What Does Success Really Mean To You


The interesting thing about success is, it is something that we always aspire to but rarely acknowledge it when we achieve it.

Shawn Anchor, in his highly successful Ted Talk, says we have been trained to follow a formula of success.

“If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier”.

What he explains is that this, unfortunately, puts our brain into a cycle of unattainable happiness. Every time we have a success, our brain will reset the goal posts of what success looks like. You get a good job, now you have to get a better one or a promotion.  You hit your sales target, now we’re going to change it. He says:

“If happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there. We’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon, as a society. And that’s because we think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier.”

Gratitude, celebrating the wins is such a simple yet powerful tool that is often overlooked.  But the science behind it can not be ignored.  Your brain actually functions better when it is positive. Anchor says that our intelligence, creativity and energy rises when we are positive. He says your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 % faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.”

The happy hormone, dopamine, floods into your system when you are positive.  This happy hormone actually turns on all the learning centers in your brain and makes adapt to your environment in a completely different way.

Clients often come to me feeling frustrated or stressed about where they are in life. They feel that they have not reached their goals and attained a level of success that is important to them. But what is important? That’s the significant question.


Perhaps, as Shawn Anchor suggests, we need to shift our perspective on success, about our ideas on success.

When I coach people one of the first questions I asked in terms of a goal is what does success look like?  That is, how will we know when we are successful? The goal posts need to not only be tangible but recognized and celebrated when they are reached.  The importance of being realistic about what success is, is to define what “real success” means.  In business, these benchmarks are called, key performance indicators.

So important part of success is the celebration, the acknowledgement and recognition. To be happy in that moment.  A good way of doing it and having a gratitude journal writing down what your granite grateful for in the day.


Expect a Miracle CardMy mentor, Doctor John Hinwood started the ‘Expect a Miracle Movement’. The idea is a simple.  He prints off hundreds of cards that say nothing else except for the words ‘Expect a Miracle’ on them. The magic of this card is that when you handed over to a person without expectation, without reason, it changes their thought process. For a brief moment, they feel they have a miracle coming their way. They feel gifted with an opportunity and for that they are grateful.

Dr. John has written numerous books on the principle of “Expect a Miracle“. He tells stories of how handing over this little card has made people so happy and so joyous that he has witnessed great changes in their life. Or, being so grateful for the gift from John, they have returned extraordinary favors to him, such as upgrading his hotel room or provided him with a limousine service.   He even tells one story of how it saved one man’s life, where it shifted his thought process so much, he decided to stop his plans of committing suicide.

Dr John writes books about the miracles in his life, now we’re not talking about the divine intervention, rather the very small insignificant miracles. If you’ve ever found yourself saying well that was a coincidence or that was lucky, those are the small miracles that can happen in your life. Dr John’s idea is to take a moment acknowledge and be grateful for those little miracles. He says that if we take note of the small miracles in our life if we are opening up the opportunity for bigger miracles in our life.


We can easily get caught up in the “Should’s & Should Not’s’ that are imposed on us by others or by ourselves. Often we set rules for ourselves that can be based on values or beliefs that are set by our peers or family.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring our success in comparison to others.  We measure our own success by the success of others in our community, others in our industry and then get depressed, frustrated or stressed that we haven’t achieved a level of success that is comparative to somebody else’s.

It’s important to really consider what you place value on in your life, what’s important to you, what’s fundamental to who you are. These are your core beliefs that have likely been with you since you were a child. They drag you in the direction of where you need to go, like a compass. Sometimes, we are unaware that it is our hidden values, our hidden core beliefs that are pulling us away from where our focus should be or the work at hand.

By being clear on our values we can clearly establish what’s important to us and then everything else is relative to that. It all simply falls into place. Once we can be very, very clear on them (not what they should be but what they truly and honestly are), then it is easier to set goals.


I have learnt that success does not need to be measured all the time by the balance of your bank account. Yes that is important, yes that is a goal, yes it’s something we need to be mindful of but it is not the be all and end-all of success.

For example, I now live in a house owned by my family on Aboriginal land and a beautiful part of the country. Whenever my family or friends come to visit me they always tell me how lucky I am to live here. I have a beautiful view and I wake up every morning to the beauty of the Australian desert nature. Tourists would spend thousands of dollars for just one night where I live. I also live surrounded by loving family, my children freely roam the countryside with their cousins, nurtured in the bosom of the family.  Their life is rich with experiences, constantly surrounded by love and respect. Who could ask for more?

I remember when we were living in Brisbane, we lived in a house that we could afford.  It was old, it was rundown and it needed lots of work, but it was our house. My children have many friends who lived in an affluent area of town who had the large ostentatious houses. One day my son complain to me “Why do we have to live in this rundown rubbishy, old house? We’re so poor.”

I reminded him of his friend, of similar age, who attended swim club with him. This boy was brought to swim club each week by his father. His father was a stay at home Dad who looked after the three children, a very active member of the community. He was a loving, kind, thoughtful and adored by his children. His wife was the breadwinner, an accountant who spend long hours at work and relied heavily on the support of her husband.  He was the backbone of the family. He was tragically killed in an accident when he simply fell off a ladder and sustained a brain injury.

The death was sudden, unexpected and his absence suddenly propelled family into turmoil, having been so dependent on his presence.  Not only did he provide so much physical support, he was a great emotional support as well, he did so much for them. The family were absolutely traumatized, struggling to cope day to day, each one of them barely able to function. I asked my son “What do you think your friend would pay to have his dad in his life again?  Do you think he would pay a million dollars? Or do you think maybe he would pay two million? Three million? How much money do you think he would pay to have his dad back in his life?” My son went silent. I said to him “You have a father who loves you, you have a family that is together, you have a brother who looks up to you. There are so many things that you have in your life that make you rich without having money in your hands.”

Be careful when sitting your ideas of success and establishing your goals that you don’t limit yourself to securing these by financial means only.


Two years ago, P & O CruisesI wrote down my goals and set some intentions. I wrote down that I wanted to travel overseas and I wanted to go on a cruise with my family. I had not been interested in cruising until my mother-in-law had recently gifted me a cruise, it was a last minute offer, she had a spare ticket and did not want to refund it for on board credit (or travel alone).

However, at this time in my life, I did not have the financial means to pay for a family cruise and it was not a financial priority either, yet I set the goal of something I would like in my life. Not long after this, out of the blue, I was given the opportunity to be a guest speaker on cruise ships that traveled in international waters through the Pacific Islands. All my expenses were covered including travel and accommodation and I was given discounted service while enjoying the cruise. I was permitted to take one person with me. I was able to return the favor to my mother-in-law.  Also, my mother was turning 70 and we had talked about spending quality time together; mother-daughter time. She was not particularly interested in cruising but I talked her into coming with me. We have the most credible time together.

Barbara Clifford - Cruise SpeakerI was not paid for my time on the cruise. Yet this was an experience I did not have to manifest in my life through financial means.  While I wanted to travel with my immediate family, (my husband and kids) I still did get the opportunity to travel with family. So the moral of the story is be careful what you wish, be specific.

Things that come into your life don’t necessarily have to come with money.  I encourage you to take a moment to sit down and brainstorm, allow your mind to run, do a mind map and think about what success looks like for you.  Let go of two things; let go of the ‘should or should not’s and let go of the ideas that anything that comes into your life can only come through money. Think about those times that you have been happy in your life what makes you happy.

The things people often forget when setting their goals are:

  • To be clear on your core beliefs and values
  • to operate from a place of truth & authenticity
  • to know what are the very simple steps you need to take tomorrow, to move towards your goal.

By doing this you create less friction. With less friction, you create greater success.  You’ll find that more things fall into place and you face less obstacles. As part of my coaching service, I work with my clients to drill down deep get absolutely clear on all those things.  It’s exciting to unlock the values or beliefs that they may not be aware of, things that will bring them happiness and success that they hadn’t considered, or where the should or should not blind them to the solutions for success. Not only are we able to set clear goals, but we also break them down very easily to the point where you know exactly what the next step is. That is what you are doing, on what day at what time that is exactly what you need to be doing RIGHT NOW to move you towards your goal.

Would you like to become more emotionally resilient?

If you are feeling stressed at work, particularly by the behavior of others, I may be able to provide you with some resilience strategies. Book in a time for a chat. I can’t promise I can fix everything, but the next best thing I can do is to chat with you.

Make a time that suits you for a 15-minute chat. Once I know you better (and you know me) we can decide if you want to dig a little deeper into the issues and can organize a Free Stress Management Strategy Session.

About the Author:

Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a time management & stress management enthusiast based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in time precious and stressful industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for creating order and making sense of things. She is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional development in the business environment through workshop training, coaching, mentoring, online training programs, webinars and as a guest speaker around Australia. Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships. Follow Barbara on Twitter @barbclifford.

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