03/05/2014 11:30 am ET Updated May 05, 2014

Are You Chasing the Right Prize?

Great track and field athlete's careers are defined by the gold medals they have won in their time.

Great tennis playing careers are defined by how many grand slams they have won.

To be considered truly great as a golfer, you have to have won a major or two in your time.

These athletes have tightly-defined goals and aspirations to work toward. They are very clear about the prize or prizes that matter most to them. The money and fame that comes along with these achievements is great, but don't be fooled into thinking it's what drives on the truly great ones.

Do you think Tiger Woods continues to toil through long working days on the range and in the gym for more money or for more majors?

Does the thought of another million in the bank excite Roger Federer more than another Wimbledon title on his amazing resume?

No, I think not. Their focus is on chasing the prizes that matter most to their legacies.

What about for the rest of us? What are the prizes we're chasing?

Maybe we're working to be able to pay the bills, give a little money to charity and also have some left over for a healthy retirement fund. On top of that we just want to try to be a good neighbor and friend to those in our life.

Or perhaps we're working two jobs to pay for our children's future educations. Getting them to and through university and giving them a strong educational foundation is the prize we chase.

Admirable goals in themselves but for some of us the reasons are less clear. Our prizes are not always so clearly defined and can get blurred. We've lost sight of our goals, what drives us and ultimately what success for us will look like. We've just entered a state of routine where we do what we do because we think that's what we have to do!

Perhaps we're chasing more.

More money that is never quite enough.

More possessions that don't really add to our lives (but do mean we can keep up with the neighbors).

More space via a bigger home (and bigger mortgage) to house all this stuff we "need."

What we're really chasing, though, is often missed. It is more, but it's a different kind of more. It's more meaning, more purpose and ultimately more happiness.

Meaning, purpose and happiness are our own version of Olympic gold or winning the Masters. They're the prizes we really strive for.

Money beyond a certain point doesn't necessarily add more happiness to our lives. Possessions beyond a certain point can actually cause more stress and expense than actual enjoyment.

What we are left with is meaning and purpose.

Why are we here?

What do we want to achieve?

How do you want to be remembered?

How can we be of service to the world?

How can we be a better parent?

How can we make the world a better place in some small or large way?

What are we passionate about?

How can we turn our passions into a career?

These questions and related ones start to unlock the puzzle to what our most cherished prizes will be in life and the path that we need to take to get there.

The answers we end up with are all different for each of us. The important thing is we remember to ask them of ourselves. They are what will keep us focused on the prize and prizes that matter most to us. They are how we will end up gauging our real success.

How about you, are you chasing the right prize?

Carl is the proud owner of Frictionless Living, which is focused on helping readers live a simpler and more personally satisfying life. He is also the author of 22 Ways to Simpler Living. To read more and/or contact him, go to his site.