5 Words Only You Can Define

5 Words Only You Can Define
5 Words Only You Can Define

When I first ventured into the freelance writing world, I had one motive – To make a difference in people’s lives. I didn’t care how I did it. I just had to make sure that it got done. Once I conquered it, I would know that I truly made it as a writer. I would have been a success.

If only it were that simple.

It wasn’t long before I learned my motive wasn’t good enough for everyone. I would share it with others and the responses would always be the same. “Oh, that’s nice but wouldn’t you want to write a NY Times best selling book instead?”

“Don’t you think you would be happier writing on staff at a magazine?”

“I think you’d be better off aiming to be a commentator discussing injustices. You’d make more money that way.”

All of them made valid points, but none were what I truly wanted. That’s why I’m not happy to say for a while I listened to them. I heard so many voices that I forgot to listen to my own. So I ditched my motives and dared to take my writing in a different direction. It was a direction that would lead to fame, fortune and ultimate success. It was everything a girl could ask for… except me.  As I headed down that path, I didn’t like what I saw and I didn’t like how I felt. No, it wasn’t terrible. It just wasn’t me. And that’s when it dawned on me. I ignored my definition of success to conform to someone else’s. Only I know what it means to be truly successful.

There are many words and feelings people impose their opinions on. It’s not because they’re selfish and not because they don’t care. It’s because they only want what’s best for you. The only problem is that only you can determine what is best for you and what makes you happy. Not your mom. Not a mentor. Not your wife. Not even a dictionary can do it for you. There are some things that you will have to determine for yourself. Unfortunately, not everyone knows what those words are. So to save you from succumbing to outside views like I did, I’m giving you the list of words that only you can define. Read these five terms and commit to memory. Then promise to ignore words of advice from people quick to tell you that your views are wrong.

Success – You don’t have a multi-platinum album, millions of dollars, and a lucrative contract to be the spokesperson of Pepsi. Though many act like it, not everyone wants to be Beyonce. Nor should everyone try to be, unless it’s something they really want. It may be the definition of it according to many onlookers, but Beyonce is not always synonymous with success. Neither is fame, fortune, family, or freedom. So don’t you ever, let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong as you strive for success. Only you know if you are doing it right. Decide what “success” means to you and go after it. Regardless of your definition, know that it is always in reach.

Happy – It sounds like an easy enough word. It’s an emotion that usually leads people to smile and show pleasantries. While everyone knows what actions it elicits, very few can pinpoint how to get to it. You think you have it all figured out, but when asked, your mind goes blank and you suddenly have no idea. And then there are those, who are quick to tell you exactly how you should be feeling at every moment and how to get to that elated feeling you’ve been longing for. Unfortunately, listening to  the opinions of others have made it difficult for you to make a conclusion on your own. My advice is to silence all the voices but your own. No one else can tell you how you should  be feeling. Once you stop over thinking it and listening to non-important opinions you will soon know what it means to be happy. And once you do know, do everything in your power to make sure that feeling never escapes you.

Yourself – The horoscopes do it, numerology does it, and even self-help books do it. But only you can truly define who you are. After all, us humans are complex beings. It’s not like our quirks, personalities, and general traits are as easy to decipher and define as a toaster. So what makes these “higher beings” think they can do it? You know who you are. You know what needs fixing and what doesn’t. So don’t be afraid to ignore those who tell you otherwise.

Rich – Having millions of dollars and the ability to live life on a whim, doesn’t mean you are rich unless you say you are. Sure, the general public defines rich as as anyone making more than $400,000 a year. But others may define rich as something much different. Don’t feel bad that you don’t have the most money, a luxury car, and an amazing job. If you really think about it, you are most likely rich in other ways. There is no need to strive  for the “rich” defined by the media. Strive for the rich that makes you feel good.

Family – As children, we’re taught that families consist of a mom and dad and some siblings. We’re also taught that blood relatives are indeed your family. But as you grow older, you learn that family truly transcends multiple definitions. Day by day, your family circle has expanded to include coworkers, friends, fraternity brothers, and mentors. Don’t let anyone tell you they are not family. You know who your family is. Love them as such and you’ll always know where you belong.

How do you define success and happiness? Has anybody ever tried to impose their definitions on you?

TERRIfic Quip: Too many people undervalue what they are and overvalue what they are not.



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  1. I love this post. Very timely. I’ve been thinking a lot on what “success” means to me. I’ve been freelancing for 8 months now and am waiting for that magic moment when I don’t feel like noob. Thanks for the reminders. Maybe writing them down and defining them would be a good exercise, both personally and professionally.

    1. Erica, I think “success” is one of the hardest words to define ever! You think you have it all figured out and suddenly your entire world view changes. I think what makes it difficult is that the definition can change so frequently. I’ve been doing this for about two years now and I still feel like a newbie at times.

    1. Dani, You are too kind. You have no idea how much the compliment means to me! I must say, you are a pretty good writer as well!

  2. I totally agree with ALL of this, especially the success part. I think a part of the problem is that some people never realize their own path for success and really try to follow someone else’s. I know I don’t have the biggest bank account but boy am I rich with love and support in my life, and to me those things are so priceless. Excellent post.

  3. Terri, I love a lot of the things that you said in this post. I think our lives would be so much easier if we measured our successes in stages, instead of looking for the big, grand finale. Success is not something that comes rushing to our doors, except in rare cases. Everytime you learn something new, like a tip, a trick, or some new info, it gets you one-step closer to success.

    For some people, having one article or book published is enough. They dreamed of doing it and it got done. If that is good enough for them, bravo!

    Sometimes the highway of success has different meanings to different people. Pick what yours is and stick to it like glue.

    This was a very meaningful post – good job!

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