return, amazing things can happen. I’ve been reminded of this time and time again.  

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3. Treat everyone you meet with respect. Everyone has something to offer. You’ll be surprised at how many people will be willing to support and follow you if you treat them with respect, regardless of what they’ve achieved or where they are in their life. To be successful, we all need help. It’s impossible to predict who may be able to help you later. People are dynamic. Things change. Don’t miss out an opportunity to befriend someone because you’re too judgmental.

4. Give back. Whether it’s to a charity, a cause you believe in or a stranger who could benefit from your help, there are immeasurable benefits to thinking of others. For one, you’ll become a better and more attentive listener. You’ll focus less on your own shortcomings.

5. Celebrate milestones, large and small. Let me tell you: When you finally achieve that goal that has been eluding you, it won’t feel as great as you imagined it would. That’s been my experience anyway. You’ll be a much happier person if you celebrate each step along the way. If you wait to celebrate that one elusive goal -- you might end up waiting a long time. There’s so much more for you to appreciate. And when you make the time to celebrate milestones, you welcome others -- your friends and family -- to take part in your success.

6. Let go of the past. Mistakes are stepping stones to success. People who are willing to take risks inevitably make mistakes. That’s OK. I’ve learned more from my mistakes than my successes. In fact, I know I couldn’t have been successful without making mistakes. So stop beating yourself up. And in that same vein, try not to be so hard on others.

What’s your personal definition of success? Tell me in the comments section.

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