Defining Success

“Success is different for everyone. Keep a proper perspective and do your personal best." - Natalie Coughlin

I looked up the definition of success in the Oxford dictionary feeling skeptical because I was sure that I would be annoyed with what I would find. Let me guess. Achieving the highest of goals, or reaching full potential. I was pleasantly surprised to read that the Oxford dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Exactly. I like it. Why did I expect to read something that would confirm my prior belief that overachieving was the only path to success? I didn't grow up with parents who pressured me to achieve more than I thought was possible. That's not it. I'd like to blame the media for all the years I spent trying to do more, be more. But, I hesitate to do so because I think that it's only partly true. As a society or perhaps as Americans we seem to never be okay with just okay. If someone tells us that they drive a 2014 Cadillac we want to say that our luxury vehicle is a 2015 (I'm obviously not a car person.) And if we don't own a that 2015 Cadillac we tend to feel somewhat inadequate. Successful people have the best of the best. The huge house, the fancy car, and a fat bank account. Right? I used to think so, but something happened to me about three years ago. I became exhausted. No only because I was working crazy hours, but also because I was mentally and emotionally drained. I just wanted to feel fulfilled and energetic again. I decided to give up on success and just settle for what I had and who I was. Oh well. A funny thing happened when I stopped trying to overachieve. After a few months of depression and spiritual searching I realized that without a mansion or a Cadillac I was only a few steps away from being able to call myself successful. Because I don't care if anyone else thinks I'm successful. I set my own goals. I decide what's worth celebrating.

Now that I've come to this realization and I agree with Oxford's definition of success, all that's left is to decide what my aim or purpose is at this point. I say at this point because our lives are constantly changing. What I'm aiming for today might not be the same next year. Life is lived in moments. Baby steps are okay and in my experience, lessen anxiety.

So, what is my aim? Well, I feel like that's a broad question, but ultimately I just want to be happy. I want to feel fulfilled. What do I need to be happy and fulfilled? A huge house and a fancy car? Not necessarily. It could be fun, but I mean, seriously who's going to clean that big house? I guess if you can afford the huge house you could probably afford a maid, but I digress. I decided to isolate the important aspects of my life and think about how each of them make me feel happy and fulfilled.


When I really thought about the different relationships in my life I decided that I needed to declutter. I needed to take focus off negative relationships so that I could put that energy into important relationships. Yes. I had to let some people go or at least spend less time and energy on them. Believe me, if you don't feel good when you're spending time with someone it really feels better to spend less or even no time with the person or persons.

Positive relationships

Stable, happy marriage = Success.

Kids hug me without being forced = Success.

Happily talk to my parents everyday (almost) = Success.

These relationships make me feel happy and fulfilled. And that is my definition of successful relationships. I would even call my relationships with my sister and my best friend successful, but I would like to get them on the phone and see them more often. I'm working on it.


I honestly would have loved to omit this category from my success analyzation. But there's no way around it. I still don't believe that you need to have a lot of money to be successful, but you do need to have a healthy relationship with money.

My household expenses are paid. = Success.

My family takes an annual vacation. = Success.

Occasionally I treat myself. = Success.

I'm saving as much as possible. = Success.

As I mentioned in the relationships category, you may need to cut out some unnecessary expenses to be able to afford the necessary ones.   


This one was tough for me. My income comes from small businesses. But I couldn't call any of them my career. What is my career? Do I have one? Is my career motherhood? What happens when my kids are grown up? Am I retired at that point? I made the decision that writing would be my career. I never would have said that 15 years ago. Back then it was the same as saying "I'm going to be a movie star!"

But now in the age of the internet I'm a writer.

My pieces are published on = Success.

Motherhood is an amazing career. The expiration date makes me nervous. Motherhood will always be the most important and fulfilling thing I will ever do, but I've decided to not make it my career.


I've decided that motherhood was not my career, but when it comes down to it, more than anything I want to be a successful parent.

Kids are healthy. = Success.

Kids are happy (in general.) = Success.

Kids are receiving a good education. = Success.

Kids live in a safe neighborhood. = Success.

Kids are well fed. = Success.

Kids are loved by friends and family. = Success.

If you are taking the time to read parenting articles and you are listening to parenting podcasts I have a feeling that you are a successful parent. You care enough to give your best effort.

After all of this animalization I have decided that I can call myself successful. If my relationships are fulfilling me, my finances are in order, and I'm happy in my work then I am successful. But more importantly my children must be happy for me to be successful. There's a saying that her mother is only as happy as her saddest child. You may decide that your successes are completely different. This is my point: It's personal.

What will I teach my children about success?

We decide what's worth celebrating. Again, life is lived in moments. We're going to do that potty dance. We're going to get that ice cream after the swimmingmeet or an A+ on a difficult test. I don't want to teach them that success is a huge scale. I want my children to know that we should feel successful and proud of big and small accomplishments.

Jessica's definition of success

Happiness and fulfillment. Peace of mind.