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What Does “Success” Mean to You?

Success. It’s something that most of us want in our lives. We might have a hazy picture of what it looks like:

  • “Lots” of money
  • A jet-setting lifestyle
  • A great relationship
  • Achieving a particular status within a career

The problem is, none of these things are easy (or even possible) to achieve. How much money is “lots”? What counts as a “great” relationship? If you chase vague definitions of success, you’re never going to be satisfied.

Plus, you might well achieve “success” in the eyes of the world … only to find that it seems hollow and empty to you.

Don’t Follow Someone Else’s Idea of “Success”

We’ve all got different values and motivations. Some people are content to work in a tedious job because it carries a good paycheck. Others would prefer to work at something creative and fulfilling (even though that means living on ramen noodles). Neither path is objectively “right” – they could each be perfect for different individuals.

It’s up to you to decide what success means in your life. Don’t get stuck following someone else’s path. For you, success could be:

  • Never having to worry about money (note: this isn’t necessarily the same as “being rich”!)
  • Being healthy and fit
  • Playing a vital role within your family (whether that’s as a parent, sibling or child)
  • Going back to college and getting a degree
  • Downsizing to a home in a rural area
  • Writing a book and having it published

… or almost anything!

Success doesn’t have to be about money or status.

Be Specific About Your Goals

When you’re deciding on your personal definition of success, make it as concrete as possible. If you simply want to “be rich” then you’ll struggle to ever feel like you’ve managed it. A better goal might be “make $100,000/year”.

Your success should be measurable. You might not be able to put a number to it, but look for some way to record your progress towards your goal. For instance, if your “success” means “being happy and content with my life” then you might want to journal about your thoughts and emotions regularly.

Be clear about what success means, and set specific targets to reach.

See Failure as a Step on the Path

You might be familiar with this Thomas Edison quote:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Often, failure is just part of the path to success. If you’re starting up your first business, you might fail: that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Your early failures pave the way to later success. Think back to being a child – you failed constantly while learning to walk, to talk, to read, to write… but those failures were necessary in order for you to finally succeed.

Failure is something you do, not something you are. Sure, you might fail – again and again – before you do succeed. But isn’t that better than never even trying?

What’s your personal definition of “success”? Share it with us in the comments below.

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  • http://flawlessconfidence.com Martin K.

    Success – being able to do what you want, when you want, where you want and with whoever you want. Total freedom. It covers everything – health, relationships, money, achieving dreams, living passionately etc.

    • http://www.clintcora.com Clint Cora

      I second this opinion.  I’m always amazed on how my own personal definition of success has changed for me over the years.  When I first started my corporate career, success meant the big pay raise, the new management titles, etc.  Now, I’m much more in line with the freedom as opposed to being a slave to some corporate job I don’t like.

      • http://flawlessconfidence.com Martin K.

        Exactly. Money, promotion, titles etc. aren’t that important as your freedom. Especially if you don’t like your job, then it also kills your soul.

  • InaHas Lina

    For me, Success is a big word. Sometimes, it’s just a small matter but when you can go through it well, it also considered success. In my entire existence, when everything always falls into place, it’s really a big success for me. And I also believe, when you happy with what you’re doing now.. everything’s gonna be ok… not just ok but great! :)

    And in the word of Albert Schweitzer,”Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

  • kashyap

    success is a very relative term. success for everyone has different meaning. for a rag picker success is he earns enough to eat his daily meal. for a businessman success is he gets billions dollars in profit. but i think success is when you feel complete from inside & that feeling can not come until you do something for the society & when your mind is still, without fear, anger or frustration. 

    http://24x7meditation.blogspot.com/

  • kashyap

    success is a very relative term. success for everyone has different meaning. for a rag picker success is he earns enough to eat his daily meal. for a businessman success is he gets billions dollars in profit. but i think success is when you feel complete from inside & that feeling can not come until you do something for the society & when your mind is still, without fear, anger or frustration. 

    http://24x7meditation.blogspot.com/

  • Michael

    Great post. Success is whatever makes you truly happy inside. I write about similar things in my blog http://www.figsandgold.com

  • http://peppervirtualassistant.com/ Kharyn L.

    I have always been pressured by my relatives of working outside the country to be “successful.”  That’s how “success” means to them.  But working overseas may be a difficult thing for me because aside from being homesick, I may not be able to get the job that I wanted. 

    In our country, I enjoy what I’m doing, even if the paycheck is not as high as what my relatives are earning.  For me, success means “loving what you do,” and at the same time, of knowing how to budget/save your earnings to achieve what you really want in life (let’s say, becoming an entrepreneur).

    • http://www.facebook.com/miller.ybanez Miller Antipuesto Ybanez

      Please see a video from a friend of mine that is writing a motivational book that would be beneficial:  
      http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/deep/awakening-in-the-deep-end?ref=live

      • http://peppervirtualassistant.com/ Kharyn L.

        Hi Miller! thanks for the video.  It somehow made me realize that I’m not the only one who’s having difficulties in this world.  Your friend, Jeff, have somehow remained strong despite all the continuing trials in his life.   If I could share this video to my friends, I believe we could inspire everyone. It’s going to be a great book!

  • http://twitter.com/CoachBarrie Barrie Davenport

    Hi Ali,
    This is such an important post. I wish I had learned to define authentic success earlier in my life. During my 20′s and 30′s, accumulating stuff, a fancy car, a big house full of furniture, etc. where the signs of success for many of my peers (and for me). It took striving for those things to learn that they provide very little sustained happiness and contentment. It’s like having one potato chip — you can never have enough. Once you realize that it takes very little to be happy, it is so liberating. Friends, family, meaningful work, beauty, love, some adventure, intellectual stimulation, good food — those provide sustained happiness. Thank you for focusing our attention on this Ali. I also love your points about failure. It is a sure sign that you are trying something, expanding yourself. If you want to never fail, never try. :)

    • http://flawlessconfidence.com Martin K.

      “Once you realize that it takes very little to be happy, it is so liberating” – true! I think that if you can’t be happy with little, then when you’ll finally become very rich etc., you won’t be able to enjoy it. First learn how to be happy under any circumstances, then try to improve your life!

    • Ari

      thanks Barrie. you have a great and realistic reading of todays life, happiness is very easy you just need to find the right tools and method.  Ari Asmar

  • http://www.meanttobehappy.com Ken Wert

    I always like a post that provokes thought. Yours does that, Ali!

    To me, the most important kind of success is the success that exists within the 4 walls of your home. That reminds me that someone once said that no success can compensate for failure in the home. I agree with that statement. A thriving business seems stale to me if it was built on the back of a failed marriage and kids who don’t know me or like me very much.

    The other form of success I believe is most critical is to successfully become a decent person. Besides, the work we do on our own character will impact all other forms of success we pursue.

  • http://thelast3reps.com Brandon

    I think success is a mindset. You can say “whatever makes you happy” all you want, but what is it that truly makes you happy? 

    It’s you…and only you. 

    Tons of people around the world live with disadvantages, some that we take for granted (including myself). 

    But, some of them will tell you that they nevertheless feel successful, happy, content etc. 
    It’s because they chose to feel that way. 

    Success is all in the mind. You can chose to ‘feel’ successful right now, and if you do it long enough, you might actually ‘be’ successful in whatever it is you do. 

    In my eyes, you can be successful the moment you chose to get in that mentality of already being or ‘feeling’ successful. 

  • Daniel

    Success for me is about raising fine kids, being financially secure and having a healthy relationships with others.  http://www.dumaraos.com

  • Gobbyx

    Thanks for the post, my personal “success” is to be happy gratefull with who you are and to act as a child, ask whatever you want, do whatever you want , and to pursue your dream regardless of the failures you have.
    Thanks you God for bringing this website in my life

  • Anonymous

    Total freedom does not equal success… Doing what you want, whenever, etc
    will at best be boring and empty and at worst something that could lead to some
    pretty bad decisions in life.

    Success is knowing clearly who you are and where you want to go. It means
    being on the path- even if you haven’t yet achieved your goals. It means a real
    happiness and a kind of inner peace that *only* comes from hard work coupled
    with an appreciation of who you are, what you have, and where you are heading in
    life.

  • Anonymous

    Total freedom does not equal success… Doing what you want, whenever, etc
    will at best be boring and empty and at worst something that could lead to some
    pretty bad decisions in life.

    Success is knowing clearly who you are and where you want to go. It means
    being on the path- even if you haven’t yet achieved your goals. It means a real
    happiness and a kind of inner peace that *only* comes from hard work coupled
    with an appreciation of who you are, what you have, and where you are heading in
    life.

    Adam Gottlieb @The Frugal Entrepreneur

    • http://flawlessconfidence.com Martin K.

      “Success is knowing clearly who you are and where you want to go” – I
      think that many people know this, yet they don’t consider themselves
      successful. Because you can know who you are and where you want to go,
      but still be stuck at a dead end-job doing things that you hate.

      How can doing what you want, where you want, when you want and with whoever you want be boring and/or empty?

      Of course, some people don’t know what to do even with one hour of free time, but I’m talking about an intelligent person who knows what s/he wants.

      Total freedom means that you can do what you want – if hard work until you die is your kind of thing, then you are free to do it. If someone else wants to start a charity, he’s free to do it. If someone wants to spend his life teaching other how to achieve success, he’s free to do it. If someone simply wants to spend more time with his family, he’s free to do it.

      Total freedom gives you choice. Knowing who you are or where you want to go don’t give you this opportunity, because you can be still limited by many things such as money, your boss, lack of time etc.

      • Anonymous

        The truth is that in life we may not always have control over our situations. We may not be in the best of jobs through no real fault of our own and we may not always have a choice to avoid doing something we hate. What we DO have a choice about is our reaction and response to the situations we find ourselves in. A person who can be in a lousy situation that he or she cannot change (at least not in the near future) yet still pick out what’s good and make the best of it and still be happy even through the difficulty and discomfort. THAT is real freedom, and it’s also success- even though most people mat not recognize it as such. But it can only happen when we are in touch with who we really are and when we can realize that the struggles along the way are just bringing us closer to ourselves and our purpose in life.

        • http://flawlessconfidence.com Martin K.

          Well, let’s agree to disagree. I do agree with you that it’s very important to know who you are and know your purpose in life. I just don’t believe it’s enough to define it as success.

  • http://upgradify.com/productivity-101-ideas-to-boost-your-productivity/ Productivity ideas

    I think the main point why people think the success is money and status is because it’s connected with the freedom to act how you want. It’s not so much the thought that money has absolute value but that it has the power to change things. I do also think that one reason why wealth is associated with success is that we are biological: wealth indicates that you have the power to ensure your offspring’s well-being AND get a partner. This might sound rough but we are creatures of nature. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/RIGHTAR Righter Md Nazmul

    in my point of view “success” means not to be the couse of others problem

  • http://www.paramedictrainingcenter.net/ Peter

    Success for me, is when one’s life is in full balance. Meaning you have success in health, financials, relationships etc.

    It’s not enough that you have success in business but you neglect your family. That is not success. That an unbalance that will eventually have consequences, if it hasn’t already.

    For me success can’t be separated from the word balance. All in all, success in life is to have a successful balance in all areas.

    Paramedic Training

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  • Salma

    nice article…i think success is feeling happy and satisfied in whatever you do.. :)

  • Salma

    nice article…i think success is being happy and satisfied in whatever you do.. :)

  • Salma

    nice article…i think success is being happy and satisfied in whatever you do.. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrisfarrellonline Chris Farrell

    I really enjoyed this article.

    I particularly enjoyed the reference that failure is a natural part of the journey to success.  Keep up the great work.

    http://www.chrisfarrell.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/jersey.william Dokter Pinguin

    Success in my mind is to be international programmer and I want get college at Harvard Univ (computer science) of course.