A stack of wooden blocks

What Does Success Really Look Like?

by Richard Fyfe

My family had some great news this week. My son’s application for an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) was approved by the Special Educational Needs department at Sheffield City Council. My son James has autism and needs extra support at school as he finds certain aspects of education, and life in general, difficult and often very stressful. James’ EHCP gives him a legal entitlement to the support he needs and I can’t express how important this is for James and for our family as a whole.

It also counts as a huge success for my wife Donna who has dedicated the last 18 months to obtaining assessments from psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, GPs and consultants in order to make sure the council had could not turn down James’ application. EHCP applications are not approved easily and it took commitment, drive and tenacity to see this through and achieve the desired result.

This to me is the kind of success you can look back at and can say, “I did everything in my power to achieve my goal.” Donna’s grit and determination reminded me of an Olympic athlete. You don’t see all the hard work, the tears, the exhaustion behind the scenes. You just see the elation and the relief when they cross the line in first place. This might sound like I’m embellishing my wife’s achievements but to our family this is what it felt like.

This got me thinking about success generally and how we view it. Most people’s image of success is not a document from the local council. But it is for us. My point is that success looks different for everyone.

What Does Success Look Like To You?

I was recently talking to a very successful client and my usual question about what success looks like seemed an odd one to ask. They were clearly successful and had the financial proceeds of that success to show for it. Surely success looks exactly like where they are right now?

But this is the wrong way of thinking about success. No matter where our clients are at this point in time, what really matters is what does success look like from this point onwards? For this client it might be another 10 successful years in business or it might be making the very best use of those financial gains throughout retirement. Either way, no matter what our goals are, we still want our future years to be a success.

And this gets to the core of what success really is. If success was just promotions at work or money in the bank then once our clients get there they’d have nothing more to strive for. But that’s not how life really is. Success not only relates to different aspects of our lives, it also changes over time as we move through the different life stages. Despite the recent success of James’ EHCP, success now looks different for us going forward. It now means making sure James’ EHCP genuinely does what it’s there for during the next few years of his education. After that it will change again. I should also say that success also looks like our wonderful daughter Isabel reaching her full potential too!

Our Clients’ Version Of Success

With all this in mind we need to encourage our clients to think about what success looks like to them. What does it look like right now? What will it look like in 5 years? What will it look like in retirement? What will it look like professionally, personally, socially?

Is it building a business, reaching the top of their profession or just knowing that after a week’s hard work they can switch off without any stress? Maybe it’s a walk with the dog every morning or a good book and a glass of wine on a warm summer afternoon. It might be giving their children the best start in life so they are ready for everything the world might throw at them when they’re older. For many it will be knowing that they achieved their potential, everything that they were capable of, and being able to look back with no regrets.

None of these goals are better than the others. It only matters what’s most important to each client as an individual.

As we’ve all highlighted many times before with our clients, money and wealth are only a means of achieving success and happiness, not success or happiness in themselves. It’s our job to take the financial side out of the equation so they can judge what success truly looks like on its own merit rather than simply as a means to acquiring wealth. We can then build a financial plan around what’s truly most valuable to them.

Let’s encourage our clients to think about what it takes to be a success in their own eyes because knowing what success looks like and planning towards it gives them a much greater chance of achieving their goals and being truly wealthy by their own standards. It’s certainly working for our family at the moment.

Richard Fyfe headshot
Courtesy of Richard Fyfe

Richard Fyfe is a Chartered Financial Planner and a Director of Fyfe Financial.

The views expressed in this article are that of this author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Voyant.