Defining Success

What does it mean to you?


My senior year in high school, I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. Back then, I knew exactly what success meant: good grades, full scholarship, just enough friends to be well liked but not one of those witchy “popular” girls.

By our ten year reunion I was on my way to true success. I was a manager at a global consulting firm, making almost 6 figures, living in the perfect starter house, active in the church, a happy marriage…you get the picture.

Then things changed…as they always do.

I got laid off and pregnant in the same year. A new baby made starting a new job difficult so I settled for part-time work. That of course meant less income and a simpler lifestyle. Life changed a lot. And I spent the next ten years questioning my “success.”

What is success? Money? Power? Popularity? There has to be more to it than that. After all, we see many people who are successful by society’s definition but they are miserable. Unhappy marriages, messed up kids, struggling with their weight, fighting drug addictions. They may look like they have it all, but are they really successful?

Business Insider posted an article entitled “How 9 Incredibly Successful People Define Success” Here we see there is more to success than just money, power, and popularity:

Arianna Huffington (founder of Huffington Post): True success consist of “four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”

John Wooden ( winningest coach in college basketball history): Success “is more about competing with yourself than the other guy”

Tony Hsieh (Zappos CEO): “Success is about living in accordance with your values.”

Maya Angelou (Author): “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Winston Churchhill (British Politician): “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”

Deepak Chopra (Spiritual teacher): Success is “ the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals.”

Thomas Edison (Inventor): “Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”

Stephen Covey (Author): “If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.”

I think Mr. Covey is on the right track. We can’t allow other people’s ideas of success define us. Success is individual. At the end of the day we each have to find our own definition of success.

Written by Myrtis Smith

African American. Female. Christian. Sometimes-Vegetarian.

Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend.

Writer. Teacher. Zumba Enthusiast.