What is success?

I was one of those swotty kids at school who focused on the 4% I missed out on rather than the 96% score I achieved. I would gloss over the achievement and wonder what on Earth I thought I was playing at by throwing away those marks.  In the workplace, performance reviews can tend to focus on what’s not good enough and what’s not yet been achieved. Placing the emphasis on how far we still have to go can mean that we don’t notice how far we have come.

Over the years, I’ve learnt to be a little kinder to myself and I encourage my coaching clients to do the same thing. It’s not just just the massive achievements that are worthy of celebration but the smaller steps along the way too. One man’s small step is another’s giant leap.

Success is a process, a quality of mind (4)

So what should we celebrate?

Small steps

When coaches encourage you to scale your path to success, we’re helping you to set out steps to success and to notice that progression. We don’t say ‘that’s great …oh sorry, did you say you’re only at an 8? Well, that’s not that good then, is it? Come back and tell me when you get to a 10.’ Rome wasn’t built in a day; if your big goal is achieved in a day, then maybe it wasn’t that big a goal.

Solitary significant steps

These are the kind of successes which are personally important to you – leaving the office at lunchtime, switching off your phone at 8pm each night, speaking up in meetings, or emailing your great idea to the Chief Exec. Others may not bat an eyelid at this but to you, it’s like you’ve just scaled a mighty peak.

Sideways (or sometimes even backwards) steps

Lucille Ball (and probably lots of other people) said ‘I’d rather regret the things I have done than the things that I haven’t.’

Taking a risk and it not working out the way you hoped is often a part of the journey towards the ultimate success. We need to stop, take stock, examine what happened, how it happened and what we have learnt. I encourage my clients to celebrate these detours as a way of understanding and clarifying their new route to success.

So success isn’t just about the big stuff, or just about the public stuff, or just about what worked right first time. In re-calibrating how we measure our success, we’re fostering a positive environment in which we can build on our progression rather than dwell on our defeats.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: What small, solitary or sideways steps towards success have you taken this week?

Let’s celebrate!


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to take action and create positive change in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?


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