Everyone wants to be successful. We have been conditioned to believe that our sole purpose in life is the pursuit of success. Pursuing success is a noble thing to do, it is actually the right thing to do.

But there is one major problem – do you know what exactly success is?

What does the term success mean? What does it mean to be successful? Is it building a global company with thousands of employees? Is it making a million dollars by age thirty? Is it becoming the sports champion in your country? Is it becoming famous, or getting married to the man or woman of your dreams?

For a lot of people, mentioning the term success automatically brings up mental images of money. People believe that success is all about having money, and the trappings that come with having money.

When you ask what it means to be successful, most people will mention a garage full of luxury cars, million dollar homes, a 100+ meter yacht, designer clothing, million dollar watches, private jets, exotic vacations, islands, large corner offices, and so on.

Society has fooled us to believe that success is all about money and the luxury that comes with money. But is this the only definition of success. Is it actually the best definition of success? The answer to both questions is no!

WHY MONEY IS NOT THE BEST DEFINITION OF SUCCESS

Before you start throwing stones and castigating me, let me make it clear that I am not in any way denying the importance of money.

For anyone to live comfortably on this earth, you need money. Y

ou need money to survive from day to day, to buy all the things you want and need, to achieve some of your dreams, and to give your family a good life.

That’s undeniable.

However, this does not mean that money is equivalent to success. If you had a billion dollars in the bank but are unhappy in life, suffering from depression, going through a divorce, and getting abandoned by everyone you thought was your friend, would you consider yourself to be a success?

If you have a job that pays you one million dollars every year, but then you hate this job and cannot stop dreaming of a different life, would you say you are successful? What’s the point of success if the cost of that success is a miserable life?

As much as money is necessary in order to live comfortably, money should not be the only thing we want in life. It should not be the only driving force that pushes you to work hard in life.

Sadly, Hollywood and mainstream media have sold to us the idea that success means money, and therefore a lot of people have dedicated our lives to the pursuit of money while throwing everything else to the side.

They have no other goal in life other than accumulating money and assets, forgetting that the pursuit of money and its trappings might actually leave them feeling unsatisfied, unhappy, and without any sense of purpose in life.

Source: Planet of Success

Illustration of an unbalanced definition of success. Source: Planet of Success

From the above diagram, you can see that defining success by the money you make, as well as the trappings of money, such as luxury, status, and fame, will lead to an imbalance in other important areas of your life, such as happiness, fulfillment, wisdom, as well as your purpose in life and your impact on others and the world in general.

The greatest reason why money is not the best definition of success is that money consists of numbers, and like the legendary Bob Marley once said, numbers never end.

Therefore, if making money is your sole goal in life, you will never be satisfied, because you will be chasing after constantly shifting goal posts.

Once you get to a million dollars, you will start chasing after a hundred million.

Get that and you now want a billion. Lucky enough to get that? Well, you’ll now start chasing after a hundred billion.

Similarly, the things you can buy with money are endless. There will always be bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger jets and yachts, and so on.

This is why a lot of people who seem “successful” beyond measure – people who have accumulated enough money to support multiple generations – still feel empty and unsatisfied in life.

The problem is that they are chasing after goals that cannot be achieved. If money is your sole definition of success, you might have a ton of money, but you will still feel unaccomplished in life.

If you want to live a worthwhile life, a life full of purpose and fulfillment, you need to come up with better ways of defining what success means to you.

This way, you will shift your focus to achievable goals that will actually leave you feeling accomplished and satisfied.

Some better ways of defining success other than through money include:

1. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF YOUR GOALS

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, success is the status of achieving the results you desired or had planned for.

Therefore, if you can set goals for yourself and diligently work hard till you achieve these goals, you can think of yourself as being successful.

Setting goals and targets for yourself and then achieving these goals is one of the most rewarding things in life.

To achieve these goals, you most probably have to take a lot of action, learn a lot of new things, push yourself outside the limits of your comfort zone, and go through a lot of personal and professional growth.

By constantly setting and accomplishing your goals, you put yourself on a path of continuous growth, which is why this is a better measure of success than money. It makes you a better person in all aspects of your life.

In addition, it increases your chances of achieving material success as well.

It does not matter how big or small your goals are. If you are able to achieve these goals, you should count these as success.

For instance, if your aim was to get a masters’ degree and you actually get it, you should consider this as a success. If your target was to learn how to play the piano or learn a new language or climb Mt. Everest, you are successful if you manage to achieve these goals.

Sometimes, your goals might even be money oriented. For instance, your goal might be to build a million dollar company or become the first millionaire in your family.

If that is your goal, there’s nothing wrong with that. Go for it, and celebrate once you achieve the goal. Note that in this case, however, you are not arbitrarily chasing after money. You have a definite goal in mind.

Therefore, if you succeed in building the million dollar company, you will get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, not from the money that came along with the success, but because you actually achieved something you set out to do.

Measuring success based on the accomplishment of your goals also prevents you from being in an unrealistic competition with other people.

This – chasing after your own goals, rather than other people’s goals – is a very crucial aspect of being successful.

2. DOING WHAT YOU LOVE

A lot of people wrongfully believe that money is the key to happiness.

Therefore, they spend years doing various things they despise in an attempt to achieve this kind of success, in the hope that once the money comes, they will be happy. Unfortunately, this does not work in most cases.

In addition to subjecting themselves to a life of misery (because they are doing things they don’t like), they are also unlikely to achieve success this way.

This is because when you are doing something you don’t love, you are likely to get demotivated and give up when things get tough, or if it takes too long before the money starts rolling in.

Instead of trying to chase money at all costs, you should instead focus on doing what you love.

When you do what you love, you are more likely to feel contented with your life, even if you are not making a lot of money.

In addition, when you are doing something you love, you are more likely to do it with a lot of passion and dedication, which increases your chances of achieving a high level of success (and money) doing that thing.

For instance, when Mark Zuckerberg started thefacebook.com in his Harvard dorm room, his aim was not to make money. Like he once mentioned to his friend, by starting thefacebook.com, he only wanted to build something cool.

This was something he loved doing – using his skills to build something cool.

Owing to his passion and love for what he was doing, he ended building Facebook into the social media giant it is today, and in the process, he ended up becoming one of the youngest billionaires.

Meanwhile, his co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, who was only interested in making money, did not have enough dedication to the company, and Zuckerberg ended up having to kick him out of the company.

3. SUCCESS IS OPTING FOR HAPPINESS RATHER THAN RICHES

Between happiness and riches, which one do you think is a better definition of success? Would you rather be happy or rich? Do you think having lots of money would make you happy?

Sadly, having loads of money does not equate to being happy or having a good life. There are numerous cases of people with lots of money who did not have the best lives.

For instance, Cameron Douglas, son and grandson of legendary Hollywood actors grew up with the privilege of having come from a rich family.

Despite having lots of money, however, Cameron Douglas life has been miserable. He has had a long battle with addictions and has even spent time in prison.

Similarly, legendary singer and performer Michael Jackson was very famous before his death, and had accumulated lots of wealth owing to his prowess as a singer and performer. Despite his wealth and fame, Michael Jackson had a lot of problems in his personal life.

After his death, a book about him written by his two bodyguards showed him as a sad, lonely superstar who wished he could have lived a normal, ordinary life.

Aside from these two examples, there have been numerous cases of rich people who have attempted or committed suicide. Would you commit suicide if you felt that you had achieved success in life? Very unlikely.

The truth is, there is no point in accumulating a lot of wealth if this wealth does not bring you happiness.

In addition, there is no point in continuing to seek more money, if you do not find happiness and enjoyment in what you currently have.

Therefore, instead of measuring your success by the amount of money you have earned, it is much better to measure success by how happy you are. Instead of counting the money you have in your bank account, start looking at how contented you are with your life.

Do you wake up feeling happy every morning? Are you happy with your job/career? Does your family bring you joy and happiness? If you can answer these questions affirmatively, you are more successful than you think.

4. BUILDING SOMETHING OF VALUE

There is a popular quote by famous physicist Albert Einstein which says that one should strive to become a man of value, rather than a man of success.

These words by Einstein are a true reflection of what it takes to achieve success.

If you look at some of the most successful people in the world, you will realize that none of them started with the aim of making money or becoming famous or “achieving success”. Instead, most of them were only trying to create something of value.

For instance, when founding Zip2 and X.com (which later became PayPal), Elon Musk was not after making money. Instead, he was trying to create better, more convenient ways of finding directions and of sending money over the internet.

Actually, after he made money from the sale of both companies, Elon could have settled back and enjoyed his money, but he put all the money into his two new companies, risking going bankrupt in case the startups did not become successful.

Most other millionaires and billionaires also started this way. Instead of aiming for riches, they got rich by providing value to other people.

Similarly, if you want to become successful, stop aiming for a lot of money. Instead, focus on the creation of value. Try to find ways through which you can make things better for other people.

If you do this, you have a higher chance of acquiring the other things associated with success, such as money and fame.

However, not that creating something of value does not necessarily mean that you will become rich out of it.

If you create something valuable that has an impact in the world, you should consider yourself successful, even if the value you created does not result in wealth and fame.

5. OVERCOMING YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES

Evaluating a person’s wealth, fame, power, and material possessions is not a very adequate way of measuring success. Relying solely on these three factors would lead to very huge inaccuracies.

For instance, if someone is born into a rich family and inherits a lot of his or her parent’s wealth and material possessions, would you really say such a person is successful?

Sure, they have the money and the cars and houses, but they never worked for any of it. I think you can see how imbalanced and superficial it is to measure success based on money alone.

A more accurate measure of a person’s success is to consider the circumstances that the person was able to overcome to get where they are in life.

Under what circumstances did the person grow up? What difficulties was the person faced with in life? It is a lot more difficult to achieve success when your life is full of challenges and difficult circumstances.

Truly successful people are those that are able to overcome whatever challenges they encounter and build for themselves the kind of life they desire.

People who achieve their dreams despite the odds are more successful than those who have various benefactors to thank for all their accomplishments.

While you have no control over the specific circumstances you encounter in life, true success lies in winning despite the circumstances.

Note that winning in this case does not mean money. It means accomplishing your goals and building for yourself the kind of life you are happy with.

6. GROWING AS A PERSON

There are two types of success. The first one is pretty easy to define. It is characterized by wealth, power, and fame, or a combination of the three.

This kind of success is usually measured by the number of competitions won, the awards and accolades received, the amount of money earned, the number of people who know you, and so on.

This is the most popular definition of success, and this is what a lot of us spend our lives chasing.

We focus so much focus trying to get a fancier title, better paying jobs, and so on, so much that we neglect our personal progress in the process. However, there’s more to life than chasing material success.

Achieving this type of success is simple. It might not be easy, but it is simple. It requires a lots of effort and hard work, and probably a little luck. Some also achieve this kind of success through lying, cheating, and stealing.

The problem with this type of success is that it is not easy to hold on to. Your sports records could be broken. A new startup might take away clients from your business. Someone might make more money than you.

And if you happened to achieve such success through cheating and cutting corners, you have a much higher chance of losing everything.

To make matters worse, this kind of success does not always come with a sense of fulfillment. It might leave you feeling empty.

This is why there are numerous cases of people that were considered to be successful – Hollywood actors, famous inventors, famous musicians and artists, and so on – committing suicide.

Think of the likes of Tim Bergling (Avicii), Nikola Tesla, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Judy Garland, and so many more. A lot of these famous people committed suicide because despite their success (Type 1), they were feeling empty on the inside.

The second kind of success is a lot more difficult to define. Unlike the first one, the second kind of success is not characterized by wealth, fame, and power. This kind of success is also a lot harder to measure and quantify.

The second type of success is characterized by your mastery of yourself and your emotions (fear, pride, selfishness, greed, and so on), the kind of impact you have on the lives of other people, and how close you are to fulfilling your life’s purpose.

This kind of success is all about developing your character.

Aside from being hard to define, the second kind of success is also difficult to attain. It is not something you achieve by simply working hard and hoping you have luck on your side.

You cannot achieve this kind of success through lying, cheating, or stealing. Instead, to achieve this kind of success, you need to develop qualities such as courage, integrity, wisdom, and humility.

The good thing with this kind of success is that it leads to fulfillment. It is unlikely to leave you feeling empty. This kind of success can also never be taken away from you.

Whether you retire, lose your job, get involved in an accident, you will not lose the second kind of success.

What’s more, those who attain the second type of success are a lot more likely to attain the first kind as well.

The second type of success is what you should be aiming for, rather than wealth, fame, and power.

WRAPPING UP

While everyone wants to be successful in life, it is good to take a step back and define what success means to you. A lot of us are chasing after the wrong kind of success.

You might spend all your life trying to get to the top of the corporate ladder or trying to become the richest person in your city, only to get there and discover that instead of feeling fulfilled, you are only left feeling alone and miserable.

Therefore, in addition to looking for money, you should also try to achieve some of the other kinds of success we have covered above. Achieving these kinds of success leads to a happier, more fulfilling life.

6 better ways to define success in your life (because it’s not only about money)

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