3 useful ideas on how you could define your success

The chances are if asked to name 3 successful people you know, what comes to mind are people who are or have been in the public eye. In fact, if you go as far as to Google successful people what comes back is a list of people who have achieved financial, business, political success. Why is that? Invariably these people, men and women are successful because they have reached the top of their profession or because in societies eyes they have been or are significant influences. So by that very definition, you and I are probably not successful. Hmm, I certainly don’t agree with this way of thinking. So what constitutes success?

Of the many dictionary definitions, the one I most relate to is

“the achieving of the results wanted or hoped for”

this to me seems to be a healthy definition as opposed to the many others forms that subscribe success to fame or fortune. These ideas permeate through our society, encouraging for some our obsession for materialistic possessions or positions of power and prestige. We are constantly bombarded with images, texts, newsfeeds and external definitions of success that are not necessarily our own.  

As a consequence we live in a day and age where for many of us we are dissatisfied with our lives, we judge ourselves harshly with comments and thoughts like “I am not good enough” or “If I had done this, then” Increasingly we live with anxieties such as, low self-esteem fuelled by social comparisons. 

At this time of year in an attempt to address some of the dissatisfaction many of us will set and endeavour to honour our New Year Resolutions. Whilst admirable that we have taken the time to consider our life trajectory for the forthcoming year. The chances are that if we look closely we may find that our definition of success in meeting these resolutions are based on external rewards. For example achieving a financial pay rise, bonus or promotion or increasing the number of followers on our social media platform. All are tangible measures which tick many boxes of setting SMART objectives, however, the reality of achieving them to a large degree is determined by external (extrinsic) factors. 

Sure you could argue that you can significantly influence your financial rewards and number of followers by doing the hard yards, but ultimately the decision to grant you these rewards lies with your manager(s) or other peoples perception of you and your material.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting objectives and New Year Resolutions to better ourselves but we need to be careful with the classical narrative and belief of what is success. When we fall into the trap of chasing extrinsic definitions of success. We go after what is beyond our control and we end up setting expectations that we cannot meet which invariably lead to angst, unhappiness and depression.

The key to avoiding this is to redefine your success as your own, to use intrinsic measures which is something that you can control and something that has both meaning and purpose to you.

If you ask a child of their view of success, more often or not they will quote happiness. A child’s view of success, if you ask them early enough before they have acquired societies labels, has no judgement based on fame, power and wealth. It is refreshingly simple and based on an understanding of what is relevant and important to them, happiness. 

Success and happiness go hand in hand and both should be determined by you. Often enough, we get the two the wrong way round. Thinking that if I can be successful, I will be happy. When in reality if we do the things we love and determine what makes us happy, success (which should be our own definition) will follow. 

So how do we go about determining what makes us happy and successful? 

Very simply we start with our thoughts and with our minds. We change the way we have been conditioned to think and understand that we can choose to be happy and define our own success. Below are 3 ideas on how we could start with a redefinition.

1. Understand your Why.

We should take the time to explore and define what is relevant to you, what motivates, inspires you and what do you value. So here is a surprising truth, whilst the mainstream definitions purport fame, wealth and fortune. If you ask a successful person that falls into that conventional definition. They will cite their Why and happiness as what drives them and makes them feel successful and accomplished. For an interesting read despite the title in this context see, the Business Insider article by Shana Lebowitz: 12 rich, powerful people share their surprising definitions of success.


2. Follow your heart.

We should reassess what we are able and would like to do, remember that success is about “the achieving of the results wanted or hoped for” which means within reason and consideration of others.

“Success is doing what you want, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want” — Tony Robbins


3. Own your success and failures.

We should start with more compassion for ourselves and own both our success and failures by considering the following definition.

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable” — John Wooden

If we have given it our best and not quite achieved the result we hoped for there is still merit and success to be had in how you have played and the fact you have given it your all.


So the next time someone asks you to name 3 successful people you know, hopefully, you will look past the conventional narrative and include yourself in this category as a successful person. 

Thanks for reading!

Jesse is a middle-aged father of 2, new to writing, but open to learning and sharing. Graduated a long time ago as a Mechanical Engineer but now working in the IT industry. Committed to living the best life he can, and leaving the world a better place.
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Jesse is a middle-aged father of 2, new to writing, but open to learning and sharing. Graduated a long time ago as a Mechanical Engineer but now working in the IT industry. Committed to living the best life he can, and leaving the world a better place.

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