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Copyright © 2008 Jeff Hester via Flickr, cc Some rights reserved

Just a little note today. I can’t seem to get my mind off a little tidbit of treasure I received from an 18-year-old girl. In a letter to me she said this,

“If we succeed, great! If not, we can redefine the word ‘success’ until it matches whatever outcome we achieve.”

I loved it so much I wrote it up on my chalkboard wall. But why? Isn’t success, well, success? gives us this entry:

1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like
3. a successful performance or achievement

Interesting. Things like “favorable, prosperous, attainment of wealth/honors, and achievement” stand out to me. Yep, that’s what I thought success meant. But the definition is lacking. It doesn’t include the things we learn from failing. It doesn’t include changes to our dreams or hopes. It doesn’t include the differences between you and me.

I love my friend’s message because it reminds me to seek success INSIDE me, instead of waiting on the world to deem my work worthy or not. So maybe I thought success was getting published. That hasn’t happened yet. But I DID receive honorable mention in a blog contest. So I’ll change my definition of success from “the attainment of wealthy, position and publishing” to having the courage to submit my work for an outsider to critique. I haven’t “succeeded” in completing a novel, but I have learned a TRUCK LOAD about the craft and how to fill in the holes. So success also equals progressing as a writer.

Will changing the definition always work? No. I can’t pretend that clicking “save” on my computer is the same as being published. However, accepting the definition of success to be dynamic allows me to celebrate each step along the pathway to publishing instead of lamenting the fact that I am not farther along in the journey.

How would you redefine success based on your experience?