Redefining Success

“You haven’t practiced your speech. You didn’t spend time with your little sister today. You skipped your editing. You’re slacking in school—cutting Shakespeare assignments and often skipping science tests. Your friends do so much to support you and read your blog, but how often do you read anything they write? You’re never doing as much as should.
Can’t you do anything right?”


The year of 2017 has begun, and I wish the despair in my head would either shut up or follow Thumper’s rule: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

I’m sure much of this scolding is well-deserved. I always want to keep improving myself, to do more than I did yesterday, but I often forget not to label myself as a failure for what I don’t get done.

A while ago, I talked about defining success. Success is essentially whatever you personally want to accomplish. There is no one-size-fits-all definition. Success is tailored for each person.

Merriam Webster defines failure as:

“a lack of success.”

This means everyone has their own unique definition of failure. While you might not label a day a failure if you skip a work out, I would. If success is meeting my daily goals, then by those standards, I’m a failure every single day.

So what should I do? Lower the bar a bit? Not be as strict concerning my daily goals? To redefine failure, we have to look back at our definition of success.


I still think the idea of defining success according to your personal values and goals still has merit. While goals are good and you should still set them, keep in mind that success isn’t always what we make it out to be. If God’s a part of your life, then there are His goals to consider as well.

I remember during this past ACFW conference, I was attending Allen Arnold’s continuing education. He said God’s way isn’t always the most efficient. Sometimes our productivity will be put on hold for His purpose. As I listened, I became slightly distressed. I have stuff to do, places to go, stories to write. The idea that God could put that on hold was inconceivable. How could a normal person function if God could just interrupt their productivity.


I wrote: God, what about goals?

And even before I put the pen to the paper to write the question, I got an answer: You mean your goals. What about My goals for you?

 Oh. Yeah. That.


Of course, if you’ve defined success well, then it should honor God. But sometimes our idea of success isn’t always the same as His. I’ve previously posted my speech and story of when I became TeenPact governor. Being voted governor was a tremendous honor and a success by anyone’s standards. But failing to get voted senator when I’d purchased glow sticks, and posters, and yard signs? Well, the answer is in the previous sentence: “failing.”

My goal was to win, and I failed by my own standards and the standards of our world. But not by God’s. Even while I was despairing and holding back tears, He knew long before I did what a success that was, what a marvelous journey He was going to take me on. Looking back, if I were given the choice of just winning governor or losing senator before winning governor, I would choose the latter in a heartbeat, though initially it was emotionally and spiritually agonizing. Again, goals are great, but never let your failure to reach them define you.


But what if you don’t get what you want later, like I did? What if you don’t just temporarily fail to meet your definition of success, but you never meet it? Then redefine success. Success is simply gaining something positive. Success can be a choice for every circumstance and situation.

My jiu-jitsu coaches said there were winners and there were learners. After I played a few ping-pong games with them, I made sure to inform them of just how much they were learning 😉 Whenever you don’t meet your goal for something you can either be a failure or a learner. Learners will always succeed, because they come away with something valuable, but failures toss whatever golden nuggets of wisdom they’re offered. They don’t realize the opportunities they’re passing up.

If you aren’t meeting your goals, still continue to set them and strive for them. Because even if you don’t reach what you’re aiming for, you’ll still reach higher than you would have otherwise.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

-Les Brown


You’re the one who gets to decide if you’re a success or a failure. God knows what you can and can’t do in a single day. He knows what areas you’ll “fail” in, what goals you won’t meet. He has a plan for all of it. In every situation that presents itself, there’s an opportunity to grow and learn. In every circumstance, you get to define yourself as a success or a failure.


What goals do you have? What goals are you failing to meet? Have you ever labeled yourself as a “failure?”


Recent Comments

  • Brenna
    January 18, 2017 - 12:26 am · Reply

    You make me smile, Liz. Yes, why can’t our internal critics listen to Thumper’s wise counsel? Life would be so much easier, especially since those little voices hardly ever have anything nice or helpful to say. I could really relate to this post. I, too, tend to look at other people, compare myself with them, and proceed to convince myself I am a total failure and will never be anything but a total failure. I have to remind myself that God is working in me and He has a plan for me. As long as I follow His leading- which I don’t, always, but I try- I’m on the road to success.

    • Elizabeth Newsom
      January 20, 2017 - 2:49 pm · Reply

      Yay! I’m glad 🙂
      If only…
      Very true. I have to remind myself that goals are important, but God’s goals will always be the priority. I can’t wait to see where God takes you this year 🙂

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