How to measure success? First, you have to work out what it looks like for you

When I was younger, I used to measure success by other people's standards; this shaped my entire life. For me, it took a long while to understand that success is a very personal thing, it might not look the same to everyone, and that's ok.

Fifteen years ago, I would have told you that success was being chartered, winning awards in my field and getting promoted.

Seven years ago, I would have said success was growing the business from a micro to a small, increasing turnover and profit, hitting clients targets.

Now, success looks very different.

It's being able to create work that demonstratively helps people and organisations — having my research recognised by my peers. Working with clients I like, and doing work I enjoy. Being able to work flexibly so that I can spend time with my son.

When I was striving for success on the terms of other people, I was never fulfilled but always busy. I felt that if I could just achieve the next thing I would eventually feel successful and maybe slow down a little. However, whatever I did was never enough, how could it be?

I placed myself under extraordinary pressure and set incredibly difficult goals believing that if I accomplished them, I would finally feel like I had achieved.

Looking back, I find it interesting that I managed to start a business that went from a turnover of £10k to £350,000 in just four years. At the same time, I retrained from a site manager to specialist in fairness and equality. I published peer-reviewed research and contributed to government papers. I was asked to sit on industry boards and spoke at the South Bank Women of the World Festival. My newsletter had an opted-in subscriber list of 6,000, and I was accepted onto a PhD course at Loughborough University.

All this and so much more, and still I never felt like a success.

In 2015 my business took a massive hit, we went from a full-time staff of eight down to just one over a very short period. I felt like an absolute failure, even though I had never felt like a success.

I'm not alone in this, most successful entrepreneurs fail on the first few attempts. In fact, failure is a word we should all get a bit more comfortable around; I've always learnt the most when reviewing why I failed – but that's a topic for another blog.