How to measure success the more human way.

Amsterdam, 10th May 2017

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a young man who was a rising star at work. He moved up the ladder fast, got more responsibility, and was rewarded with more status and more money. He couldn’t believe how well things were going!

But then one day our hero stumbled and fell. He was working too hard and playing too hard. He found himself stressed out and unhappy. So he quit his successful job, leaving behind the big pay packet and certain career trajectory. He took a leap into the unknown to work for himself. Whilst he found it hard, after time he became comfortable with his new life.

But he struggled with one thing: how he measured success. He rarely earned as much as he did in his old life so he wondered, “am I more or less successful?” On some occasions he found himself returning from meeting his accountant, feeling browbeaten about his unpredictable — and frankly, sometimes precarious — financial health.

Then one day he began an experiment. In 2014 he started writing a list of the good things that happened in everyday life. He’d start the list on a Monday, adding to it daily. He called this list ‘Good Times’. Some of these good times were work-related, some of these were family-related, some of them were just personal. But they were the experiences that made him tick.

And our hero soon learned something: these lists gave him the data to value his life in a different way. He stopped measuring success in £ and started measuring life in the good experiences he had. The lists provided him with a deeper understanding of who he was and what he liked doing. He felt better.


That — of course — is my story. Three years later I’m still keeping my Good Times. Some weeks the list runs to fifty items, other weeks thirty. A morning run along the seafront, a meeting with a client. The first coffee of the day in the sunshine, throwing a frisbee in the garden with my kids. Giving a talk to two hundred people, having an early night in bed with a novel.

So what has Good Times shown me?

  1. Count the things that count. I’m fifty next year. I’ve worked out what success means to me, I’m trying to live the best life I can. Looking back at my three years of lists I realise how lucky I am. I have lots of Good Times in the bank.
  2. If you know what it is that fuels you, go back and get more of it. Most of us know that we have our best idea on an 08:00 run or that we feel good having a snooze in a deckchair. But do we listen to ourselves, do we repeat those experiences that fuel our creativity or happiness? Yesterday I took a day-trip to Amsterdam, a city that consistently fuels me. I live ten minutes from an airport. The return ticket cost me £60. It’s a no-brainer investment in me.
  3. The little things matter. It’s obvious that we value the big things in life. The foreign holidays, the posh meals out. But my list shows me how much I value those little things in life. Hearing one of my favourite songs on the radio. Dancing with the kids in the kitchen. Hitting publish on a blog post. Talking to a stranger.

If you’re feeling bombarded with other people’s versions of who you should be or other people’s perceptions of what success looks like, try and claw back that sense of self: of what you value, and what’s important to live your life according to you. Give Good Times a try. There’s no app to download, no process to learn. You just need a piece of paper, a pen and a commitment to do it.

If you need help getting fired up about doing your best work, i) I run workshops for teams and organisations; and ii) I offer one-on-one coaching/mentoring for individuals via London walk-and-talks or Skype.

And if you’re curious to know more about Good Times, listen to me on this episode of the Happy Melly podcast — Discovering What Makes Us Tick.

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