What does it mean to be a success or to have success? How will you know when you’ve made it? Most of the images we see of success involve some version of wealth and affluence—diamonds, yachts and private planes. What is often missing is the story behind the stuff—what was the path successful people followed to reach their dreams?
In his book Give and Take, Wharton professor Dr. Adam Grant offers a unique perspective on success and classifies people as givers, takers, or matchers based on their styles of social interaction. Takers like to get more than they give, givers are other-focused and prefer to pay attention to what other people need from them, and matchers are a blend, wanting an equal balance between giving and taking. According to Dr. Grant, takers view success as getting results that are superior to that of others, matchers view success as a balance between their own achievements and fairness to others, and givers view success based on whether their accomplishments have had a positive impact on another person or group.
Organizations are also starting to view success differently. Gallup’s(link is external) latest state of the American Workplace report reveals that almost 70% of employees are showing up to work disengaged on some level. In addition, when Gallup asked 10,000 people to think about their entire day yesterday, only 11% reported having a great deal of energy (Rath, 2015). As a result, companies are becoming more open to incorporating new ideas intoleadership and training programs—concepts like mindfulness, resilience, and happiness. Even companies like American Express(link is external), long known for its gold card caché, are taking a new, more holistic approach to the pursuit of happiness and personal success.
Whatever your personal definition of success is, there are certain traits that help facilitate it. Here are just some of the traits that fuel success today:
Motivation. Many companies and individuals have the motivation formula all wrong. Money, bonuses, and trips rarely produce long-term motivation results; rather, individuals and workplaces should focus on the ABC’s of motivation:
Autonomy (feeling empowered to have a sense of control over your time and choices you make);
Belongingness (having at least a few high-quality connections with others); and
Competence (having the ability to master tasks and be effective at what you do).
Decades of research(link is external) show that these traits are at the core of what drives long-term motivation and engagement (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Engaged employees(link is external) perform better on a daily basis, and the higher a person’s level of engagement, the higher their objective financial returns (Bakker, 2011). In addition, higher levels of employee engagement(link is external)translated into higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, higher profitability, and moreproductivity (Harter, Schmidt, & Hayes, 2002).
Resilience. When I reached out to my friends on social media about what drives success, resilience was a consistent theme. Resilience is the organizational and human capacity for stress-related growth. Contrary to early findings that resilience was wholly a genetic trait, we now know that resilience(link is external) is largely a learned set of skills (Masten, 2001). The U.S. Army has been teaching and training resilience skills to its soldiers for more than five years, and in that time, the training has been shown to be quite effective. To build on the program’s success, the Army has developed additional resilience training programs for spouses and teens and an executive course for Army leaders.
Meaning. Meaning at work is important because it gives people the why behind what they do. Many employees rarely get to see the fruits of their hard work because they aren’t directly connected to the people impacted by their work. Meaning matters in other ways as well. People who believe that their lives have meaning and purpose share a whole host of healthy benefits: they are happier, feel more in control over their lives, feel more engaged at work (and high engagement usually means less burnout), report lessdepression and anxiety and less workaholism (Steger, 2009).
One of my high school teachers defines success as, “When someone else tells you that you influenced their life or had an impact on them for the better.” Another friend defines it as, “Being happy where you are and not regretting the choices you made to get there.” Success is a process — enjoy the ride.
Take charge of your career development to get the job that supports your work and your life. Check out the tools and resources in the InPower Coaching Career Center.