What Does Success Look Like to You?

Laura Francis
Written by
Laura Francis

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

SuccessWe spend a lot of time in our lives competing with others, trying to live up to someone else’s standards, pushing ourselves to outdo those around us. We need to get that next promotion, secure that bigger office, score that huge raise, buy that enormous house, drive that hot new car.

But do we really? Are those things going to fulfill us? Will we finally be happy and feel successful when we check those items off our list?

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox wrote an interesting article for Harvard Business Review called “In Praise of Extreme Moderation.” She talks about finding that balance of moderation between living life and working, of not going to the extremes with our lives, hobbies, etc. While not all of us are wired to find contentment in moderation, she struck a nerve with me.

As I watch my 8-year-old son who has cerebral palsy, I think about all the ways I have redefined success for him and for us as a family. My son is non-verbal, but he tries to talk and he sometimes succeeds in making vocalizations that my husband and I can understand, even though no one else can. His latest phrase he likes to shout is, “Oh my God!” That is courtesy of me. My husband and son like to chase me up the stairs as we go to get ready for bed each night, and I scream, “Oh my God!” as they get closer to catching me. (I honestly don’t know how they catch me every night since I am running unencumbered while my husband is carrying our son while they chase me.) It’s a fun game we play that makes him giggle and smile and scream with joy. Maybe some parents out there wouldn’t want their children to scream this, but let me tell you, I am damn proud of him. He has found a way to coordinate the muscles in his mouth and throat enough to say actual words. You’d better believe I beam with pride at that! I don’t care what he says. He could spew curse words all day, and I’d be beaming. Just hearing his voice makes me smile.

You got this encouragementAdjusting what we think of as progress and success is critical for us as a family, but I also think every one of us could use a little adjustment now and then. We can get a little too caught up in the competition of life and forget that the only one we really need to compare ourselves to is ourselves. Have we improved today? Did we work toward something meaningful? Did we try our best?

This type of attitude can be highly effective for mentoring, both for mentees and mentors, as well as for administrators running mentoring programs. Mentoring can absolutely bring out the best in us, and if we do it right, it can help us achieve our goals. But we should all ask ourselves: What does success look like for me/for my mentoring partner/for my mentoring program?

Mentees

Mentoring JourneyIn theory, mentoring is all about you, my dear mentee. It’s focused on your goals, your dreams, your skills, your attitude. Do you want to win a promotion, get a new job, score a big fat raise? Do you want to improve some critical skills so you can be better at your job, or explore new areas of learning so you can start down a new path in life? What is it that will let you know you’ve achieved success?

The success of your relationship will be based on you and what you ultimately want from mentoring.

Mentors

While the mentee may be the star of the show, you, oh wise mentor, are the one with power. Your wisdom, experience, and insight are what give the relationship its energy. So what does success look like for you? Does it mean you shepherd the mentee over several years as they navigate their career path? Do you focus on short-term goals that help the mentee develop a new skill they need? Do you work with several mentees at once or lead a mentoring group to share your knowledge with as many people as possible?

While the mentee’s goals are what give the relationship its purpose, your willingness to share your knowledge and your time with the mentee are what drive the relationship forward.

Mentoring Program Administrators

Mentoring GroupAnd finally, the unsung heroes, the people who work in the background without the accolades. I mean, of course, the mentoring program administrators. You are the ones who help make these mentoring relationships possible and who keep things running smoothly for the mentees and mentors. Without you and your dedication, people may not know where to go to find a mentoring partner or know how to conduct themselves in a mentoring relationship at all.

So what does success look like for you, oh selfless admin? Do you need to hit a certain participation number to feel like you have achieved success? Do you need to tackle a business problem like employee engagement or retention to prove the program is working? Do you need to collect positive reviews from participants to show the program is worthwhile? Whatever it is you decide to measure will weigh into the overall success of the mentoring program.

Setting goals, measuring progress, and proving value can feel like a competition if you focus on what others are doing. But if you focus on you, on what will make you better, on what will make you happy, on what will make you a success (or what will make your program a success), you might just find that success feels much more fulfilling.

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