How do you define success?

Within a specific context, the answer’s obvious: Passing the test. Winning the game. Hitting your targets. Getting the raise. Some kind of discernible result tells us if we’re on track.

But what about in the greater context of life?

The answer’s not as clear. When I was younger I thought of it as a mathematical equation, as if the size and number of things you achieved would somehow determine your success in life. Things like degrees, credentials, promotions, raises, significant purchases (e.g., buying real estate) were all fuel for the fire, and the more wins the faster, the better the life.

When I got my first promotion in the corporate world, my focus immediately shifted to the next one. Within the same conversation (perhaps even the same breath) that I thanked the person informing me, I said, “Ok, now let’s talk about what I need to do to make it to the next level.” There was no time to stop and acknowledge the significance of my accomplishment; before it even sunk in, I was already onto the next thing.

Which begs the question: Does the appearance of success matter if the experience of it is missing?

Life on the achievement treadmill is a never-ending marathon. When you’re so focused on getting further ahead, you’re often numb to both the burn and the high — ideal conditions for running yourself into the ground.

Taking the time to notice the effects on your body allows you to appreciate your hard work and enjoy the rush of endorphins — it’s much more fulfilling. Experience trumps appearance, every time.

The key to success is feeling like a success.

. . . anything else is icing on my gluten-free, sugar-free cake.

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Originally published at