You may already be a success -- here's how to tell

(Robert Neumann / Fotolia)

Success is tricky and hard to define because it differs from person to person. My mother, who never held a corporate job her whole life, achieved great success as a homemaker raising kids and creating a nurturing home environment.

Others will define it through a fat bank account, number of deals closed, books written, races won or promotions received. Warren Buffett defined success by one's ability to say "no" to as many things as possible.


And sometimes success eludes us because we're not even aware we already have it. We all have abilities, strengths, traits and gifts that are successful habits in the here and now, which we fail to recognize.

So many of us go about life measuring ourselves by the impossible success standards of others. We may wrongly perceive that success is out there, when it's already within us or within our reach.


Worse, because we lack clarity about what success means in the context of our daily lives, we are often misled into believing we are failures.

If you're unsure where you stand, ask yourself if any of these success habits apply to your life right now. If so, I'm here to suggest to you that you're already way more successful than you think you are. For example:

1. You are successful because you surround yourself with successful people

Warren Buffett defines one of the keys to his success like this: "It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction."


This lesson is practiced by successful people everywhere. They know that when they soak up the knowledge and learn the behaviors of other sages further down the path, it will only make them better and elevate their own success.

2. You are successful because you help other people succeed

Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and best-selling author of "Give and Take," "Originals" and "Option B," told CNBC: "The most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed."

If that's anti-climatic for you, consider the evidence. Grant has observed in his studies that great leaders think bigger than themselves. They advance a vision or an idea or a project that's "going to affect a lot of people."

Grant explains further: Leaders "who put other people first, they end up inspiring a different kind of effort, a different level of motivation, and a greater sense of belongingness."

3. You are successful by virtue of the way you communicate

Being able to communicate effectively is one of the best life skills you can develop. Think about it: People who can masterfully communicate their thoughts, feelings, ideas, concerns and wishes are better equipped to succeed on so many levels. They are:

—Able to manage or avoid conflict.

—Able to negotiate win-win scenarios.

—Able to influence others.

—Able to increase their ability to collaborate at a high level.

That's what successful people do.

4. You are successful because you love what you do and know where you're headed

All successful people, regardless of how much or little money they make, have a purpose that they can't help but pursue. Perhaps for you, it's the thing you absolutely love to do and that makes you come alive.

If you know what that is for you, and you're good at it, you're probably on the fast track toward your ultimate goal, whatever that is for you. If so, you are successful.

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said, "Do what you love and put your whole heart into it, and then just have fun."

Even if there are low monetary rewards, you would probably do it anyway because of your love for it.

Cook understands this deep down. "My advice to all of you is, don't work for money — it will wear out fast, or you'll never make enough and you will never be happy, one or the other," Cook told students at the University of Glasgow last year after receiving an honorary degree from the school.

5. You are successful because you realize life is about the journey, not the destination

Successful people don't give up so easy. When they experience setbacks, it's all part of the journey of experimenting, learning, growing, and failing forward. When they do stumble and fall, they don't declare that it isn't fair.

They are able to see through the hard moments, bounce back from the discouragement and accept the next challenge with determination and resolve. They have an undying support system of people that passionately believe in their conviction. They find joy in the little things as they try and try again.

And along the way, they can look over their left shoulder at what they've achieved and proudly proclaim, "I am, indeed, successful."

Marcel Schwantes is an entrepreneur, executive coach and adviser.

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