If you pay attention to the messages in the media, you might get the impression that there is only one definition of what it means to be “successful”. People like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates are constantly idolized and used as the shining examples of what it means to have achieved ultimate success in one’s professional life, but this is only half the story.
Everyone of us has a different understanding of what success is and this is absolutely fine. It is generally based on our core values and what we consider important and meaningful in our life. Being aware of what success means to us personally, is vital because it will influence us in the decisions we make regarding our professional careers.
If you want to understand your own intuitions about success better, try this value assessment called the Six Lives Exercise. It was devised by G. Richard Shell, the Thomas Gerrity Professor of Legal Studies, Business Ethics, and Management and Chair of the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
If you decide to do this exercise, it is important to know that there is no right or wrong answer. The purpose of the exercise is to help you investigate where your ideas about success originate and to give you a chance to reflect on what you (professional) values are and how they shape your understanding of success.