Define Success: Is Achieving A Goal Really A Success?

If someone were to ask me to define success, my natural answer would be to say, achieving a goal would be considered success. Or achieving a set of goals would be considered success. It surely wouldn’t be wrong to define success that way.

Suffice to say everyone can define "success" on their own terms. But the challenge is that whatever those terms are, once you consider yourself having achieved success, you get a feeling of emptiness. More targets pop up for you to achieve in order to be considered more successful.

We are constantly chasing success and get tired trying to achieve success. Do we ever sit down to define what success is? If we are able to define success, maybe then it sets a parameter for us to judge for ourselves if we are truly successful.

Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson’s article – Success That Lasts (HBR OnPoint Enhanced Edition) helped me put a new perspective into how I define success. In the article they mentioned, “…success doesn’t have to be seen as a one-dimensional tug-of-war between achievement and happiness.”

Enduring Success
Clearly, success that keeps us constantly happy should be lasting. The authors were interested in success that is sustainable – enduring success. They mentioned that “Lasting success is emotionally renewing, not anxiety provoking.” I agree with how they define success.

It opened a new angle for me to look at success and how I can help some of my staff define success for themselves. This is especially important in an age where job satisfaction is falling and more and more talented executives get disgruntled with work. Maybe helping them define success would help increase their sense of achievement and happiness.

It is complex to define success, but the authors broke enduring success into 4 components:

  • Happiness: Feelings of pleasure or contentment about your life
  • Achievement: Accomplishments that compare favorably against similar goals others have strived for
  • Significance: The sense that you have made a positive impact on people you care about
  • Legacy: A way to establish your values or accomplishments so as to help others find future success

For one to feel real success, you need to fulfill all four components. The challenge is you cannot segment your life in a modular fashion into any of these four categories. For example, you cannot say that you would satisfy your happiness component via self and legacy via family. For one to feel satisfied with their success, one has to hit these four components with regularity. While this may sound tough, the author stresses that you can do it with one single event or you can do it,“…through a juxtaposition of activities.”

I further like the way they define success in that success isn’t about “breaking through limitations.” To achieve success is also about giving up some things for the sake of others. They called this “on the reasoned pursuit of just enough.”

If you define success in this larger framework you will begin to see success very differently and more meaningfully too.

I recommend that you read the original article “Success That Lasts.” It appears as a solo article Success That Lasts (HBR OnPoint Enhanced Edition).

Or you can read a collection of articles in Managing Yourself (HBR OnPoint Collection). HBR OnPoint Collection is usually made up of 3 articles that distill the essence of certain topics. I like these as they give you a good overview from a few angles. This particular collection is made up of these articles - “Managing Oneself” by Peter F. Drucker, “Do Your Commitments Match Your Convictions?” by Donald M. Sull and “Success That Lasts” by Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson.

More Articles About Success

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Success Recipe – What Do You Want To Cook? (Part 1)
Before you ask for a success recipe, you need to decide what is the success dish you are going to cook?

Success Recipe – The Key Ingredients For Your Career Success (Part 2)
You should know what success recipe you would choose once you have decided on your success dish. Here are some career success ingredients you need.

Success Recipe –Planning Your Career Success Dish (Part 3)
Your career success recipe is made out of many components. You should know by now what success dish you want to cook. You should also know the key ingredients needed in this success recipe.

Success Recipe – Enjoying the Process of Career Success (Part 4)
Enjoying the process of career success is the next step. Do you know what it takes in this process and what is the success recipe?

Success Recipe – Pushing for Career Success (Part 5)
Striking a balance while pushing for career success is the last part of your career success recipe. You have now seen an overview of what a career success recipe consists.

How Do You Define Success? Can You Define Success?
This particular framework I read helped me shape my definition of success. This is how I do it.

101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career


3 years ago, I was invited to participate as a contributing author together with 100 other career experts to create a book called 101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career. In my chapter, Work Attitude, I discuss how you need to define your attitude at work as critical step to career success. You will be getting career advice up close an personal from some of the best people in their fields like Brian Tracy.
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Over 100 of the World's Leading Career Experts have joined together to give you the complete collection of 101 insider secrets that show you how to instantly and positively enhance your career! In this new book, experts including Tory Johnson, Laura DeCarlo, Brian Tracy, Charlotte Weeks, Long Yun Siang will give you quick, simple and proven Career secrets. To learn more about this special offer go here: 101 Great Ways to Enhance your Career


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