Be what you want to be: defining your success mantra

how to create your own definition of success

Over the last few years, I’ve thought a lot about success…about what it means to me, not the definitions thrown around by society, friends, and biz coaches trying to sell the dream of earning a six-figure income while sipping mojitos at the beach.

As I pondered this question and examined my changing definition of success over the years, I’ve found that it isn’t easy to set our own parameters for success and stick to them. With all the noise from social media and the interwebs, I’ve often found myself wondering if I am aiming “high enough” and dreaming “big enough”, or if I am “settling” and maybe should want “more”.

But I’ve learnt that the minute I say “enough”, I am comparing myself to an external standard. Think about it:

are you aiming high enough – compared to what?

Are you dreaming big enough – compared to whom?

And when I start wondering if I am settling, a little digging has shown me that this thought often stems from outside me – from the latest blog post screaming about the joys of being an entrepreneur or a LinkedIn update from a friend who recently got promoted. And while I am thrilled for my friend and know that being an entrepreneur requires sweat, blood, and tears, there is a little voice within that starts whispering – you’re not dreaming big enough.


I willingly dropped out of the rat race about 4 years ago

I have a full-time day job, but my definition of success is not tied to a promotion or fancy designation. And while I still give my 100% at work, and I do occasionally wish I got that promotion already, I look at it more as the thing that pays the bills and gives me the freedom to follow my passions. Because when I’m not worrying about my next paycheck, I can devote myself fully to following my creative impulses. I can go down new creative rabbit holes, try various art styles and techniques, and really work at developing my skills without pressuring my creativity to bring in the money.

define what success means to you

Over the last four years, I’ve taken numerous art courses, bought dozens of art books, splurged on experimenting with a huge variety of art supplies and discovering which supplies I return to over and over again {and which are still lying on the shelf in their original packaging}. If I look at it from a cost-benefit analysis, it will take years for me to turn a profit from my art, but that’s not what drives me.

Art is something I will do regardless of whether or not I make money from it. Being able to draw, sketch, paint, to love what I am creating {and if I am being honest, to have others enjoy my work too}, is my idea of success. And while I would love to sell paintings and art prints at some point, my definition of success isn’t tied up to how much and even whether I sell anything.


Understanding my idea of success changed the way I approach selling

I’ve been a long-time Tarot lover, reading mostly for myself, friends, and friends of friends. It was the constant encouragement from friends that made me start reading professionally. Once I figured out how to offer Tarot readings online, I started getting “stalked” by biz coaches {something to do with Google and search history, perhaps}. And though I started reading professionally for the love of Tarot, the constant six-figure biz ads everywhere I went swept me up and {almost} convinced me to sign up for All. The. Coaching.

an essay on what success means to me

But I am not in this to make six-figures. I am not looking to read for everyone and their uncle, because I am simply not the Tarot reader for everyone. My Tarot philosophy is very different from the common understanding of Tarot for fortune {or future} telling. I don’t use the cards to tell people if their ex will come back or if they will get that job or marry their boyfriend or to tell them when something will happen. Instead, I use the cards as a tool for personal development and growth, to help people discover what they can do to open up to a loving relationship or to improve their career prospects – putting the power firmly back with the person doing the asking. Most of all, I love using the Tarot as a tool to help people uncover and break through blocks and patterns that are keeping them stuck.

These readings require time and energy; I can’t bang them out in 30 minutes or 1 hour – advice I have seen from other Tarot readers as a way to increase the “time-cost benefit” and do more readings in a day. Most readings take me 3-4 hours {and that is after I have spent an hour or so designing a spread for the deeper readings} – slinging cards, interpreting them and flow writing as I combine my interpretations with the messages I receive intuitively, and then restructuring it to make it easy to understand.

Each a-ha moment, each shift made, each time a person feels empowered after a Tarot reading is my idea of success. This is why I rely on word of mouth more than on advertising to spread the word about my Tarot readings.


My definition of success

best quotes on defining personal success

Through the last four years, as I refined my personal definition of success, as I slipped up and clawed my way back on to the path I am charting for myself, I have to come to realize that true success is not measured in rupees or the number of likes and followers I have.

Success is measured in dedication, in honing my craft, in being true to me and what I stand for. It is a knowing deep in my bones that by showing up and doing the work, by being brave enough to share it with the world, I am touching someone else and bringing them joy, inspiring them in some way, or helping them to get back on to their own path. That all of this is stemming from deep joy, from following my passions and my curiosity, from not being afraid to explore and fall and get up and try again.

What is your idea of success? Have you defined it, or have you lost sight of it in the daily grind? Do tell me in the comments!

P.S.: Don’t despair if you have lost sight of your idea of success, or never really thought about it. It’s never too late to start refining and defining your meaning of success! And it’s perfectly OK to let your definitions expand and change, too!

Posted in Soulful living and tagged , , , , , .

I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?


  1. I feel that the definition of success is very personal… It reflects the persona of a person, their wants, needs and desires. You can tell a lot about a person just by asking their definition. I loved the fact you kept away from rat race. The impulse to jump straight into it and have a lucrative journey is strong, but then I know that it would hamper the creative flow. One may lose the genuinity, the purpose that drives them. Keep going the way you are. And if it makes you happy and satisfied, then you are successful ?

    • Yes, it is personal, and yet I have seen many people around me who just don’t know what they want. They run the rat race, not knowing why they are running it or where they are going.

  2. That was such a great post to read and I particularly enjoyed the quotes. “Success” like “happiness” does mean different things to different people but if we are happy to be within our own skin and mind then maybe that is one. Thank you for joining the link up again this week. Next week will be the last until I return to blogging after my surgery and recovery. Denyse

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – and the quotes. Knowing what you’re striving towards is so important, isn’t it? It impacts almost every decision, I’ve found. Wish you luck with your surgery.

  3. Your understanding of success and passion and the evolutionary journey is evidence enough that you are on the right path. I’ve learnt the hard way that there is only so much you can learn from the success stories of others. Ultimately, you must do what your heart tells you to do. Plus, the body also slows down, savours things, enjoys life minute by minute if you allow it. I appreciate your insight into how you perceive tarot and what it does for you. I feel that way about blogging and writing. I blog because it calms me down. The writing process is relaxing, happy, soothing and calming. My day job ensures I can pay the bills. Blogging lets me follow my passion. If I become successful as a blogger, it will be a by product of my passion, not a goal and that, I believe, makes all the difference.

    On another note, this was a very interesting long read 😉

    • Yes, following your heart is so important. It teaches you so much, and doesn’t necessarily have to be turned into a “six-figure business”. It’s more important to know what you want to achieve, what you want to stand for, and show up and do that everyday and put it out into the world.

      Btw, remember I told you that you can use the Tarot for writing? Check out The Creative Life by Jessa Crispin. Her book is for artists and creative people looking to tarot for guidance and inspiration in the tradition of The Secret Language of Birthdays and Steal Like an Artist. I haven’t read it – though I plan to, soon – but have heard good things about it.

  4. bY your definition of success, I can honestly say I haven’t made it yet. Miles to go, in fact. But I am working my way there… slowly allowing for more ‘me time’ rather than just working like a drone

    • Doc, this is my definition. You have to find your definition. It takes time – it took me about 2-3 years to define what success means to me, and I constantly have to Course correct and make sure I’m doing things that *I* want to do, not what social media is screaming about. 😉

      You’ll get there! And yes, more “me time” is always good!

  5. I’m really not good at defining things and ‘Success’ is something that’s more connected to our personal goals. If am happy with what I’m doing and earning fair enough to keep myself happy, then nothing better than that. Self satisfaction is what I consider as ‘Success’.

  6. I agree with another commenter that the definition of success is personal. For me, it is using your talents to both enjoy life and help people. I think we both have similar definitions and I enjoyed your post.

  7. Society’s idea of success is too rigid. I realized a few years ago that my ideas of success were far removed from what was expected of me. Like you, I believe it lies in being true to myself, and pursuing the kind of creativity I’m passionate about. Of course having your own idea means working harder to achieve it (because life is always getting in the way), but ultimately, the satisfaction you get from knowing you did what you love doing is priceless.

    • Yes, yes! So much this, Sreesha! It can be really difficult to follow your heart and do things your way. Having a clear vision and the courage to stick to it despite what society says is hard, but oh so rewarding! Doing what you’re passionate about, following your creativity, the satisfaction you derive from that is almost hard to express…and like you said, priceless.

  8. I think you have put this so beautifully! I admire you for believing in yourself and actually going out there and doing it…… More power to you. I always read your posts and hope that one day I will be able to jump into the void and embrace the creativity that I want to …..

    • Thanks so much, lovely! Any time you want a pep talk to embrace your creativity, you know where to come! 😉
      But follow it, even if you can do it only in stolen moments of time. Once you start, you’ll find yourself automatically making some more time, or adapting your process to suit your life. 🙂

  9. You have the perfect definition of success, growing and touching lives. I have also given up on the whole defined competition mantra of success since four years where I ended up getting depressed, comparing my life to others. Honestly, I am done with that for it brings negativity. I really admiring you for explaining how you approach your craft. Stay blessed.

    • The defined competition mantra can really weigh you down! I’m sorry to hear that it led to depression too in your case, but glad to know that you managed to find your own path. I hope more people can read stories like ours and know that success is not a cookie-cutter template, and that it isn’t all about money, fame, and the fastest car and biggest house!

  10. I totally agree with you and love this post. I hate so much the pressure to be in any way what what society says we should and no one fall more victim to that than women. I’ve taken blogging to a fulltime career and there are many who still think I should go out and get a traditional job. I realized we define our own success years ago

    • Oh yes! Society’s pressures on women are unrealistic sometimes. It’s so important to not just succumb and to do the things that bring you joy and make you feel complete. You go, girl!

  11. I love this post. I’m with you. I feel success is different for each individual and we should stop comparing ourselves to others, because we’ll never be like anyone else, we can only be ourselves! 🙂

  12. Thank you so much for this post. It’s so EASY to get caught up in all the hype and only see success as being able to quit the day job, instead of remembering WHY we do what we do, like satisfaction and passion and spiritual calling.

    • Yes! I think unless you’re financially stable, and you have a solid client base, you shouldn’t quit your day job. Especially when you have a spiritual calling. Because if you’re forced to hustle for your next pay check, you can end up feeling like a sell-out, and that’s not a good place to be in. This, of course, is my personal opinion. 🙂

  13. This is a very important post as it speaks very clearly and lovingly to what many of us feel – especially those of us who try, daily, to balance what we do with who we are. I often say that my job as an Executive Director is what I do, but a Writer and Prayer Chaplain is who I am. Thank you, Shinjini, for the gift that you are.

    • Oh, I’m so humbled reading this comment! xx And I so agree that distinction between “what I do” and “who I am” is so important to understand. If they can be the same thing, excellent. If not, that is perfect too. I think the trend and pressure of “passion to profit” does more harm than good.

  14. True Jini, success may mean different to different people. When I was working I believed success is giving in my best. Everyone craves for extra. People have their own views, if they get success as per their beliefs does not believe that other person is not successful. I think we can judge everyone on same parameters

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