The question was simple enough: What is my definition of success?
But I didn’t have a ready answer. I had to admit that I had never thought through my personal definition of success.
Sure, I had some ideas swirling around in my head, vague notions with scraps of details. But nothing organized or integrated.
At that moment, a quote I had heard years before flashed into my mind: “When you’re climbing the ladder of success, make sure it isn’t leaning against the wrong wall.” I was working hard toward goals but I hadn’t really thought enough about whether they were the right goals.
Embarrassed, I resolved at that moment that I would figure out what success means to me, personally.
Maybe you would like to join me in this exercise.
After all, most of us want to be “successful,” but how will we know if we are without a crystal clear idea of what success is for us?
Achieving success without knowing what it means to you is like trying to find a friend’s house when you don’t know the address. How will you know which way to go, and how will you know when you arrive?
Having challenged myself to thoughtfully answer the question, I had to figure out where to start.
Of course, research.
I began looking at what scholars, philosophers and other brainiacs have said on the subject of success. I believe in learning from the giants.
I had to be careful, though, because I wanted to learn from these smarties, not copy them. I couldn’t lose sight of the fact that my goal was to craft my personal definition of success.
This is the best of what I learned.
Definitions Of Success
Earl Nightingale, considered by many “the Dean of Personal Development,” has a simple, but insightful, definition of what success is: “The progressive realization of a worthy goal.”
American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said this:
“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. . . Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”
This is another quote along the same line from an unknown author:
”Success is not about external things. Money, power and fame are results, byproducts that come from who you are. The true definition of success is: To Become the Person You Are Capable of Becoming.”
One of the most often-quoted definitions of success comes from 19th-century American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is where Waldo is on the subject of success:
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”
Here are some further thoughts from a modern day personal development expert, Canadian author Robin Sharma:
What’s the point of having success but failing at Significance? Yes, chase your dreams and rise to lofty heights in the world. But please remember: greatness comes from living for a cause larger than you. And leaving our world better than you found it.
Dave Kekich, author of Kekich’s Credos, has this simple but powerful definition: “You’re successful when you like who and what you are.”
Robert Allen Zimmerman (you know him as Bob Dylan) has chimed in on the subject too: “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”
More Definitions of Success
Here are some more personal definitions of success by some very smart, if not famous, modern business people . . .
“Success to me means creating and maintaining balance in my life. It’s important to work hard and accomplish your goals, but it’s critical to remember to take care of yourself – exercise, eat well, spend time with friends, family, and loved ones. A balanced mind is a smart mind!” — Monique Peltz
“Success is more than just a number in my bank account; it is also measured by the smiles on my clients’ faces, having fun everyday being “kooky” and the difference I see myself making in the community around me.” – Angela McKeller
“Success is a an attitude and state of mind where I feel the exhilaration of knowing that I made a difference for many, did this doing what I love, and making a lot of money in the process so I get to experience many things in this extraordinary world. The most important part of success is a deep knowing that I made a difference for others.” – Nancy Fox
“To me, success means working toward my dreams. As long as I keep moving in the right direction I feel successful.” Cara Newman
“Success means leaving the world a little bit better because I was here.” – Mark Black
“Success is the freedom to live your life as the great big fat adventure it is – and the wisdom to understand that all you have to do is to choose to do so.” – John Jantsch
“If you measure success externally you will always be disappointed. There will always be people in front of you and in back of you. As a result, success has got to come from your subconscious. So, if you sleep well at night, you are successful.” – Jeffrey Taylor
“Success is in the eye of the beholder. What one person considers a success might be an abject failure to someone else. Success is defined by one’s expectations.” – Jason Zasky
“Success is being able to say, ‘I love what I do.’” – Brett Farmiloe
“The definition of success changes throughout life. When young, one’s perception of success may be as simple as being accepted by a group of friends. In adolescence success may mean being accepted to the college of your choice. As people venture into adulthood, they may define success as finding a partner to love and to spend life with or it may be to accumulate achievements and/or monetary gains. When you have children success often shifts or is split between your own success and being successful in raising children who are happy and successful in their own lives. As one grows older, success once again continually change often in the direction where what others think becomes less important than in previous years. You may spend time doing what you would never have expected to be doing as a child or switching to social causes. As one grows into old age, success will again continue to change based upon health, finances, family, friendships, culture, geography, etc. Success comes down to life’s experiences befitting who you are and where you are on your life’s time line.” – David Goldsmith
As you see, the giants did not let me down. These quotes are full of brilliant insights.
The next step in the process of developing my personal definition of success was thinking about this wisdom and integrating it with my own thoughts and experiences.
In my next post, I will tell you what I came up with, what success means to me. Be ready to add your personal definition of success in the comment section.