Success…. How do you Define It?

Classical Definition of Success

Success is defined as “an accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”   That sounds pretty clear cut, but also quite narrow to me.  If that was all that was considered a success in life, I would have a lot more failures to check off on my list of goals than I do now.

Success on a More Practice Level

To me, success is doing the best that I can in the moment.  Whether I technically succeed or fail in the task is not my measure.   If I do succeed in the task, great!  If I don’t, I first ask, did I do my best to prepare and carry out the task?  If I can answer yes to this, even if I technically failed at it, I consider myself to have succeeded.  Carry that one step further, if I can learn from that “failure,” I’ve made the most of the learning moment this opportunity has provided and have paved my way for future successes!

Let’s Face it, Life Can Be Hard

Life can throw some real whoppers our way.  Whether an incredibly challenging class, a lot of challenges at once, or an overwhelming dilemma, life isn’t always a bowl of cherries.  Having a strict, black and white definition of success really doesn’t do us any good.  In fact, it can do us some harm. If we are constantly using the classical definition as our yardstick to measure success, it can really chip away at our self-esteem.  Who needs that?

Now I’m not someone that is all for giving everyone a medal.  I think that’s a whole different discussion based on measuring success extrinsically.  What I’m talking about is measuring success intrinsically.  In other words, with each task completed, I look inward and asking myself if I’ve done my best.  If the answer is yes, even though the actual end result is a #fail, then to me I’ve succeeded. All the world can ask of us and us of ourselves is whether we have done our best.  If we can step back, objectively analyze the situation and say we’ve done our best in the moment, we’ve succeeded in my book.

Perfect vs. Best In the Moment  

Let me make one more clarification, I’m also not talking about our “perfect” performance, but rather our best in the moment.  For example, there are times when we may have known all the answers to a test.  In the moment however, we may not get them all correct.  Perhaps our nerves got the best of us, the question was a bit skewed, etc…  Whatever the case, as long as how we performed in the moment is the best we could have done given our full effort toward preparation, then I feel we’ve succeeded.

Where my growth and learnings come is here:

  • If I have classically succeeded, I have learned that the method of preparation that I used perhaps can be replicated in other scenarios just as successfully.
  • If I have not classically succeeded, but have otherwise succeeded, similarly, perhaps my methods can be replicated and the areas that I can improve upon can be noted for further enhancement the next time around.
  • If I have not classically succeeded and also have technically failed, it’s time to look a bit inward.  Did I put enough time into preparing for the task as I should have?  Did I let distractions interfere with my performance?  Was this task simply over my head.  Whatever the answer is to these questions and more, there’s something always to be gained from analyzing both our successes and failures.  In fact, oftentimes it’s our failures that we learn the most from.  

A few great quotes come to mind here as we wrap this up:

“I have not failed:  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”   (Thomas A. Edison).

I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail then to attempt to do nothing and succeed.”  (Robert H. Schuller).

In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time (Anthony J. D’Angelo).

Success is not final, failure is not fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts (Winston Churchill).

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up (Thomas A. Edison).

And… finally, one area where you will always succeed is in checking out these great deals

18 thoughts on “Success…. How do you Define It?

  1. Wow this is great I was just talking about what being successful really means and you said it perfectly. I also love that you hold yourself accountable if you feel like you slacked rather than trying your best in the moment. Awesome read!

  2. I loved reading this Lisa, I think it’s great how you strike the balance of not everything being perfect in life, but trying still trying take a positive outlook on things!

  3. Interesting to think of success in terms of different definitions. I guess the beauty of it is that it means something different to each person. I like your thoughts about best attempts though x


  4. One of my friends is a life coach and she always says, “Perfection is a myth, we should aim for progress.” I love your point about the “best in the moment”, that’s such a healthy attitude to adopt. Fab post, and thank you for finding such great quotes at the end too! Lisa

  5. I think success is defined different for everyone else and have to agree with you, even the definition can seem a bit narrow. I view success in the same way you do, being the best you can be in that moment where even if you don’t accomplish the task you aimed to in it’s entirely you are still successful because even if you didn’t reach the goal 100% you did succeed at working towards it, even if you reached at a 50% out of 100 that’s still an accomplishment!

    I 100% degree, if we only think of success as accomplishing an aim then even if we try at something and don’t do well, we then think we’ve failed and don’t want to try again. For example, if I have a goal for a race and don’t accomplish the goal but still race and cross the finish line that’s still a success because at the end of the day I did still race which is an accomplishment on its own.

    I really like these quotes: In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do the next time (Anthony J. D’Angelo) and Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up (Thomas A. Edison) – especially the Edison one, sometimes we quit at something and don’t realize how close we are to achieving our goals.

    1. Thank you so much for your insightful comments Sahara! I completely agree with everything you shared. I’m glad you enjoyed the quotes as well!

  6. Success for me is one of the things where it’s so hard to define! I don’t think I ever feel it. Maybe because I’m such a perfectionist. You have described the idea of success so eloquently, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.

    Laura /

  7. I love that third quote. You really do learn through error but it also gets you one step closer with every bit of effort you put into your goal!

  8. I love this, especially in how you differentiate between classical success and otherwise. Classical success is usually an outside measure, whereas success is always better measured l think, by our own definitions. Great read, thanks for sharing!

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