Move Beyond the Label: The Real Definition of Success

Cynthia Herron Motivation 4 Comments

Photo Credit: Extra Medium/Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Extra Medium/Creative Commons

We’re born into this world defined by someone else’s perception.

From the moment we make our grand entrance, labels are thrust upon us based on who we are born to and not who we actually are (a child of God).

As we age, things shift a bit. Additional factors are thrown into the success/failure pot. We become known as Sally Sue, the best speller in first grade, or Johnny Paul, the “slow” boy.

Initially, we believe we’re who we are because of who others say we are.

A five-year-old doesn’t yet have the same cognitive skills as a fifteen-year-old. “Success” to the small child whose family lives on a fixed income might look different from his classmate’s point-of-view whose dad is a neurosurgeon.

Success to Johnny Paul might be: clean socks one day out of seven. A ten-dollar binder versus a seventy-five cent notebook. A pat on the back for today’s C instead of cold indifference to yesterday’s F.

Years ago I had an acquaintance in college. “Cassie” was socially backward and other students often went out of their way to avoid her. Because of how she was raised, her lack of social graces, and the inability to make and keep friends, she believed she was a failure. I lost track of her after I graduated, but I think Cassie went on to meet with some measure of success from what I understand. Her career choice within a helping profession led me to believe she’d come to view herself differently. I’m happy about that and I’ve wondered what turned the tide for her. (I speak in the past tense because, sadly, I learned Cassie passed away several years ago.)

Of course, social rank and familial circumstances influence our self-esteem and perception of who we are, but others’ beliefs don’t have to determine who we become. We get to choose! (Philippians 4:13)

Some folks may have mentors to come alongside them and offer encouraging words, while others are influenced by naysayers and negativity. I find it heartbreaking that there are those who would rather feed their own egos than bestow affirmations, but that’s a sad reality in today’s me-me world. I don’t think it’s a new concept. I just think it’s more openly displayed now.

How then do we strive to be different? To rise above those who tear down?

We make a plan and go for broke!

We stand firm.

We refuse defeat.

We develop winning mindsets.

We visualize greatness.

What do we have to lose?

What do we stand to gain?

Here’s what I believe:

  • Failure is a preconceived notion not endorsed by God.
  • It’s a mindset of the enemy.
  • It steals our joy.
  • It limits our possibilities.
  • It influences our effectiveness.
  • It cripples.
  • It kills.
  • It’s a lie.
  • Success, however, is God-ordained.
  • It’s goal-focused belief in all things possible.
  • It sees beauty.
  • It prompts growth.
  • It draws others.
  • It sustains.
  • It rescues.
  • It’s the Truth.

Often, how we respond to or evaluate others is based on our own insecurities and imperfections.

I wonder how different the world would be if we sought to encourage instead of condescend. Applaud and not patronize. Share–with no agenda.

That’s radical thinking!

And finally…



should we believe that we are beneath, not as good as, or less than the Sally Sues of this world.

We may be at different stations in life.

We may have different directions we’re pursuing.

Or we may know a little more than others on the same path.


It’s because of Christ we have what we need to succeed.

And we should share that knowledge with those who still live with labels.


Who’s influenced your success?

What words of affirmation will you speak to someone today?



Labels wound. How to think different in a me-me world:  (Click to Tweet)

“Failure” is a preconceived notion. “Success” is who God says you are! (Click to Tweet)

Words of encouragement as you persevere: (Click to Tweet)

Photo Credit: Extreme Medium/Creative Commons

You are loved, friend!

Blessings Always,

Comments 4

  1. Melissa Tagg

    Love this, Cynthia. You know, I’ve been pretty over-the-top blessed with family who has constantly made me feel like a success and boosted my confidence. The labels we take on, whether intentionally or not, and how we see ourselves, good or bad, shift so much depending on who we’re around. And yet, you’re so right…that real success, the one label that really matters, is found in Christ. We’re His. That’s the best and most important thing!

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  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Years ago, a psychologist named maxwell Maltz wrote a book called “Psycho-Cybernetics”. I’ve forgotten most of it, but he did have a nice acronym he made of the word ‘success’

    Sense of direction

    It’s interesting that it’s a combination of inward- and outward-directed qualities. Charity and esteem for others were perceived as necessary for personal success, and I’d agree with that. Love thy neighbor as thyself is, I believe, how a certain Man put it several years back…

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    Cynthia Herron

    Andrew, great thoughts! You summed it up beautifully. Nurturing and caring for others is integral to our own growth and self-awareness. So thankful we have the ultimate Guide as we navigate!

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