How To Measure Success

Everyone wants to be successful. In our culture, achieving success is basically the pinnacle of existence. We all have interest boards full of motivational quotes about #girlbosslife and #hustle. This idea of achievement is tied to school, work, or personal life, and we spend so much of our time chasing after this ideal. And while it is true that we have to work towards what we want in life, unless you know what success means to you personally, you’ll always be chasing after someone else’s version of success.

You have to figure out what you want in your life.

While that is an easy statement to make, it much more difficult to actually do.

After all, some days I can barely decide what I want to have for dinner, much less decide what I want my life to look like. It is easier to coast along with the pre-packaged dream of success that I’ve picked up from society rather than examining what I want personally.

But I don’t want to look back on my life one day to realize that I spent it all running after accomplishments that didn’t matter to me. And most likely neither do you.

So how do we sort out our own versions of success?

We have to understand that as Christians the things that we regard as success in life may not look much like success to others.

We also need to recognize that even when compared to our Christian brothers and sisters our definition of success must be personal.

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Within the Christian community, I see others who are doing so much with their lives that I feel the pull to try to join in with them without reflecting whether it’s what I need to do.

For example, I want so much to be involved in children’s ministry, but in my current role as a school teacher, I know that I need a break from being around children in order to be the best for my students which means that, at most, I can volunteer to work with the children at church during the summer.

Even though I am aware of this logically, I still have a hard time shaking the feeling that has somehow become ingrained in me that in order to check all of the boxes for being a good Christian woman that I need to volunteer to work with the children at church on a regular basis.

I am so glad there are people who are able to work in children’s ministry, but I know right now my area is working with children in a public setting. Both are good, but only one is right for me at this point in my life.

There are two important factors that can help each of us individually see what is worth striving toward for us on a personal level. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children” (Ephesians 5:1).

Our lives should be lived in imitation of God. To be perfectly honest, that’s a task we will never fully be able to complete, but it should still be the goal that we are aiming for.

The first half of determining how we define success is turning to the Bible.

In order to pattern our lives after God, we have to read and study the Scriptures. For me, I’ve found it helpful to read through the New Testament and take notes on what Jesus says and does.

The Bible contains a wealth of knowledge that can lead you to determining what your path should look like and the type of success that you should be striving towards.

In addition to reading the Bible, prayer is the second important factor in defining success. Another enlightening verse in Ephesians says, “...don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17). Because God already has plans for your life.

We have already discussed why our successes as Christians may look different from those who are not, but even among other Christians, our paths may vary widely. God has given us unique talents that He wants us to use.

As I pray, I have to constantly remind myself to ask God to help me want what He wants for my life. Since I can’t see what is going to happen next in my life or what is going to be beneficial for me in the future, I have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

We may or may not achieve the visible signs of success in our lives -- like money, recognition, or power, but if we are living our lives in the image of God and following the way that He has laid out for us, then we are successful.

Doesn’t that knowledge relieve us of the huge pressure that we feel today to be constantly exhausting ourselves in a never ending cycle to achieve more?

Figuring out what your version of success looks like isn’t something that can be done in an afternoon. It’s a lifelong process of listening and evaluating, but the freedom that comes in only measuring success in the areas that are important to you personally is worth the time spent.


Elizabeth is an educator at heart. So far this has taken the form of a camp counselor, a museum assistant, and currently a middle school teacher. She loves to watch people grow and learn. You can read more of her writing at her blog Chronicles of a Southern Belle.