The Blog.

Is your definition of success playing havoc with your motivation?

26 Apr 2013 | Clarity & Focus

How do you define success? By results or by actions?

Results are easy to define. Tangible. A workshop booked. A new client on the books. A sale made. A sum of money in the bank. Another product sold and shipped. And it can be great for motivation, knowing what you get when your actions pay off.

But it can also be demoralising, when you’re in the middle of taking the actions you need to achieve that success. When you’re making call after call, writing email after email, sending invitations, posting blogs, tweets and statuses, and they’re not translating into results… at least not yet.

The actions you take to achieve your results are vital. Yet if success is defined purely by results, your actions have no value until they lead to a result. Your motivation hangs on the hope of reaching that goal, otherwise your efforts are for nothing.

The problem with focusing purely on results is, you’re a failure until you get that result. And when you do get the result, success is fleeting and momentary. Then it’s onto pursuing the next booking or the next client, where you’re yet again back in the place of pursuing, hoping and wondering if you ‘have what it takes’.

Some people love the chase. The ruthless pursuit of success.

For me, honestly, I find it hard work, unrewarding and draining. And I don’t think I’m alone here.

You see the problem is for most people, feeling like a failure doesn’t push us towards success.

It invites us to spend time and energy entertaining doubt and indecision, to go round in circles questioning ourselves and our own abilities.

It tempts us to spend hours, days and even weeks researching obsessing about the competition, devoting our energy and attention on studying their every move, rather than our own.

It makes us desperate for the sale – and we all know well from dating days, desperation does not attract.

It puts all our focus on what other people do, rather than what we do. Whether the audience smile or frown rather than how we deliver our message. Whether the prospective client says yes or not, rather than the conversations we have, the relationship we build, the work we do that gives them a reason to say yes.

And it steals our joy.

I caught myself being too focused on results recently. Despite having a couple of great weeks, lots of reasons to be happy, I found myself feeling subdued. Not terrible, or bad, just a bit muted.

I got to the end of what by all accounts was a very productive day. I’d taken account of everything I’d done. But I hadn’t put a metaphorical tick in my ‘results’ box, I felt like there was an itch I hadn’t quite scratched. I felt dissatisfied. Unproductive even.

That evening I was with a small group of church friends and we did an exercise of writing down what we saw in each other, then each of us took away a list of our own qualities, attributes and words of encouragement from the the rest of the group.

At the top of my list were three things: “A seed sower. An inspiration. A light in the dark.”

That’s when it hit me. Sowing seeds. Inspiring people. Shining a light. This is what I do. These are my measures of success. And I had done all of them that day.

In the words of Heather Small, “What have you done today, to make you feel proud?

When I do these things day in, day out, the results come. I know that. (Seriously one just did, literally just before this post went live – talk about timing!)

Plus, when I focus on doing these things, my day is fulfilling. I’m proud of how I’ve spent my time. I am being successful.

Of course results are important. Setting goals are useful. But when we define success purely by results, it’s always something out there. Something we’re aiming for or pining for. Something we want but don’t have.

But when we define success by the actions we take, success becomes a journey, rather than a destination. Something we have and something we continue to grow and create. Every day we take that journey, we are living in success.

Now that I find motivating. Rocket fuel for actions and results.

What do you think?


  1. Sarah

    Hi Grace – what a great post and thank you for writing this one, it’s very comforting to read and yes I am definitely one of those people who only defines success as a client who says yes or money in the bank from a piece of work.

    I know that because I’ve also noticed how I feel when friends and family ask me “how’s the business going?” and if I’m engaged on some work at the time by a client then yes – I’m very happy to answer that question! However if that question catches me when I’m not in that place, I find myself mumbling my way through an answer that satisfies the listener but not me, I just feel like a bit of a fraud or failure inside – how rubbish is that?!

    Where actually…now having read this post, perhaps I could be saying – I’ve been so busy these past few weeks making new business sales calls which I’m feeling more and more confident with each time, I’ve designed a fab new sales letter which I’m really excited to get out to people AND I’ve been planning and researching new clients to target so looking forward to enjoying the fruits of my labour in the next few weeks.

    Yeah – I get it now! Sometimes you just have to hear things at the right time don’t you!!

    Thank you Grace,

    • Grace Marshall

      Sarah, you have no idea how many people’s internal dialogue you’ve just described! I love your reframe – what you have described are the actions of a successful business owner. Yay! So glad this has resonated and encouraged you 🙂

  2. Naomi Richards

    I try and focus in the moment and enjoy what I am doing even though there is a goal in sight. Sometims projects don’t get there fast but recognising how far you have come is necessary. We all go through major successes and then lulls. That is business for you.

    • Grace Marshall

      I think the lulls are all part of the same process of being successful, just as fields have fallow seasons to ensure the crop is more bountiful later. You’ve got a great perspective there, of focusing in the moment and enjoying it. That ensures you can give your best to whatever it is you’re doing. Thanks for your comment Naomi x

  3. Amanda Alexander

    Absolutely wonderful post Grace… it’s made a difference to my day. I’ll remember this one. Thank you!

    • Grace Marshall

      Thank you Amanda! Really glad it made a difference 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  4. Sherma Richards Apparicio

    Just what I needed to be mindful of today…thanks for sharing Grace…May God continue to bless your great work…I’m going to share this with my coaching colleagues …I guess every coach does need a coach…thanks again.

    • Grace Marshall

      Thank you Sherma! I’m a big believer that when we connect with others we find better solutions, so I’m really pleased to know that this has inspired you and that you’ll be sharing that inspiration too.

Image if author Grace Marshall

About Grace

I coach, train, write and speak on productivity. I help people adopt new ways of working and thinking about their work to replace stress, overwhelm and frustration with success, sanity and satisfaction.

Like what youre reading?

Subscribe and join me in  conversation!

I will never sell your data. You can unsubscribe at any time. Here’s our privacy policy.

Want to  Explore?

Related  Posts

Pin It on Pinterest