What does success really mean? How does society define success? And is that definition correct? Figuring out how to define success for yourself can be more powerful than what we’re told success should look like. In the end, how people define it should be whatever will make them happy at the end of the process.
- The way society teaches us success should look like, doesn’t have to apply to your own concept of success.
- Having a healthy mental and spiritual world, along with good physical health and a healthy financial standing is key.
- Success is incredibly subjective and based on several factors we have no control over.
What is the true meaning of success?
If there was ever a concept too difficult to define completely on its own, then success would be it. That’s because saying it’s a subjective concept would be an understatement.
While the word success basically means achieving something based on certain expectations, what that looks like in practice will vary. It can even change as you grow up and your life circumstances change as well.
For some reference, however, here is a short list of external and internal factors that can play into your idea of success.
- Your status in society
- Your education level
- The type of education (sciences, business, etc)
- The kind of childhood you had
- Who you surround yourself with
- The period in society you’re living in
- Your mental health
- What your family looks like (children, pets, single)
What kind of success do people normally want?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which, if you live anywhere expensive, actually makes total sense), then you’ve probably defined success as making lots of money. Maybe you added “travelling 3 times a year” or “being able to buy the newest Tesla” onto that definition. This is because that’s the concept of success we’ve been brought up to believe in since we were born.
In a capitalist society such as the one most countries live under today, making money is the only definition of success. Which is understandable. If you can’t contribute to adding to the cash flow then you’re not really useful to the system. Is that flawed? In our opinion, yes. But the truth is that it’s a reality for many people.
In direct relation to making money, then, is the way in which we signal to everyone else that we have that money. Flashy cars, expensive clothes, and trips around the world – just to name a few. But, if we look at this objectively, should this actually be the way we define success as a collective?
Is the way society defines success correct?
That’s actually a trick question. The definition of success doesn’t have one right answer. But, if we’re looking at it from the point of opinions backed by science then there’s perhaps a more concrete reply.
While no one can and shouldn’t, tell you what success really means, it has been proven that only searching for financial success doesn’t bring long-term happiness. While it’s absolutely something we all need and strive for, there’s a certain limit as to how much money we truly need. Did you know that in 2015 a study run by Economics Nobel prize winner Angus Deaton said that making more than USD$75K a year wouldn’t make you happier? Granted, times have changed. Those $75k aren’t the same as 10 years ago, and happiness isn’t just how much money you made that year. But he seemed to be onto something.
Now, we know that in the technical sense success doesn’t actually have anything to do with being happy. But both concepts are so intertwined that we can’t mention one without the other. It is after all why we strive to be successful in the world’s eyes: so we can be happy at having achieved the ultimate goal in life – money.
So, how do I define success for myself?
The first step in this journey would be to figure out what actually makes you happy. Is it chilling on a beach somewhere for 6 months out of the year? Is it helping those less fortunate? Or is it actually making tons of money? Because if it is, that’s wonderful! The point is that it should be something you really want and not something you’ve been taught to want.
There’s an unofficial life formula you can also use to figure out what success really means to you:
Financial stability + creative freedom + lifestyle freedom = Success
Let’s break this down. The first part talks about financial stability. Basically, if you can find a way to make enough money to feel stable then you have the first section covered. In simple terms, this doesn’t mean 2 vacation homes and a penthouse in NYC, but a space that fits you (and your family) that’s comfortable and doesn’t eat up all your money. In broader terms, it means having control over how much you make and how many hours you put into your job.
The second part of the equation is about creative freedom. As humans, we’re meant to use our creativity in order to feel fulfilled and happy. This could look like learning how to code or write as your job, or it could be a hobby like playing video games or learning an instrument. In this context, creative freedom also means controlling where you work from (all-inclusive in Mexico, anyone?) and who you work with.
The last part is lifestyle design. This means working to live, and not living to work. As times change people discover that a big part of success, and therefore happiness, has to do with lifestyle. Not feeling obligated to have to work and not letting it interrupt your ability to live.
4 Tips To Be More Successful In Life
Because as you’ve discovered by now, success can look different for each person, finding specific tips that apply can be a bit difficult. They’d have to be tailored to your specific definition and needs. That said, there are still some general tricks you can apply to feel more successful in life.
1. Figure out physical success
Physical success can look like being physically able to do the things you love in life. Keeping into account your already existing abilities or restrictions, aim to reach the peak of what your body can offer. While you’re at it it’s also important to pair this with mental success (check out more below) in order to live long and think better.
2. Practice mental success
Good mental health is absolutely key in order to achieve any kind of happiness or success. Without it, we can’t perform to the best of our mental, or physical, abilities. In practice, this can look like going to therapy for issues you could use help with and practicing emotional intelligence.
3. Define monetary success
Monetary success is the idea of having enough money to be able to live comfortably. But it also means working a job you enjoy, with the number of hours you decide to, and wherever you want to in the world. Monetary success should allow you to live life however you want to. Whether that’s travelling, shopping for material things, eating out, or giving your loved ones cool presents on important occasions. Find a number, and process, that works for you and aim to reach that.
4. Research spiritual success
This is one type of success many people tend to overlook. But spiritual success can be the base for the best type of happiness – the kind that comes from within. Those big life questions that keep us awake at night? Most of those can be addressed with better spiritual well-being. It keeps you connected to the right now without dwelling on the past or future.
Getting People Right (GPR) is an educational website providing professionals from all types of businesses with practical education in entrepreneurial leadership. To keep evolving your leadership toolkit, additional GPR resources below will be useful: