I know what you’re thinking (welcome to the Twilight Zone): “How can you define success? Isn’t it different for everyone?”
You are absolutely right. Success is different for everyone. One person might define success as an income in the top 1% of incomes, another might define it as general happiness, and yet another as solid relationships and a modest income. I remember vividly hearing about a homeless person who lives nearby who raved about his life. He said he was free of responsibility, bills, debt, and got to shower every time it rained. Who is to say he’s not successful?
I have two definitions of success, and I’ve given them quite a bit of thought. The first comes from Earl Nightingale: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”
This is my favorite. It address everything in one quick sentence. “Progressive realization” refers to the fact that success is not in obtaining things, it is the growth we enjoy as we work to obtain those things. It also addresses the law of attraction. “We become what we think about.” If we begin working diligently toward a worthy goal, we are already successful. This is HUGE. Not only does it give us the courage to start, but it also gives us the strength to keep going, because success lies in the journey toward a goal, not in the completion of the goal. And of course, “worthy ideal” is a very personal thing. My brother loves building cars, and he was incredibly proud when he got the first motor he built running. That was one of his worthy ideals. I was proud of him too, and astonished, but building a motor from scratch is not at the top of my list of worthy ideals. It’s all personal.
The second definition comes from Christopher Morley: “There is only one success: to be able to spend your life in your own way.” Similarly, this suggests that success is a highly personal thing. However you want to live life is success for you. Maybe you have huge aspirations of starting an international business, running a charitable organization, or changing lives. And maybe you just want to have enough money to live in your current lifestyle until you retire, and get good enough at chess to be the best in your retirement home. It’s highly personal. However you want to live life, that’s what you should aim for.
However…you need actually to define success for yourself, otherwise you’ll have nothing to work toward. This also should not be an excuse you use to convince yourself that your current lifestyle is “good enough,” and that you’ve done enough in life to be happy. Absolute nonsense. There is always something you can get better at, and that should be your goal: getting better at something in your ideal life.
Make sure you define your success specifically. And, as many people suggest, write your specific goal down on an index card and read it three or four times a day. Keep it with you at all times. It will keep you focused, and keep your definition of success fresh in your head.