What Does Success Mean?

If you are reading this article, chances are you have already long pondered what the word success means. It is a word thrown at us from a very young age. It is something we are taught to achieve in every aspect of our lives.

Yet, it continues to be a word that we struggle to define. It is not possible to assign one particular meaning to it, as it varies from person to person. It looks different for everyone.

Furthermore, Some people may define success as making a lot of money, and others may define it as the attainment of fame and status quo. For some, it is having a fulfilling career, whereas a happy family life is what success looks like for others.

What Is The True Meaning of Success?

For most people, no matter what the outward picture of success looks like, it is accompanied by a deep sense of purpose and happiness. Happiness results from staying true to their values, and the effort to keep those values intact gives them a purpose in life.

David Brooks talks about and highlights the differences between “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues” in his book The Road to Character. According to him, resume virtues are your source of external success. These are the skills and traits required in the job market. The more you strive to build upon resume virtues, the more competitive place you can occupy in the job market. Whereas eulogy virtues are discussed at your funeral and reflect your character –  were you kind, compassionate, brave, and faithful? Did you live a morally fulfilling life?

While working on our resume virtues is essential to sustain ourselves in the world, Brooks argues that the modern world puts too much emphasis on bettering them so much that it has more or less severed our connection with eulogy virtues.

In today’s fast-paced, innovation-obsessive and materialistic world, we are producing people who are well-versed in their resume virtues but are empty inside. Despite having achieving “success,” people do not seem to be living fulfilling lives and are not truly happy. They are disconnected from their surroundings, unable to figure out how to give it back.

On the contrary, Brooks talks about how people enlightened on their eulogy virtues or deeper virtues are what the world needs to make it a better place. These people are emotionally intelligent and have a meaningful connection with the world around them, people who know how to make a positive difference in the world.

As profound as this sounds, does this have to be your definition of success? How do you define success?

Have You Been Pursuing Other People’s Definitions of Success?

The world has cooked up different definitions of success for people to consume, size themselves up to, and eventually make themselves miserable.

Your friend bought a new car at 22? A house at 27? Did you achieve anything equivalent? 

Your brother is a doctor who treats people and helps them live healthier lives. And he gets to do that every day of his life? Are you making a meaningful contribution like that to the world?

Why do we turn other people’s desires and goals into our own anyway? It is often done to fit in with other people. To feel validated. To be accepted.

We think what works for others will work for us too. Sometimes, it does not work. Other times, it does work. But does that make you happy? Working so hard to achieve someone’s else definition of success?

The truth is that comparing your life’s trajectory and accomplishments to those around you will never find you your way towards happiness. This type of mindset will never let you succeed.

You create your definition of success. Your values and purpose are different from other people’s. Your life’s trajectory and goals are also distinct from other people’s. The meaning you assign to success is tailored to your unique purpose in life. So, why let others decide what success should look like for you?

What Does Success Mean To You?

If you still haven’t figured out what success means to you, you should sit down, take out a piece of paper and write down all the goals you want to accomplish regarding your career path, material gains, family life, social causes, etc. Then write down a few questions:

  • Do all of your goals hold the same importance for you?
  • Are your goals based on your unique values?
  • Are you doing your best to accomplish your goals?
  • Are you content with pursuing those goals?
  • Are your goals based on your aspirations and dreams or someone else’s?

Evaluating your milestones should help you focus on what you want to work on in life. Some of your goals might hold more importance than others, whereas some of your goals may only result from comparison with your peers. It should help you make up your unique definition of success.

Get rid of the goals that are not yours and build a new roadmap based on your set of values.

It is important to note that your aspirations will change with experience. Your goals will evolve with time, and so will your definition of success.

What Does Success Mean To Me?

Though there is no universal metric to evaluate success, for me estimating success by defining core values comes pretty close to it. Do you know what core values are?

Core values are the deeply held beliefs that help people navigate this world. Core values are different for everyone because these are a product of your unique life experience with your family, friends, teachers, mentors, education, religion, and society. Some people value compassion and hard work above everything, while others look for honesty and enthusiasm.

Values help people decide what they should look for when meeting new people, when walking down an unfamiliar road, when making a new decision, and even when setting a new milestone. Values serve as a great way to define personal success.

Some of the most successful people in the world have used several core values that have helped them steer through life.


Life is easier to deal with when honesty is the cornerstone of your foundation. It encourages transparency and helps us perceive the world around us more clearly.

Hard work

To live a truly successful life, hard work is probably the most important value you can have. It is accompanied by focus and passion for your goal. If you want to achieve a goal, just start. Figure out the effort it takes, then put in that effort. Work on it till you make it. Remember, practice makes perfect.


All of us face failures at some point in life. Failures that were once out of our control and struck us down so badly we thought we would never be able to overcome them. Yet we did manage to push past them. We persevered. It is also a significant value that you will find successful people in different arenas of life have in common.


Confidence is the belief you have in yourself as a person and your skills. It is what drives you forward in life. It makes you want to take on new challenges and opportunities. Even if you fail, confidence helps you get back up and give it another try.


Enthusiasm makes you want to live your life on your terms and feel content with it. It is the excitement you feel when you do what you have always wanted. It enables you to look at fresh opportunities and helps you enjoy pursuing them.


It drives you to achieve your goal and helps you stay motivated. It makes you dream big, to want to do more and be more, by getting you out of your comfort zone. 

So, If you do not have any core values, you should take the time to identify them. Pay attention to what your experiences have taught you and learn from them. They should help you formulate a concise set of values tailored to you individually.

Can You Be Successful?

can you be successful?

First of all, it is never too late to recreate your life. It is not too late to figure out your core values, dreams, and goals.

It is also not too late to work on accomplishing them.

Many famously successful people in this world started with their success stories pretty late in life.

So, here are some examples.

  • Julia Child, everyone’s favorite chef, did not write her first cookbook until she was 50. She became the first woman enlisted into the Culinary Institue of America’s Hall of Fame.
  • Stan Lee did not gain fame as a beloved comic book writer until he was 40.
  • Vera Wang switched her career from being a figure skater and journalist to a fashion designer at 40.
  • Toni Morrison, the first Black woman to win a Nobel prize in Literature, did not have her first novel published until she was 39.
  • Ray Kroc established McDonald’s at the age of 52 years old.

The lesson you can gather from these people is that it is all right to start late. It might take you a different path and possibly a longer time than others to figure out what you want to do in your life. What matters is that you eventually get down to do what you love.

What Can You Do To Be Successful?

what can you do to be successful?

Embarking on the journey to attain your definition of success should come naturally to you. Your success mindset is innate to you. You do not have to strive to adopt this mindset, but you need to figure out the amount of effort you need to put into achieving your goals.

This does not mean you must have every step of your success journey mapped out in front of you. You will make mistakes, reevaluate and change your course of action if necessary.

Be Committed To Your Goal

To carve your success story, you must start by being committed to your desired goal. Commitment motivates you to follow through and work hard in your journey. Make a realistic action plan with short-term goals that eventually help you work toward your long-term goal. It is essential to start with short-term goals or baby steps not to overwhelm yourself in the beginning.

Take time each day to track your progress and reflect on your long-term plan. Are your efforts bearing fruit? Good. Keep going. If not, correct your course of action. Do not let this discourage you. Be gentle with yourself. You are going to make mistakes in the beginning. Early wins get you used to instant gratifications, which is not very good while pursuing a long-term goal.

You might want to find a support system that helps you follow through with your commitment. Be it your family or friends, just make sure they are there to offer you constructive criticism when you make mistakes and celebrate your little wins when you make progress.

Take Note Of Your Journey

It is essential to reflect on your pathway to your goals. Focus on the results of your short-term goals. What went right? What went wrong? It is important to celebrate the small wins, too, as they keep you motivated and allow you to enjoy your journey. Be open-minded enough to learn from your failed goals. Look for new ideas. Implement them and find out what works best. Being open to fresh outlooks will also help you grow as a person.

Do Not Forget To Have Fun

Ensure your goals are implementable so that trying to achieve them does not take over your life entirely, and you are not drained emotionally. It does not hurt to know your limits and to work within them. Your unique success journey should be an overall positive experience for you.

Harbor A Positive Mindset

It is natural to get confused and have negative thoughts while pursuing your long-term goals, especially in the face of incoming challenges. You begin doubting yourself. You start second-guessing every decision you make. But do not let these negative thoughts gain power over you.

Learn to be patient. Try to look at things in a positive light. Remind yourself why you started on this journey in the first place. Look at how far you have come, how much you have grown as a person, and how you kept on moving forward despite the hurdles you faced. Facing more obstacles simply means there is still room for improvement and corrective action.

Readjust Your Perspective

Your journey to success is not going to be linear. You will face many ups and downs. To makes things easier for yourself, you might have to readjust how you look at things. A positive outlook will let you make it through even the most challenging situation.

Take The Necessary Action

While devising implementable short-term goals, there is a possibility that you left out an overwhelming yet important one. Be honest about what actions are necessary to accomplish your goal. If a particularly essential step scares you, try to understand the benefit of undertaking it once you make past it. You might need to step outside of your comfort zone for that. You cannot take your familiar old route to make it.

Build better habits

You must have a disciplined and consistent approach to achieving your goal. To do that, you must incorporate habits in your daily routine that does not serve as a distraction to your goal. Decrease the time you spend on your phone. Reduce the amount of time you spend watching Netflix. Read more books. Find and spend time with people whose values align with yours. And it would undoubtedly be a good habit not to compare yourself to others.

Rely on yourself only

Since this is your unique success story that is built around your core values, you are the only person you can rely on for your biggest support. Your friends and family can provide you with emotional support, but it is you who is in charge.

There will also be times when even your support system will fail to motivate you to move forward because their goals may not align with yours, their values may be different than yours, and simply because they do not look at the success the way you do.

Do Not Overwork Yourself

While working hard to make it, it is important not to let your goal consume you. You must take care of yourself to avoid getting burned out. If you get burned out early on, it can be demotivating.

Take breaks, sleep well, and eat a healthy diet. Hang out with your friends and enjoy yourself.

Avoid stressing over the result too much. You can only control the efforts you put into it. Keep an open mind. Even if it does not work out for you, do not forget about the personal growth you experienced while following through with your journey.

The Ending Note

Consequently, The fact that the word “success” paints a different picture in everyone’s mind remains true. While we cannot and should not define success for each other, we can learn to accept and appreciate our different outlooks on success and possibly help each other pursue them.

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