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Is it the result or is it the strive? Defining your measures of success.

How thoughtfully are you using your time? Joanna mapped out her "success lines" to find out. And the result was eye-opening.

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I’ve been talking to a group of executives about success. As one of the first exercises, we investigate how thoughtfully they’re using their time. 

First, I ask them to show me where their time’s going right now. Then, I have the execs think about the future; what they want their time investment breakdown to look like by the end of the year. Not surprisingly, their two charts look dramatically different.

As you can imagine, this has sparked all sorts of interesting conversations about their goals and priorities. What’s come up consistently is the desire for their lives, if plotted on a graph, to head up and to the right. 

Now we all know (and so did the group I was working with) that things are never a straight up and to the right line. We all know it looks more like this:

Even after taking the squiggle factor into account, something about this concept of success still troubled me. I know that “up and to the right” only manifests with focus. It’s the constant attention to the goal that produces the results. Don’t invest, and the line will either flatten or worse, start to head down. 

Demetri Martin / This Is a Book

TO MAKE MATTERS A LITTLE MORE COMPLICATED, MOST OF US DESIRE MULTIPLE “UP AND TO THE RIGHT” SUCCESS LINES IN OUR LIVES.

I assume you have one for your work. But you also have lines for your health, your family, your purpose—and these are just the obvious ones. 

All this thinking about success lines got me really curious. So I decided to graph out my own. I came up with six different categories, each hugely personal to me. (If you choose to follow my lead, you can expect your categories to look different.)

1.    How much was I laughing on the inside?
2.    Was my financial situation where I needed or wanted it to be?
3.    How much impact did I feel I was making?
4.    How rich were my relationships with others?
5.    How healthy am I?
6.    How confident did I feel in myself?

I plotted out data points on each category in five-year increments, starting at age 15. As expected, my lines were all over the place. When some went up, others went down. I noticed there were some categories I hadn’t prioritized enough over the years. 

I totaled my six lines to create a single, “Master Success Line of Joanna’s life.” And I saw quite clearly that my aggregated line was almost straight. There was no “up and to the right” of significant consequence. 

I doubt you’re surprised by this. I wasn’t either. Why? Because the equation is consistent: 

FOCUS + TIME = RESULT 

The exercise made me sit back and ask myself, “What is the result I’m looking for?”

If all six of the items are essential to me—and they are—I’m wondering if it’s even possible to keep all six lines heading up and to the right at all times. Could it be that I’ve been striving for balance more than to “up and to the right”? And if that’s the case, what result do I want from delivering the “product” of my time?

I don’t have the answers for you today. But I know I need to find them, the same way the brilliant, talented, and hopeful executives asking for my help need to find their answers in order to navigate success.

I’m curious to learn what their success lines look like, and where they want to take them.

AND WHAT ABOUT YOU? WHAT ARE YOUR SUCCESS LINES, AND WHERE DO YOU WANT THEM TO TAKE YOU?

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