The Definition of Success: What's Your Personal Definition?
Success can be defined in many different ways, but it's up to you which one to choose. Here, we'll talk about a bunch of different definitions so you can discover your own definition of success.
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Do you sometimes feel like society's definition of success leaves something to be desired? Have you experienced some typical "success" and wonder why it hasn't made you happy? Or do you just want to better understand what success means to you? Then this article can help. Read on to learn more about the definition of success and engage in some reflections about what success means to you.
What Is The Definition of Success?
Merriam-Webster defines success as a "favorable or desired outcome". It can also be the "attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence". These definitions leave a lot of room for variations among people. Indeed, the research supports that. When researchers ask men and women what their definitions of success are, they get a whole range of answers, and those answers change over time.
Overall, women define success more in terms of life balance and relationships whereas men focus more on material success (Dyke & Murphy, 2006). But variations in definition can also depend on age, personality, and prior experience.
Example Definitions of Success
Here are some examples that regular people shared with their definitions of success:
John Wooden's Definition of Success
John Wooden, a respected coach and teacher, offered his own definition of success that's a little different than others. He said:
Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson's definition of success
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; … to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child or a garden patch … to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is success.”
Video: Defining Your Own Success
Sam Solie shares this relatable, funny talk about his process of defining success for himself.
What Is the Definition of Success for You
Now that you've explored some other people's definitions of success, what is success for you?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
In addition to reflecting on these questions, it might be helpful to explore what your definition of success is in the context of well-being (our favorite!) More specially, we might define success as gaining a sense of well-being. So let's talk a little bit about these aspects of life and well-being, which might also help us understand what success means to us.
The Definition of Success in Different Areas of Life
Consider if each of the parts that make up well-being below is necessary for you to feel successful.
You might have different definitions for important areas of your life, like work, business, or relationships. If so, think about or write down how you would define success in each of these areas. For example:
See if you can find any themes or find more clarity on what success means to you.
Then, ask yourself, what would need to happen to achieve these different parts of success? For example, I might need to practice acceptance to feel more emotionally successful. I might work on building healthier relationships to feel socially successful. And I might develop long-term goals to help me achieve financial success, as I define it.
Your Personal Definitions of Success
Hopefully, you now have a better sense of what success means to you. But, by getting even more specific and clear, we're likely to have an easier time reaching our personal goals. Here are some activities that can help you get even clearer on your definition of success so you can get there easier.
Free-flow writing to explore your definition of success
Sometimes we get kind of stuck in our heads—I know I do!—and we have a hard time listening to our gut, intuition, or emotions about what's right for us. Free-flow writing can sometimes help clear away the surface-level thoughts and get us to our deeper beliefs on what matters to us.
So to do this exercise, set aside 5 minutes where you write in response to the prompt: "Success to me is..." Rewrite this prompt as many times as you need, continuing to try to complete this sentence in increasingly nuanced detail. At the end of the 5 minutes, look back at your writing and see if you learned anything new about what success means to you.
Set 'definition of success' criteria
Take a moment to think through your dealbreakers—the things that you need in life to feel successful. Now, be careful, because often we focus on the things we want and not the things we need. For example, we might want a big house and a nice car but we can be successful and happy without them.
So, see if you can identify your specific criteria for success. Here are some examples from my own life that might be helpful:
These examples can hopefully show how our needs are a bit more abstract than wants. I want to have a nice, big house and the ability to travel, but at the heart of it, I just need a safe space and the ability to experience new things. See if you too can get to the heart of what your needs are. These needs can serve as the criteria of success for you.
Video: What is Success, Really? | Jamie Anderson
The Definition of Success Essay
Sometimes students are asked to write an essay about their definitions of success. Given all the work you've just done to better understand your definition of success, now might a good time to write this essay for yourself. That way, you'll remember the insights you had and you can keep them handy as you are pursuing success.
So how do you write a definition of success essay?
It's easy. If it helps you, you could create an outline that includes the main parts or features of how you define success. Then for each part, talk a bit more about what it means to you, and how you might accomplish this. Or, if you've already accomplished some parts of success, then you could add detail about what was involved. The overall goal here could be to just document your definition. That way, if you're feeling yourself get sucked into someone else's definition of success—one that doesn't fit you—you can look back at this and stay on track.
Video: What is Success? | Sarah Garr
Quotes About the Definition of Success
Want some more quotes to inspire you towards success? Here are a few more:
More Definitions of Success
Here are a few more definitions of success to explore:
Video: Success Sleep Meditation
Articles Related to Success
Want to keep learning skills that can help you define and pursue success? Here are a few more articles on related topics that you may be interested in checking out.
Books to Help You Achieve Success
Do you feel like you still need more advice to achieve success? Here are a few books that may help.
Defining success can be a key step to putting us on the right track towards reaching goals. But, because the definition of success is different for everyone, a little bit of self-reflection can go a long way. Hopefully, the tips and tricks in this article helped you better understand your own definition of success so that you feel more inspired to get there (and enjoy being there).