According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of success is "the attainment of wealth, fame or position." That seems a very masculine and narrow definition, and certainly from our research for our book, Enough, not one shared by many of the women.
Oh yes, they want to be "successful" and sure money helps and gives you choices in life, but making a fortune, becoming a celebrity or rising up the ranks, are not always their end goals.
But I wouldn't want to dilute the truth that for women having sufficient money and security is important and key to their sense of success, because that money gives them freedom. Freedom to support their families; freedom to travel and freedom to choose when, where and how much they work.
As one woman said, "I want the financial comfort of knowing I can afford the lifestyle I am building." For some who are financially stretched, earning enough money to keep the wolves from the door, and "having a roof over their heads" was success enough for them.
Being in control of their lives was important. After all if I can "do what I want, when I want, spend quality time with my family and friends and enjoy vacations without feeling guilty" it doesn't get much better for some women.
Not feeling guilty and living a balanced life are big drivers for women. Their focus isn't just work-related and feeling fulfilled in what they are doing, means success is all-encompassing. They also seek and strive for strong relationships with family and friends, managing the household, staying healthy and being true to themselves.
At times, it almost sounds as if they want it all, which may be feasible, but not at the same time and this "superwoman" goal can play its part in women feeling overwhelmed by all that they have to do -- or more to the point, what they perceive they have to do.
While a sense of accomplishment of a job well done, of setting goals and meeting them created great satisfaction for many women, the focus was more on other aspects of their lives. For one woman, it was quite simple -- success equated to "sleeping seven hours a night."
And for some, the definition was ever-changing, more fluid and not constant. "I used to think it was climbing the ladder," but when she got there, it wasn't what she thought it would be.
But for others, being of service to and making a difference in the lives of others, was their raison d'être. As one woman said, "Success is being able to enrich and impact people's lives in a way that would not have happened without my involvement." Leaving a legacy was important to them and as one person observed "It is not always about money."
In fact, one woman summarized it well -- "I want to be true to myself. Live a life with no regrets. Give to others and create a life where I have what I need and a little more."
How we view success, can determine our view of ourselves. If our expectations are high and we don't achieve our goals, then we can be setting ourselves up to fail. Yet if we limit our ambitions, we could be cheating ourselves out of opportunities that could make us happy.
Maya Angelou probably said it best -- "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it."