Success Defined


What is success? I know success means a lot of different things to different people.  We each need our own definition of success.  Depending on where you set your own bar, you can feel successful every day or you can be setting yourself up for a no win situation.   Your success doesn’t need to impress others.  Impress yourself first.  Here are a few definitions of success you can draw from …

Stephen Covey on Success
According to Stephen Covey, success is …

Success is when the response meets the challenge.

John Maxwell on Success
According to John Maxwell, success is …

Those who know you the best, love you the most.

Your Definition of Success
If you don’t know your own definition of success, you can find it by asking yourself, “In order to be successful, I need to … ”  All those rules that follow make up your definition of success.  If it’s not working for you, change it.  If you’ve set yourself up for failure, chunk your success down and give yourself a chance.  Your definition of success needs to work for you, where you are, right now.

Photo by Lisa Brewster.


  1. I like the most John Wooden’s:

    “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”

  2. Success can be defined in so many different ways for different people.

    Personally I break it down to personal relationships and money. I think you need the relationships first to keep the momentum for yourself so that you can focus on say building your business, launching your career, get a new job, etc.

  3. I think its too simple to just ask what is my definition of success. Success at what? In what context? I think for each area of your life that you care about being successful you need a specific definition. For instance:
    – What does success look like in my marriage?
    – What does success look like while raising my children?
    – What does success look like at work?
    – What does success look like on project X?
    – What does success look like for my personal fitness?

    Each of these can roll up to a general life success statement I think, but there is power (and clarity) in looking specifically what success looks like for each area of your life that you care about.

  4. JD, I love the Maxwell quote. For me, the definition I’ve used for years is: Living each day so well that I am ready to die in my sleep that night. A little vague I guess, yet it works for me because I know whether I have peace every night when my head touches the pillow.

  5. To me, success is waking up every morning with a smile, eagerly awaiting my day.

    Some days I feel successful, some days anything but.

  6. I love to change and make changes but I so often forget to change my definitions of success. I sometimes have to make myself pause and look back to see what I did succeed at and then redefine – renew.
    I am sometimes amazed at what I did accomplish and to identify what my real goal was – as I thought I was doing something else!

  7. For me success means having enough to get by or be comfortable, and not spending all my time working to get it so that I have the time available to enjoy it and I have time to spend with the people I love.

    Not overly ambitious, I know – but that’s all I really want.

  8. Hi J.D. That picture at the top is priceless! It reminds us that success for us isn’t always the other guy’s definition of it! 🙂

    When I get to the end of my days here, I hope to look back and realize I have done what I wanted to do. I want my kids to know that their lives can be lived in adventurous anticipation because their mom lived that way and loved her life. That age is only a number, not a state of being. I don’t want regrets, and I don’t want my girls to have them.

    I would consider that successful.

    However, I am a firm believer in the importance of process, of greeting each day, as Vered said, with a smile and a grateful attitude as I ask, What can I learn today? Who will I meet? What are today’s possibilities?

    …and not attach too much to predetermined outcomes, but stay open to unpredictable serendipities (thanks to Davina’s blog post).

  9. The value of the article is that it spurs us to think about what constitutes success. I like Jason’s followup comments about analyzing specific areas. That seems to be a logical progression from the initial, general question.

    Another idea is to question what constitutes failure. Is it true that I am a failure in this area? By whose standard? What specific criteria? Whether we address success or failure, not aggressively pursuing truth with specific questions leads to arrogance or defeatism. It is always truth that sets us free.

    We think too highly of ourselves (or too lowly) when we fail to address the underlying facts. Facts are the basis for a realistic assessment which can lead to specific, constructive changes.

  10. @ Alik

    John Wooden flat out rocks. He has a way of articulating what you already know to be true, but making it stick.

    @ Positively Present

    Thank you. I continue to hack away at my definition of success. When you make success an inside out thing, it’s empowering.

    @ Tom

    Those are definitely important buckets. Money is a funny one. When you don’t have enough for the basics, it’s a lot of pain. When you have more than enough, it doesn’t increase happiness.

    The pattern I’ve found is that continuous improvement helps me with success in all areas and relationships help me the most when I get knocked down.

    @ Jason

    Good point and that’s the beauty of the question. You can use it for your macro definition or for any micro area as well.

    You can also use it to find mismatches as well. For examle, you can ask your kids, “What’s it mean to be a great father?” or ask your boss, “what’s it mean to be a great employee?”

    Crossed-expectations is a pitfall in many relationships, work, home or otherwise.

    @ Daphne

    That sounds like a good way to wring the most of out life each day. It reminds me of the balance between carpe diem and live it for the long haul.

  11. @ Vered

    That’s a good measure. I think for a lot of people, it really is about simply feeling good.

    @ Patricia

    It’s funny how much time can change things under your feet. It’s a good reminder to do a quick check on what’s changed along the way and what are you dealing with now and what’s your next best move for this moment.

    @ Louisa

    I think you have your priorities set and that’s one of the first keys to success.

    @ Barb

    The picture really cracked me up and I just had to use it. It’s too perfect.

    I like the way you greet your day with possibility.

    One question that really sticks out in my mind is, “if nothing will change, what’s the one quality you need to enjoy this?”

    @ Roger

    I agree. There’s a strength in truth. I like to think of it as a multi-faceted diamond where each facet is another perspective. The more facets you can see, the more truth about the truth you can know.

  12. I would have to describe success as growing on a personal level each and every day. If we stop pushing ourselves to be better, we get stuck.

  13. I’m feelin’ awful successful these days, ’cause I gave my fears a royal @** whoopin’ at my major life milestone show last Sunday.

    And I sold 8 CDs from my site this week. Yay!

    And my cat hung happily out beside me most of the day today.

  14. Success seems to change almost on a daily basis for me. I try to judge my success not by past days and situations, but by the moment. If I feel that I’m trying my best than that’s all that matters. I haven’t perfected this technique. My ego does get in the way and I feel like I should be further ahead. When this happens I try to focus back on the good things and remember that’s it’s all part of the journey.

  15. @ MJ Doyle

    Right on. We’re climbing or sliding.

    @ Jannie

    I think you’re acting on your dreams and that’s great.

    @ Cody

    Thank you.

    @ Karl

    That’s a great way to chunk success down. You’re effectively making your best plays for the moment.

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