How we define success matters. Our definition of success sets the stage for all areas of our life: How we participate in relationships, how we raise our children, how we fulfill our vocation, and even how we feel about our health. It ultimately determines whether we are moving closer to or farther away from the highest possible version of ourselves.

For much of my life, my definition of success came from my mind and the beliefs that I held about what success looked like. I, like most people, honored my head over my heart. The prevailing message in our culture is that the more we have, whether it be money, clothes, friends, or education the happier and more successful we’ll be. This is absolutely false.

Don’t get me wrong, having enough material abundance to be comfortable and create a sense of freedom is a huge gift. It becomes a hindrance, however, when we believe that success defines our worth as human beings and when we believe that the more we have, the happier we’ll be. When we define success based on these misbeliefs, we will never feel satisfied. The truth is, our souls will always be hungry because our heart feeds our soul, not our minds.

How can we define success in a way that leaves us feeling whole and complete?

Answering this in a way that honors the deepest truths about who we are is one of our greatest challenges in life.

I think Oprah Winfrey is the perfect example of someone who has done just this. From the time Oprah was a young girl, she had a strong and powerful message that came from her heart and soul. Through the years I have observed how Oprah has allowed her soul to speak. In the process of letting her life flow from her heart and soul, she has created abundance in every aspect of her life.

It’s not like Oprah ditched her mind. Far from it! She did, however, use her mind in service of her soul.

Like Oprah, each of us has a unique blueprint which represents who we’re meant to become. Defining success from the core of who we are and letting our actions flow from a heart-centered knowing, is the only way we will fully thrive in our lives.

A Real-life Example

I’m in the home stretch of writing and publishing my book, Awakening a Woman’s Soul: The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness to Transform Your Life.

It has been a labor of love that has flowed directly from my soul (at least when I could get my head out of the way). My dilemma is that I have no idea how to get the message out there in a way that feels authentic. I began doing some research.

I noticed that all sorts of other people and their opinions about what a successful book launch looks like was influencing me. The more attention I paid to what others had done, the more uncomfortable I felt.

For fun, I decided to pull one of my angel cards. The card I drew was “visualize success.”

I realized that this card was prompting me to examine what success meant for me. Not everyone else’s definition of success, but mine. After all, how are we supposed to visualize success if we have no idea what we’re visualizing? I began to ponder this.

I had many conflicting questions swirling around in my head about what success means related to publishing a book. Is success defined by:

  • How many books are sold and how much money is made?
  • How many lives does it touch?
  • Whether or not someone grew personally as a result of the writing?
  • Leaving a legacy after the author has left the physical world?
  • Achieving the best-selling author status?
  • Business growth and the number of clients attracted?

I knew that how I answered these questions would have a huge impact on the actions I take getting my book out into the world. More importantly, these answers needed to flow from my heart and not how society or our culture defines success. So I decided to pause and take a step back to tune into my heart and my inner wisdom.

Every night before I drifted off to sleep, I planted the following three questions into the creative medium of the Universe:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What is my heart’s desire?
  3. What do I value?

I asked the questions, and then let go of the need to have the answers. Then, within a week, the answers started flowing. I received a huge message about how I was meant to define success.

A Defining Moment

Recently, I was having supper with my 88-year-old dad and 85-year-old mom. They asked me how writing my book was going.

We began to talk about it and a couple of minutes in, my dad asked me what the title was. As I told him, he had a blank and puzzled look on his face. So I asked him “Dad, do you believe you have a soul?”

He laughed and said, “I have no idea. I never really thought about it. It’s hard for this old engineering mind to even think about a soul.” He became silent.

For the next few minutes, my mom, who is terrified of dying, couldn’t stop talking about the soul and what it meant to her. She was finding great comfort in our discussion and the thought that perhaps there was something more to her than her failing physical body.

By the end of the night, my dad said, “Hmm… I’ve been thinking more about my soul and how I’ve lived my life. I wonder if it was my soul that influenced my life or something else?”

And then my mom chimed in, “That was the best chat I’ve had in a long time. I don’t know how much longer I’ll live, but the idea that I have a soul has given me hope.”

At that moment, I knew my book was already a success.