How many times have you talked with a friend about your business goals or what it would take to feel like you “had made it,” only to realize you’ve already done all those things?

There are a million blog posts, books, magazine articles, commercials, family members, and friends who have opinions about what it means to be successful, but more and more, I’m finding I need to define success for myself. Partly so I don’t lose my mind trying to keep up with the latest definition or trends, but also so when I finally reach the goals I’ve set for myself, the result feels meaningful and not imposed by some external expectations that don’t actually resonate with me.

No matter how you define success, it can be really tricky to actually notice and celebrate when you are successful.

It’s easy to rush on to the next goal or change the definition of success, so it’s impossible to ever meet your goals. With these challenges in mind, I’ve developed a journaling method that helps me:

  • Define success on my own terms
  • Slow down and notice how much I’ve accomplished
  • Decide whether meeting my goals made me feel the way I hoped it would

It’s like a mirror that shows me the woman I want to be and how I’m growing into her.

At the beginning of each month, I start by writing my intentions for each project I’m working on. My goals might be financial, or they might be more abstract like building a new relationship or trying a new creative technique—whatever is truly motivating me to work on a project. Then at the end of the month, I reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and whether the intentions I set came to pass.

Taking this time to set intentions and reflect helps me notice my successes rather than letting them pass by in a blur. This is my way to make sure I’m not just going through the motions, getting caught up in the newest shiniest thing, or dismissing my own accomplishments. If you want to try doing the same, here’s how you can get started.

Add page flags in your journal that mark:

  • Month
  • Intentions
  • Reflections

Month

On the Month spread, make a list of all your projects and clients with due dates or other important notes. Feel free to include personal goals like trying a new workout or spending time with a friend you want to catch up with—anything that takes time and energy. This is your go-to spread whenever you need to figure out what to work on each day that month.

Intentions

When the month starts, flip to the Intentions spread and take time to set some goals for each project or area of life. These can be really specific or more general. You don’t need to write an essay, just a few words or phrases that will help you remember what you were envisioning when you look back on your notes. The important thing is to be honest about why you’re spending your time and energy on these projects and what you hope to achieve. Under each project, your notes might include goals or reasons like:

  • Lets me charge $100 an hour
  • Expands my relationship with my favorite client
  • Increases my visibility
  • Creative expression
  • Get to know myself better
  • Builds my community
  • Easy and fast
  • Want to finish what I started
  • Gain confidence
  • Learn how to use a new app
  • Reconnect with someone who knows me really well
  • Being surrounded by people who love me
  • Feeling festive
  • Looks good in my portfolio
  • Celebrating a new chapter in my life
  • Will help me take a break when I’m on vacation

Reflections

Then at the end of the month, on the Reflections spread, make another list with the same headings you used at the beginning of the month. If you made notes on why you wanted to work with a specific client or what you hoped to accomplish with a launch, note the client’s name or the product you launched. Then, list your favorite things about working on those projects. Describe what felt important or meaningful about the work you did. What did you gain in exchange for the time and energy you put in?

Finally, compare the intentions you set with the insights you have when you reflect at the end of the month. For me, this is where the real learning comes in. It’s not just about making lists, it’s about seeing if the lists I made were as honest as I thought they were or if I left off something important. It’s also about visualizing and internalizing all that I accomplished. Asking the questions below can help you make sense of what you find:

  • Were there any goals you met that felt hollow after you accomplished them?
  • Were those accomplishments overshadowed by unexpected drama?
  • Are there issues you could have predicted?
  • Would you do each project again if given the chance?
  • If a project worked the way you expected it to, did you feel satisfied?
  • Or were you really longing for something you didn’t name at the beginning of the month?
  • Were there any projects that felt more satisfying than you expected?
  • What achievements felt most meaningful to you?
  • Are these the same goals you planned to achieve?
  • Do you have more projects planned that include these elements?

Feel free to make this technique your own! However you use it, I encourage you to think about not just defining success for yourself but developing a way of tracking your success, so you can make changes where needed—and most importantly, look in the mirror and smile, knowing all you have accomplished. Then celebrate your own success!

 

If you liked this post, be sure to check out:

Writer and editor Heidi Fiedler has worked on more than 300 children’s books for clients ranging from Chronicle to Barnes & Noble. She does the deep thinking that’s needed to turn an idea into a book that delights and inspires. Whether it’s a poetic picture book, a zippy chapter book, or a kid-friendly take on the physics of time travel, the books she works on are quirky, playful, highly visual, and often philosophical. Heidi is also the creator of Visualize Your Story: An Instagram Workshop for Writers and Editors. Learn more about Heidi and the work she does at helloheidifiedler.com. Or follow her on Instagram @heidifiedler.

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