What is Success?

Bill Abbate

How well do you understand success? What does it look like, and how do you achieve it? Is there more than one way to become successful? What can success teach us?

Let's explore these questions and the significance of success in our lives.

What is success?

Success is a mystery that escapes us when we have not considered its deeper meaning. Others may know or think they know what success is. Many of us fall between these two extremes.

Instead of looking at a shallow dictionary definition of success, let's take a more meaningful look at this important word. One of the best ways to define success is through the wisdom of others.

"Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you're proud to live." Anne Sweeney (1957-present)

Having retired, the meaning of success has changed radically for me. Live long enough, and you, too, will find your view of success shifting. You will also realize there are many kinds and types of success you can have in your life!

Ultimately, culture, values, influences, and the life we live define what success means to us. Because success is so personal, we can have our own definition of success. In the end, it is up to you to define success for yourself. No one else can or should define it for you.

What does success mean to you?

There are more variables to success than meets the eye. There is a written or spoken definition of success with a timeframe, status, and measurement to think about.

What do you need to consider to develop your personal meaning of success? Before going over real-life examples, let's look at four components you can use to understand your present and future success better.

Definition – What success means to you.

This definition is your personal description of success.

Timeframe – The period over which you achieve success and its transitory nature.

The timeframe could be one day, a lifetime, or anywhere between. Is the success you wish to define near or short term? Perhaps it is long-term or even lifetime success. Since your definition of success will change over time, the timeframe will also vary.

Status – Where you are in the current process.

How far along are you? Are you beginning, nearing success, or somewhere in between?

Measurement – The amount of success you achieve.

What portion of success have you achieved in a given area now compared to where you want to go?

Success is not static. Over time you will likely change or modify how you define it. For example, success at this time may be to have enough savings to retire by the time you are 60. Once you reach 60 and are retired, that definition is no longer needed.

You may see success as finding a spouse with which you can spend the rest of your life. Once found, that definition no longer applies and can be redefined to serve you better.

"I want to define success by redefining it… Any definition of success should be personal because it's so transitory. It's about shaping my own destiny." Anita Roddick (1942-2007)

It's entirely up to you how you change or redefine success. And you can do it anytime you want.

More than one at a time

Who says success must be in one area for one thing? Everyone has more than one area of success in their lives. You can simultaneously define success for your job, marriage, children, education, retirement, and more. Remember, you define success on your terms, so it is whatever you want it to be!

You will have more than one type of success in life. You have certainly had past successes. You are likely working on something you consider to be successful in the present and have ongoing concurrent successes and future successes in your sights. These are the four types of success – past, present, concurrent, and future.

Examples of the four types

Past Success

Past success is the simplest to examine as it has already happened. Let's say you defined success as finishing college with a business degree after high school. After completing college, you redefined success as working for a particular organization and landed a job there – another success under your belt.

Present Success

Gainfully employed, you create a new goal of consistently building your 401k. You remain successful each pay period by investing part of your paycheck.

Concurrent Success

Closely related to present success is where you have some success and hope to keep it moving forward for some time. In addition to investing in your 401k, let's say you have defined another success as maturing and gaining experience as you aim at a higher-level position in the company. Using the established timeframe, you can regularly check your status, measuring where you are in the process.

Future Success

You may define future success as landing that regional VP job within five years. To become successful in this endeavor, you must occasionally check the status and measure where you are in the process.

Final thoughts

You now have a new way to view success. You can design your successes around:

  • Definition
  • Timeframe
  • Status
  • Measurement

And you can have success in each of the following dimensions:

  • Past
  • Present
  • Concurrent
  • Future

Using this structure, all that is left is for you to begin defining each success in the way that best serves you. I challenge you to apply this article's content to your life, go forward, define, set goals, measure, and achieve much success!

"Success is simple. Do what's right, the right way, at the right time." Arnold H. Glasgow (1905-1998)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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