Success criteria: Why they’re essential before making a decision

If you make gut feel decisions all of the time, your intuition might help or might hinder you. By building a set of success criteria, you can help yourself build new paths.
What we'll cover

As humans, our minds work in funny ways. We will often lead ourselves towards answers which are comfortable or have become a habit. I spotted our habits when my fathers short term memory started to fade as he aged. He would say literally the same thing 5 minutes later – not a different version of it, but the exact same wording. He was following the same paths.

This might be fine if your habits are serving you, and your mindset is one of success. However, if you tend towards the negative, you’ll likely keep yourself from achieving success and find yourself at the same point time and time again.

This negative cycle can easily kill off your business, or stop you from growing past a plateau.

The are many techniques for helping you break out of these kinds of cycles, but one is defining success criteria before even approaching making a decision.

Let’s find out how and why.

What is a set of success criteria?

A success criteria is a list of goals that we need to achieve in order to be considered successful. It might be as simple as hitting a certain number, moving to the next level of your business by hiring your 10th staff member, or becoming known in your industry.

Whatever it is, you need to have a well-defined idea of what success means to you.

Why is it important to know your success criteria before making a decision?

The key is defining what success looks like before you decide on your course of action, rather than following the same path as before.

If you follow the first action which pops into your head without evaluation, you’re following your usual path, possibly towards a lack of success. This could lead to continual self-sabotage.

If instead you work out the success criteria and define multiple paths forward, you’re following a path that’s logically correct and will achieve your goals – because it meets your success criteria – but maybe feels wrong? That’s OK. Personal growth comes from slowly changing your mindset and accepting the discomfort as you change. Later, this feeling will lessen.

Questions to ask yourself to define your success criteria

Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself in order to build your success criteria.

  • Exactly what do I want to achieve?
  • How will I know when I’m there?
  • How will I feel when it happens?
  • What will be different in my business or personal life?
  • How will other people feel?
  • How would other people know it had happened?
  • What will be different in other peoples business or personal life?

What you’re aiming for is a list of maybe 2 to 10 criteria that you can – ideally objectively – measure. If you need to include subjective assessments, aim to turn them into a single number, such as “out of 5, how happy will my customer be?”

I have an IT background and we used this technique to make a difficult technical decision for us. This decision would take us away from a hosting provider that we were comfortable with, but which we thought was holding us back.

We worked through what would change when we knew the decision had been successful and came up with the list that looked something like this:

  • What percentage of the IT budget be saved?
  • How much faster or slower will the site run?
  • How much faster will we be able to provision servers to cope with traffic increases?
  • … and so on.

This allowed us to build an objective list of options and know that – before we made the decision to remain – we had an accurate way of evaluating whether each route was right for our future.

By doing this, we took the emotion out of this decision.

Work with me on your decisions

If you’re struggling with making decisions for your business – maybe because they’re complex and multi-faceted – get in touch and we can discuss your options.

Create more success

If you’re an entrepreneur, executive, business owner or freelancer who’s feeling lost in a maze, I would be happy to lend a hand.

What should you read next?