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Redefining Success: How to Set Goals According to Your Purpose

Alyssa Conlee
Alyssa Conlee

August 11, 2018

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What is Success? How you answer this question will determine your approach to your life goals.

Success is commonly defined by numbers, recognition by others, or lack of failure. When people think of success, it’s usually in relation to wealth, popularity, or eminence. This superficial definition of success is awfully limiting, as it claims a one-size-fits-all approach to leading a successful life. The last thing you want is to chase after a fleeting “success” that brings little value to your life, right? You don’t want superficial accomplishments, you want to live a life brimming with purpose.

But how can you achieve meaningful success that accomplishes your purpose?

Your Success is Specific to Your Goals

The Oxford Dictionary contains a definition for success I’m quite fond of: “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” I love the depth this wording allows for. By this definition, success is not bound to wealth, favor, or eminence… it is simply accomplishing what you aim for.

According to this definition, your success is different than your friend’s, your neighbor’s, your brother’s. What defines “success” for you is completely dependent on the goals you have set before you.

But all goals are not made equally. A perfectly achievable goal for your sister may simply be unreasonable for you, or vice versa.

Don’t view success as numbers, popularity, or status—it makes comparing yourself to others too easy, and satisfaction with your own accomplishments harder to grasp. When your perspective of success is instead specific to the goals you create for yourself, there is less room for destructive comparison, and space to instead set goals based on your own passions and abilities.

If you want to reach success, stop making your goals with a comparative heart.

Setting (Meaningful) Goals

Goals are important. When made with the intention of personal growth rather than in a spirit of competition, your goals can set the course for a purposeful life. Setting meaningful goals can be tricky—so here are three tips for setting better goals and thus achieving success.

1. Choose goals that reflect your aim.

What do you hope to accomplish with your life?

Sorry (not sorry) for throwing such a weighty question your way, but your answer is crucial to making truly meaningful goals. Understanding what your chief aim is will help you to check the significance of the goals you set.

When determining goals, remind yourself of your aim. Any goal you set should support advancement toward what you hope to ultimately accomplish.

2. Choose goals that fulfill your purpose.

Get ready, here’s another heavy question: what were you created to do?

We’re each unique, with different gifts, passions, and purposes. So what’s your purpose? You have to be aware of your purpose for you before you can align your goals with it!

Unbound was instrumental in my search for purpose. Their Navigate course helped me to, well, navigate through my ideas of who I might be and what I might be created to do.

Whether goals of character, education, vocation, or anything else, each of your goals should find root in the person you were created to be and in the purpose you were designed for. It’s these purpose-filled goals that will bring success.

3. Don’t be afraid of failure.

Believe it or not, failing to meet your goals is not the worst thing that can happen.

Failure gives you the opportunity to do two things:

  1. Evaluate your efforts.
  2. Re-examine your goals.

Maybe you failed because you lost sight of your vision and need to realign. Maybe you need to change your approach to the goal or work harder for it. Or maybe you need to ditch the goal altogether because it was never yours to accomplish in the first place.

Use your failures to steer the course and propel yourself forward instead of allowing them to hold you back. Don’t dwell on your mistakes; learn from them, change what you need to, and keep working toward your purposeful goals. Success is at hand!


Success isn’t about attaining temporary things. Money, fame, and status shouldn’t define success. Neither should a lack of failure. These descriptions cheapen the value of the word and can keep you from finding real success—a success that matters.

Let the accomplishment of your aims and purposes be your definition of success.

Ready to set some meaningful goals? Check out How to Set Goals (And Actually Achieve Them) for some more hands-on goal-setting advice.

Alyssa Conlee
Alyssa Conlee

Alyssa is a former Unbound student and Liberty University graduate and aspiring social worker who loves encouraging people to be who God designed them to be. You can learn more about Alyssa and read her latest posts on her blog.

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