What Is Your Personal Definition of Success?

To some, success is a continual struggle and being always on the move. To some others, success is a sense of peace and an unstirring pause. What defines your success? What is your personal definition of success?

What Is Success In Life

Success in life is reaching a point where most of your goals have come to fruition. You may have wanted to achieve financial independence or a 4-hour-day work schedule. And you hit those targets.

Some might have wanted to explore the world, while others just wanted to immerse themselves in what they are passionate about. And they got to it within the time frame they set at the start.

Being successful is not simply a matter of acquiring immense wealth or winning innumerable prizes. It can also be a matter of personal satisfaction.

If you had no restrictions of any kind and given to planning a perfect day any way you like, what would you be doing in it?

Do you imagine yourself on a beachside hammock at nighttime, looking up at the millions of stars as a gentle breeze blows? Do you see yourself on the top floor of the Eiffel Tower, breathing in huge swigs of air as you stand there looking around in awe? Or would you be spending an entire day with your family, playing with your dogs and kids?

The reason you want to make your life successful is mostly going to be an intensely personal quest. So, because the meaning of success for your family and friends differs from your own, they will not fit your concept.

Whatever makes you feel happy is what you should focus on first. Research shows the happier people are more likely to take up new goals in life, which then leads them to success in many distinct areas of their lives, and makes them even happier.

Maya Angelou, an American poet, editor, essayist, playwright, actress, singer, Hollywood’s first female black director, and civil rights activist, said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Raj Sisodia, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Conscious Capitalism says, “I define success as living my true purpose and having a positive impact on the lives of people by uplifting them and inspiring them to think and act in ways that they may not have considered before.”

One of the most parodied definitions of success takes a cue from a Thomas Edison quote, “Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” What Edison originally said was, “Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

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And The Minimalists duo Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus say, “If we’re not happy, then we’re not successful.”

So, do you even have your personal definition of success?

your definition of success

A Personal Definition Of Success

The Oxford dictionary defines success as “the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.” And the Macmillan dictionary says this about success, “Being successful is like being high up.” But we feel the best personal definition of success is this:

Success is achieving a balance in our priorities.

That definition of personal success remains evergreen, whatever your age, defying withering by time. It leaves enough space for personal priorities along with your social and family precedences. So, it does away with the need to find a new definition once you achieve your current goals and your preferences get shuffled.

Our priorities will always be an eclectic mix, and so will be the sweet point of our individual balance. But this definition of success will suit everyone’s point of view.

That definition factors in the delicate differences in balance in our lives for each of us. To one person, the ratio between colleagues and friends could find a sweet balance at 30:70. To another, meanwhile, it could even out at 50:50. It respects the individuals we are, and the differences we bear.

The complexities of life and our choices at each moment keep changing throughout the years, but this definition keeps its integrity quite intact.

Still, stop for a moment and ask yourself: How do I define success? What is success to me?

#Success is achieving a balance in our priorities. That is the best personal definition of success. Click To Tweet

Two Demands of Success

Last Catalog Whole Earth
The Whole Earth Catalog Back Cover – June 1971

The picture above is from the back cover of the final issue of the Whole Earth Catalog. It was a highly innovative magazine of its time, brought out by Stewart Brand. Steve Jobs described the publication as “Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along.”

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The 1971 picture shows a deserted early morning old country road with the following four words:

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Years later, in 2005, Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder, used it in his inspirational Commencement Speech at Stanford. And made those four words immortal.

Those four words were the personal definition of success for Steve Jobs. And those words are what he suggested we all make our own.

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address (with intro by President John Hennessy)

If you think you understand what makes people successful, you may be dead wrong. The commonly held idea that success comes only to those who have natural talents – is a myth. Success is not about getting born with remarkable abilities. If you are a child with a uniquely high IQ among your peers, does it predict a future of brilliant success? No!


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Our natural abilities may help us get a head start in the game, but as their range keeps changing throughout our years, they alone can not carry us to success.

Success, instead, demands two qualities:

  1. Steady Focus
  2. Constant Curiosity

Carol S. Dweck says a similar thing in different words in her Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

  1. Focus on Learning (Instead of focusing on Achievement)
  2. Adopt a Growth Mindset (Instead of adopting a Fixed Mindset)
Success demands two qualities: 1. Steady Focus 2. Constant Curiosity. Click To Tweet

The Reality of Success In Life

You are probably never going to succeed the way your heroes and the stars are. The world stacks the odds against you. Not everyone gets to become equally successful. If that happens, then success would lose its meaning.

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You can be successful in your own way. That is what you should aim at.

Also, do not expect to wake up one fine morning ridiculously successful. Success is never an overnight phenomenon. The entire game is about taking consistent steps, testing a lot of strategies, and seeing many failures before reaching the right results.

That is the only reality: once you know how it gets done, you put in the work and stay disciplined to your success goals.

Final Words

Finally, all of us want to achieve success in life, but it is always easier to define it than achieve it. But a great personal definition is a good beginning.

While we go hunting for our successes, we may keep in perspective the wise words of Frank Lloyd Wright: We do not learn so much by our successes as we learn by failures – our own and others.”

And after you have framed a personal definition of success, and before you set out on that journey, here are 7 Tips On How To Be Successful In Life.

Success and failure, both are essential experiences in our existence. We realize the importance of both when we look back on our lives. Let us close this with what Steve Jobs said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

– Steve Jobs
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. – Steve Jobs Click To Tweet

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.


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