You can spot in an instant if a person is tall or short, fair or dark, but what does it mean to say a person is successful? For one individual, doing well in life is all about material wealth; for another, the key is being acknowledged for professional contributions; while for yet another, the happiness of family and friends is paramount.
Success, if it has a definition, means being the best version of yourself you can be. It means living up to your ideals. And for this reason, most one-size-fits-all success tips are useless.
What does the best version of yourself look like?
Does that mean you should give up trying to be successful though? Probably not. While chasing society's definition of "success" isn't success in any real sense, we should all still strive to chase our own personal definition of the concept. How do you do that? Dr. Julia Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at the Ross School of Business, offered a useful suggestion at Google's re:Work 2016 event.
The complete idea can be found in the short video below, but the basic exercise on offer is this: first, write down a description of your own best self, who you'd be if you lived by your own best impulses and highest ideals; then get others around you to share stories of when you contributed positively to their lives; next, analyze the results to see what themes and characteristics keep reappearing in the stories; finally create a "best self-portrait."
This simple, four-step process not only forces you to focus on what's important to you, but it also offers positive reinforcement that helps you believe you can push further in this direction. And best of all for managers, if you do it together as a team, it can help people work together better and come up with better ideas, according to Lee's research. So whether you're looking to bolster your own success, or the success of your team, consider giving this exercise a shot.