How do you measure success?

Spoiler alert- it doesn’t exist.

Want to know a secret? No one really cares about all those ‘things’ you’ve achieved. I’m a multi-award-winning writer and magazine editor, I’ve been published in many prestigious literary journals, I hold several national dance titles, I’ve toured the world performing sell-out shows, and now I own my own business. But I was also recently made redundant, I’m living with chronic pain, I haven’t performed in over a year and my business isn’t looking to turn a profit any time soon. So sure, by some measures I’m successful, but by others I’m a downright failure. So which is it?

We’re taught to create SMART goals for our businesses (and ourselves!) because we’re all addicted to nice, upward-trending graphs of clear and quantifiable things- like profit, or how many people are on your mailing list.

But do you think your customers care about how many sales you’ve made? And if not, what do they care about?

I touched on the fact that society likes easily measurable success factors in a previous blog, but I want to dig deeper- because when we just focus on the easily counted things we miss out on the things that actually matter. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of our obsession with rewarding people for achieving that ‘thing’, regardless of who they climbed over to get there and I’m damn tired of the idea that money is more valuable than people. I’m increasingly convinced that success is more about the journey of how we get there than any specific goal, measurable or otherwise.

Success isn’t any one thing- and failure isn’t either.

The people you look up to don’t think they’ve succeeded. Anyone achieving anything is always looking forward to the next goal. I have friends who are inspiring, critically acclaimed novelists and poets, and they’re still out there working on their next project.

Because true success is not static, it’s the ongoing willingness to show up and do your best, and to try and fill other people’s cups while you’re at it. That’s what I’m about. When I was eleven my best friend’s mum died, and this quote, read at her funeral, has stayed with me ever since.

Look, I don’t give a shit about the numbers, profit targets or a concrete business plan, I want to know things like- am I doing something that has value? Am I, in some small way, making the world a little easier, a little brighter for someone, have I made someone feel less alone? Will the people I’ve done work for come back because they value what I’ve produced for them, will they recommend me to others? Don’t get me wrong, I’m aiming to cover my living expenses (so I can keep my rescue dogs in the style to which they’ve become accustomed, ha!) too, but that’s not the core mission of my business.

So set goals, but make sure you’re balancing your vision and core values with your profit targets. You can easily measure how many followers you have, and how many times someone has reacted to a post. But do you know who your loyal customers are? Do you know who is referring friends and family to you? Are you doing what feels right, have you found your purpose, are you living your values?  Do your goals feed your vision? Because if they don’t, they aren’t SMART, they’re short-sighted and a bit stupid. If you asked your customers why they value your business, what would they say?

(If you’d like to talk more about how to imbed your values into your small business, and communicate them to your audience, flick me a message!)

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