How Do You Define Success?

September 30, 2019

how do you define success

The dictionary definition of success is, “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” This could range from small wins or huge life goals finally being fulfilled. If you search the question “how do you define success?” on any search engine, you will come across 2 main schools of thought. The more tangible and finance-based definition of success equates to being rich and powerful, with the other side being a bit more philosophical in that it states that success is unique to each person and its definition is dependent on personal interpretation. Honestly speaking, if you take the question at face value and use the dictionary definition, there wouldn’t be such a big debate about which definition is correct.

From The Dictionary Definition

The definition is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, accomplishing a goal you have gives you a sense of success. As stated before, it could be something small and short term, like finally working out for a full hour, or long term like getting a job position you’ve always wanted. With the denotative meaning of the word success, there are no extra stipulations such as a certain amount of wealth, power, or amount of fulfillment unless, of course, that is the end goal to be achieved. Small wins throughout the day can help you feel like you’re doing a great job, these little successful moments can build up into a great day and even help you get closer to a long-term goal. It is important that success, even with its dictionary definition, is still subjective. If Person A has a goal to write a book before they die, but Person B has a goal to write a book before the month ends, it shouldn’t diminish the amount of satisfaction either person will receive if they complete their goal.

Success In The Form Of Money And Power

Take a look at social media and you’ll find yourself subconsciously determining who’s successful based on things like followers, likes, material possessions, reputation, etc. This is essentially how some people view success, only based upon measurable statistics. Success in this form is measured on a grander scale, it doesn’t take into account things such as happiness and fulfillment, it is pure in that the goal is a singular concept, and all the smaller parts being achieved don’t matter unless the main goal is reached. For some people, this definition is more than enough to drive them to work long hours, grind out all of their free time, sacrifice other aspects of their lives for a goal they want to achieve, and that’s perfect for them because it works as a motivational tool to keep them going. 

Another Definition Of Success

The more individual focused version of success deals with an open interpretation catering to whoever is in question with an added component. Much like the dictionary definition, at its core, this version of success deals with successfully reaching a goal, with the caveat that it is fulfilling or brings some amount of happiness or joy. This definition argues that reaching a goal such as a job position isn’t considered a success if all the struggle and strife you endured to reach the goal ended up with you getting it and feeling empty. Something as mundane as building a daily workout routine and sticking to it for more than a week can make a person elated, having that feeling of accomplishment would bring them immense joy. This could also extend to the job example from before, if someone aimed for a position in a company, worked at it, finally got it, and it brought them joy as long as they were able to live with the trade-offs it would be a great success.

Wrap Up

The next time someone asks, “how do you define success?”, or any variation of the question, just decide on which helps you reach your goals and what’s important to you. If reaching your goals, no matter the cost, is something you can live with, then go with the definition that involves reaching certain levels in a profession or an income bracket, if happiness is part of your concern, then the more open interpretation of success is what you should go with. If you’re a more literal or logical person, just stick with the dictionary definition and avoid any sort of debate altogether. The key is to determine what you want, after all the question is “how do you define success?” not how someone else defines it.

*Article updated on January 13, 2022