By Donna Doyon
How do you define success? Have you given it much thought? Does the definition vary according to what you are doing? Is the definition based on your own criteria or that of the people around you?
I was faced with this question this week as I began promoting a series of virtual (over-the-phone, from-your-home) workshops based on my book GLOW: Renew Your Spirit & Release Your Inner Beauty. How will I know if these classes are successful? How will I know if I successfully led them? How will I know if attendants gained value from them? How will I know if I should continue to offer them? How will I know if should change them? How will I know...
These questions on how to measure success were overwhelming and more than a little terrifying. These questions stole my focus and energy. Two weeks before the first workshop I still hadn't let anyone know about the classes. Now that is a sure way to guarantee failure!
So I needed to define success.
I knew from leading and attending in-person workshops that end-of-course evaluations are pretty typical. I could ask participants to complete surveys regarding the content, the structure, my leadership, etc. The responses would certainly let me know if the workshop and I were a success. So I began focusing on creating a suitable evaluation form. But days passed and I still didn't have a tangible version of an evaluation questionnaire.
With six days to go before the first workshop I knew I was in trouble. I was allowing myself to be distracted by the end-of- course evaluation survey, the online registration form, and other details that would be irrelevant if I didn't promote the workshops. Who cares if the online form looks pretty, well- balanced, and is easy to complete if no one visits the page to sign up for the classes?
It was time to face my inner demons... the things that were really holding me back. I finally admitted that I was terrified to share with friends, family members, and A Swan's Song readers that I planned to lead virtual workshops. Why? Because once again I would be doing something that made me different. I would be doing something that none of my friends or family members had even thought about doing. I would be taking a chance to fail. And that can be really scary.
It occurred to me to push the first workshop back a few weeks. That would give me plenty of time to write up a nice promotional piece and e-mail it to all my friends. But I was honest enough to admit that pushing the class back two weeks would only give me two more weeks to agonize over promoting it. Mid-October would arrive and I'd have made no more progress toward promoting the class than I had to date. I'm familiar with this cycle. It's been a pattern in my life for many years.
So I came back to the question of "How will I know if these classes are successful?" The answer was suddenly so clear. Can you guess what it was?
Here's my definition of success: These classes will be successful if I just hold them.
This definition is so amazingly simple. Success is 100 percent within my control. It doesn't matter if one or twenty people attend. It doesn't matter if I flounder my way through the content. It doesn't matter if the format or materials need to be totally reworked before the next class. As long as I hold the class, it will be a success.
Lest you think that I think the other items (attendance, structure, and my ability to lead the class) are not important, let me explain... My greatest stumbling block is stepping out of my comfort zone to let people know about these virtual workshops. If no one knows about them, I don't have to do them. But if I let just one person know about them, then I am obligated to be prepared with the materials and call in on time for the class. If I can let one person know, then I can stretch myself to let two people know. As I followed this plan, starting with my closest friends, I became more comfortable with advertising these workshops. By the end of the day I had let almost everyone in my e-mail address book know about these workshops. And by sharing my story with you, I am letting the readers of A Swan's Song know too.
Today I ask you to consider your own definition of success. Is it something you can achieve? Is it something that you have control over? Success can be redefined for every opportunity, challenge, and situation in your life. You can increase the likelihood that every event will be a successful one when you create the definition.
Force yourself to stretch, don't make it too easy. But build the definition based on your own viewpoint, not others. Sometimes other people can't appreciate the inner battles we are waging to achieve the smallest things. We may appear confident and "together" on the outside, but sometimes that isn't how we feel on the inside.
Consider a goal you'd like to reach. Is there one small piece of that goal that's holding you back? Do you feel capable and confident about 90 percent of what you want to do, but 10 percent is holding you prisoner? What is one thing that you can do successfully to achieve that 10 percent? Define it. Make it real. Make it achievable... then do it.
No one else may fully appreciate the energy and effort that small success required, but you will. And your success in that area will spur you on to other small successes that result in monumental achievement.
About The Author
Donna Doyon helps entrepreneurial-wannabes and starting-to-bes say "goodbye to self-defeating attitudes and behaviors and "Hello! to greater success, healthier relationships, and more balanced living.