Success is Personal

Lately, I have been wondering how people can judge others as ‘successful’ or not, without knowing what each person’s idea of success is.  Are we evaluating them on our own priorities?  Why have we, without question, accepted a generic idea of success?  Who decided that each and every one of us must strive for the same thing? 

According to, one definition of success is:

 The attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

Well. I disagree.  And (of course), I am right!

Success is an individual thing, which does not necessarily point to wealth or position or honor.  So, the dictionary is prescribing what I need to do to be considered successful?!!

I like, better, the American Heritage’s definition:

The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted

Something desired.  This definition reserves judgment for the person who desired it, planned it or attempted it.  And IT is left undefined.

Am I successful if I own my house and several investiment properties?  Seems so. But what if I drink myself into oblivion regularly? What if I go on vacation by myself all the time, or what if I’ve had bypass surgery?

Am I unsuccessful if I have one good financial week, and then one bad financial week, living paycheck-to-paycheck?  What if I have a great family and home life? What if I donate time to charity?

My point is not to say that one is successful and the other is not.  My point is that we are the only ones who can judge our success, based on our own intensely personal list of important life goals, not assigned achievements passed down from some unknown historical oracle. Hysterical oracle.

Think of it like a report card in life.  You determine your subjects because, this time, it IS all about YOU! There can be subjects listed down the side; subjects like Emotional, Financial, Creative, etc.  Grade yourself on how well you are doing.  Even in school, students don’t have the exact same subjects.  Some have French, some have Spanish.  In college, once you get beyond the general criteria, everybody’s priorities are different, based on their major.  My advertising classes were nothing like my friend’s occupational therapy classes.  So how could I be graded on her subjects?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

My progress report might have subjects like a new-age school:

Children’s Stability
Children’s Future
Living in Diversity and Tolerance
Emotional Well-being

Yeah, I’m gonna get a D in Financial, much like I did in Chemistry.  Not my strongsuit.


2 thoughts on “Success is Personal

Add yours

  1. Thanks.. This is a great reminder for so many of us. I have a colleague who is a persistent intimidator. He’s the kind who will hijack a meeting, take over a conversation and insert his “intelligence” anywhere, at anytime. He’s a step or two higher than me and definitely brings home a substantial amount more than me. So, although I realize he’s a jerk, probably with deeper problems of his own, I, most always, find it hard not to let myself feel belittled by him. I know the ‘truth’ and I know within myself that I shouldn’t feel this way; but, it can be a battle, especially when spending so much time with him. You’ve given us a great reminder of the importance of having our own personal definition of success tucked away close to our heart. Thanks for the lift today!


    1. Yes, it’s far too easy to assume that money guarantees success and that success guarantees happiness. We have no idea what lies behind others’ doors.


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