The Oxford Dictionary defines failure as a ‘lack of success’, and defines success as ‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.’ These two definitions are collectively agreed upon and impose a standard of usage. However, when you use certain words in everyday life, you tend to attach personal definition that ultimately determines what failure and success mean for you. These personal definitions shape your mindset and ultimately determine whether you will go on to be successful long-term. All successful people have one thing in common, a mindset for long-term success. This mindset encourages a determination to keep going and to try again when their actions do not result in the outcome they desired. How do you personally define failure and success? How can you change your personal definitions to ensure long-term success?


Richard Branson is known worldwide for the success of his business empire. He started out at the age of 16 after dropping out of school to create a free youth magazine that he covered the cost of production with paid advertising, which eventually leads to having an idea for a mail-order record company called Virgin. He went on to expand his business empire to include the travel company the Voyager Group, the airline Virgin Atlantic, and a series of Virgin Megastores. However, Richard Branson’s success was not always smooth sailing and predictable. In 1992 his company, Virgin was struggling to stay afloat financially. Later that year he made the choice to sell to THORN EMI for $1 Billion. Naturally, he was crushed by the loss but despite this, he was determined to stay in the music business. The very next year he started the Virgin Radio station, and a few years later he started a second record company V2. Despite a huge setback of losing his first record company, he didn’t bow out and pour the 1 billion into other parts of his company. He tried again. While you and I may not end up selling our dream for $1 Billion to a rival company; there is a principle here that we can apply to our own lives to ensure our long-term success. The reason Richard Branson didn’t give up was because of his mindset or how he defined failure and success.


What does failure mean to you?

The majority of goal setters define failure as not achieving a desired outcome or goal. On the surface, this seems to be a logical conclusion; failure is not achieving your goals. I am passionate about this definition because it stems from a negative mindset; a mindset that I would personally love to see change. I’m tired of seeing people define failure in this way. How you define success and failure will determine whether you go on to achieve your goals. In fact, there is a way to change these definitions, so they benefit your goal setting and achievement experience. If failure is not achieving your goals or a lack of success, then this would imply, that if you take action daily towards your goal and in the end you do not achieve it, and then you have failed. To put this in perspective, if you set a goal to have one million views on your blog by December 2015. And set a clear strategy where you posted great valuable content, engage with your audience, promoted your blog in a way that wasn’t annoying, and guest posted. As the year came to a close, you only had 250,000 views. Does this outcome mean you have failed? Is this failure? What does failure look like to you? What if you defined failure as not taking action? This definition would imply if you set a goal to have one million views on your blog by December 2015 and took no action, and then you had failed. In the first example, you took action and didn’t get the desired result; your strategy did not work, whereas, in the second example, you took no action toward your goal. There is a massive difference between a strategy not yielding a favourable result and not taking action. When you choose to define failure as not taking action you immediately open yourself up to recognising the small successes you have already achieved; this mindset is crucial if you want to continue to succeed long-term.


What does success mean to you?

How do you define success? How do you measure it? The answer to these questions shapes your definition of success. It’s important to understand that how you define success will ultimately affect how you define failure. For some people success is, having a six-figure income, finding the man of your dreams, writing a best-selling novel, or becoming a successful blogger. Did you notice how each of these goals are a destination? While, it’s important to set goals that are clearly defined and are in line with the SMARTER Formula that I share in my upcoming book, SMARTER Goal Setting. It’s important not to make an end your sole focus while you are taking action. When you define success as a destination, you start to feel unhappy and feel like you are making no progress because your goal is looming far off in the distance. If you keep your focus on the end destination, after the initial excitement of setting goals and taking action dies off, you will start to notice the massive gap between where you are and where you want to be. This comparison can lead to discouragement and long-term failure due to giving up too quickly. If you shift your focus off the grand scale goal and onto the actionable steps that are required to achieve the goal, you will begin to notice the tiny successes or wins that you are achieving on a daily basis. This shift of focus is the key to changing your mindset. The next time you are in a situation where you are feeling like you are getting nowhere with achieving your goals, take a moment to look back at what you have done to where you are right now. Ask yourself, what things have I successfully achieved to get here? What have I learnt about myself by taking the opportunity to look back? Write the answers to these questions in a journal or on Evernote. While the list of things you have achieved may be short, it’s important to recognise them for what they are, small successes. Make sure that you remind yourself of these successes regularly, especially when you feel stuck and are making no progress. With this shift in mindset, this would mean, success is asking for a raise at work, getting back into the dating game after getting hurt, finally finishing a 100,000-word novel, or consistently producing quality content on your blog. Recognising, these tiny wins, can be a huge motivator, and inspire you to go on to achieve your goals, and more importantly, help you to realise the difference between on the way to achieving your goals and failure.


Understanding the difference between a strategy not working and failing to achieve a goal along with taking your sole focus off the desired outcome of your goal and onto the mini successes you have achieved along the way will ultimately contribute to a shift in your mindset. This mindset shift will spur you on to try again when things don’t work as expected the first time around, this action and mindset shift will ultimately help you to become more successful long-term if you consistently put this into practice.


As always insight without action is futile! How do you define failure and success? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know by sharing your definitions in the comments box below. Thank you for reading, sharing and commenting with such kindness and enthusiasm.


With love,

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Amelia Hay

Author + Coach at Amelia Hay International
I help multi-passionate women just like you to package, brand and market your passions so that you can create your dream business and life, find clarity, confidence, and clients, and make a difference in your world.
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