Redefining Success

"Redefining Success" by Claire McGarry (

Image credit: (2017), CC0/PD

It’s so hard to measure our progress in motherhood, especially when our kids are young. That’s one of the major reasons I’m so to-do list oriented: It gives me some sense of achievement in an otherwise chaotic day.

But as I spiral down into the state of too-much-on-my-plate between work and home, I’m having to redefine my definition of success.

When I’m overwhelmed, my go-to response is to panic and yell. Toss in the raised expectations and responsibilities I’ve put on my kids since going back to work, and you get the perfect storm: They don’t step up — I scream and rant.

Praying about this cycle, day after day, on my commute to and from work has helped me realize my inner peace means far more to me than what gets checked off my list. However, I have very little success at maintaining that peace when I lean on my own devices, or rely on those around me to do what they should.

Decades ago, I heard someone say, “God only gives us what we can handle. When He gives me what feels impossible, I thank Him for the compliment!” I subscribed to that thought process for decades: trying to work harder, striving to achieve what didn’t seem achievable, thinking that’s what God expected of me and knew I was capable of.

Now, constantly on the losing end of that pursuit, I’ve come to realize that philosophy is all wrong. God doesn’t burden us with these seemingly impossible tasks and then wish us luck in figuring them out. It’s life that presents us with challenge after challenge, reinforcing the fact that we can’t go it alone. Like a three-legged race, we’re supposed to join ourselves to God to get through any challenge and cross its finish line.

Remember then the Lord, your God, for He is the one who gives you the power to get wealth. (Deuteronomy 8:18)

With this new, hard-earned wisdom, I’ve redefined a successful day: It’s one where I don’t lose my cool, and can be proud of who I am when I lay my head down to sleep. I’ve also surrendered the idea that I can achieve this on my own. It’s really beyond me.

Every day, now, on my drive to work, I take a ballpoint pen and draw a small ladder on the side of my hand. It’s a visual reminder to set my sights on a different form of success, and to lean that ladder on God to get me there.

Copyright 2019 Claire McGarry


About Author

Claire McGarry is the author of the Lenten devotional "With Our Savior," published by Creative Communications for the Family/Bayard, Inc. and All is Blessing: Finding God in the Tensions of Life, to be published by Our Sunday Visitor in the fall of 2021. Her freelance work has appeared in various Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Focus on the Family magazine, Catechist magazine, These Days devotional, and Keys for Kids devotional. The founder of MOSAIC of Faith, a ministry with several different programs for mothers and children, she blogs at Shifting My Perspective.


  1. Another great post Claire. Wish I could have referenced your blog when I was raising my older kids. You’re doing a great job raising yours! Thanks for sharing your insight.

    • What a sweet comment, Christine. Thank you! And I return the compliment! Each and every one of your six kids are phenomenal people. Clearly, they had an amazing mom leading them through. Thanks YOU for the wonderful example you’ve set for me!

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