Much has been said about the effect of the internet, and social media in particular, on how we feel about our own success in comparison to others. One of the most natural reactions when we see the success of friends and followers is to compete—even if those feelings are subconscious. And then in response, again possibly subconsciously, we look for opportunities to project success on our own profiles. But we forget our friends and followers are doing the exact same thing. So how do we stop the cycle?

By now you’ve probably heard the famous quote from Steve Furtick, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” While he was talking about personal lives, I firmly believe the concept applies to professional success as well.

Don’t Let Other People Define Success For You

Don’t get me wrong. Emulating someone else who has success already is a great plan… to start with. That’s what mentors, coaches and consultants are for. Building on what already exists is smart and efficient. But if you try to follow someone else’s path, you’re automatically limited in how successful you can be. What works for them might not work as well for you. Measuring yourself against another lets them define your reality.

When you take back ownership of your own success, you have the opportunity to build something truly unique. And maybe even reach otherwise unimaginable levels of success.

So don’t compare yourself to others, define what success looks like for you. And make a plan to reach that goal.

Decide What Success Means to You

Your success doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Better yet, you don’t have to explain why what you’re experiencing is success for you. Because while it’s true we’re more connected (and more lonely) than any other time in history, we do actually have more freedom than ever before to live our best lives. And it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

So sit down and decide what success looks like for yourself or your organization in six months, a year, five years and so on.

Yes, That Means Setting Goals

Goals help you define and own what success means for you and your organization, and stay productive.

Be concrete. Nebulous goals are easy to say out loud and impossible to reach. But they’re a great way to feel like you’re doing something if you’re afraid to actually jump in and aim for success! And they don’t hold you accountable for taking action. So if you find yourself refusing to pin yourself down to specifics. Take a hard look at what you’re doing and why.

I know setting goals you might not reach is scary. But there’s no denying having goals breaks down the often overwhelming amount of work it takes to get to success. This is neither the first nor the last time you’ll hear this, but by setting milestones you have something to understand, plan for and measure up to.

Be ambitious but realistic. Setting the bar too high is a quick path to disappointment. You’ll end up feeling like you’ve failed. And you’ll lose momentum rather than focusing on building incremental success to accelerate your business and career.

Plan to Succeed

Once you’ve decided what success looks like for you, make a plan to reach those goals. Again, be as specific as possible to keep yourself accountable. But do regularly check in with your goals and plans so they stay aligned with the realities of your business.

We’re at our most creative when we shut out outside influences and pressures to focus on being ourselves. No matter what you feel as you scroll through your feed, keep in mind that what you’re seeing is someone else’s version of success. Stop competing to reach something you might not even want and somewhere you might not even want to be. Define what your success is, and create a solid plan to make that vision a reality.

Get off your duff!


image credit: Bigstock/Bavorndej

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