What Is Your Personal Definition of Success?

your 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?

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.”

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.”

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

If we’re not happy, then we’re not successful. – The Minimalists Click To Tweet

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.”

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 Apple co-founder, used it in his virally shared 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.

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!

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

A 5-Step Plan To Success

According to Ronald E. Riggioco-author of Transformational Leadership, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College, there are five steps to achieve success at work, education, and relationships:

  1. Have A Plan – Make a S.M.A.R.T. plan, meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound.
  2. Study ‘The Game’ – Learn the rules of Social Intelligence.
  3. Learn From Failures – Analyze what went wrong and fix them for the future.
  4. Live Up The Small Wins – Reward yourself for each milestone.
  5. Keep At It – Persist. Persist. Persist.

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