What Does Success Mean For You? – How to Define Success in Life
Just what do we mean by success? What does success mean to you? How are we to be successful in life? While many equate success with money, power or prestige, a successful life involves much more than that. There are many components to a successful, balanced life, and success is best thought of in a broad, all-of-life manner. To help you, we have identified six essential elements of a successful life.
Many people lead a successful life without amassing great wealth or power. Our tendency is to think in the short term, our immediate future is most important to us. But a successful life is lived over many decades. If we accept this and think of success in terms of a whole life, not just a year or a decade, we have a better sense of what is important in our lives.
This has two advantages – the first is that it means you always have the chance to improve on your situation. The second is that this wider perspective allows you to appreciate what you have, and to see more clearly the things that are most important.
Success is something to work at continually. In pursuing a successful life, there is no beginning or end – only tomorrow. We define the six pillars of success to help guide you on your journey.
“Past failures are the building blocks of tomorrow’s triumphs.”
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Six Pillars of Success
A successful life is multi-faceted, involving the full scope of your life and interactions with others. Importantly, it should be defined by you, not what you think others might think.
We see six pillars of success – the six S’s of success:
- Self worth – having a positive sense of self;
- Support – enjoying a strong and supportive network of personal relationships;
- Satisfaction – and the fulfillment that comes from achievement;
- Strength – coming from a healthy body and mind that allows you to get the most from life;
- Security – the comfort of a solid financial situation, or financial independence; and
- Safety – and the security that allows a solid base for dealing with a rapidly changing world.
1. Strong Sense of Self (Self Worth)
Success often begins with having a strong, positive and confident sense of self. This is the essential foundation on which your success is based.
Words such as happiness and contentment are similarly related states of mind. However we feel that the more critical dimension is that of a strong feeling of self worth. Psychologists refer to it as “subjective well-being”, and without this, we are unlikely to be happy or content.
If we are not happy, if we are not sure of ourselves, our relationships suffer from our doubts and inconsistencies. In contrast, a strong sense of self allows us to be more engaged and more engaging. As a result we are more likely to achieve the things we desire.
“We don’t live in a neighbourhood, city, state or country – we live in the space between our ears.”
2. Supportive Network of Personal Relationships
Humans are social creatures; our history is one of tribes and families. This has helped us to dominate other species by our ability to think, communicate and organise as a group. As we have moved from a tribal base to communities of towns, cities, and nations, we continue to hold dear our relationships with those around us.
This means that you cannot have a successful life without the inclusion of others. Your personal relationships and support groups are essential to your general well-being, they are the ones which add colour and depth to your life. These are the people who give meaning to your existence on this planet, who provide the colour and nuances of your life.
“At the heart of life lie the relationships we have with other people.”
3. Satisfaction and Fulfillment
Personal fulfillment begins with a sense of purpose. This is commonly quoted in the self-help literature, but in reality is harder to achieve than generally stated.
For instance, as a younger man at University I had a friend who was committed to a flying career (at which he became very successful). I was jealous of this certainty in his life’s direction. He was amongst a very small minority with such a sense of purpose in their lives.
The rest of us had only vague ideas of the future, and we have moved our lives through a series of goals and ambitions, each updated or replaced as the last was reached.
We do (and should have) goals and set plans for the achievement of those goals. These can be short or longer term, and the satisfaction that comes with achievement is indeed powerful. If we drift through life in a complacent manner, we find that months, years and decades slip by and we realise we have wasted huger opportunities. This is not success.
“Only dead fish go with the flow.”
4. Strong Body
Looking after yourself physically is a big part of living a successful life. Note that we aren’t talking about exhaustive gym workouts or fad diets. It’s simpler than that. Eating sensibly, with less sugar, watching your weight and getting regular exercise (from walking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator for instance), are small things that can make a big difference for many people.
Health problems can beset anyone, at any time. The causes are not always identifiable – we all know of the fitness freak who has suffered an unexpected heart attack or similar misfortune. Causes may be genetic, the result of an accident, the result of a bodily weakness, or they can be lifestyle based.
Whilst we can’t control these things, we can give ourselves the best possible shot. A healthy body will reward you with an increased capacity to do more, to feel more and experience more. It gives better longevity and satisfaction from life, improving our ability to face the physical and mental challenges which continually confront us all.
“Respect your body. It’s the only one you get.”
5. Secure Finances
Having a successful life means having financial independence. This is your ticket to more life options and choices, and the formula is quite simple – spend less than you earn and save/invest the balance. Buy quality assets that will appreciate, not toys that will decline in value.
Financial independence is reliant on asset accumulation and typically involves decades of effort. Having a high-paying job helps, but does not guarantee financial independence. Think of athletes, rock stars, or celebrities with multi-million-dollar earnings who die impoverished. On the other hand, there is the working-class immigrant next door who buys several properties through his life and dies a multi-millionaire.
To think of how to be successful in life, it is useful to define financial independence as the accumulation of wealth that allows you to maintain a desired standard of living without a working pay check. For instance, if your living expenses are $50,000 a year, then an asset portfolio of $1m returning 5% per annum would meet this goal.
“Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving”
6. Safety and Security
Most definitions of success focus on higher-order needs such as self-actualisation, esteem and relationships. However, we should not forget that the satisfaction of basic needs is an essential foundation of a successful life.
Abraham Maslow became a famous psychologist when he published his hierarchy of needs. This includes safety and security as being among our basic needs. Without a safe and comfortable living environment, we cannot properly function in the world. Feeling secure in the world and with our place in it is vital to a successful life.
This recognises that a strong and secure home base provides a psychological rock from which we anchor our responses to the world. In this sense we consider safety and security to be more about the physical manifestations of the above pillars – a comfortable and rewarding home environment and the ability to use and adapt with new technologies as they intrude on our lives.
“The fact is that people are good, give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and their behaviour.”