The Definition of Success

Definition of Success, Maya Angelou

As a child, I was instilled with the recipe for success – a dash of education and a pinch of determination mixed with hard work and a good plan.

Implementing this recipe was the only way I was going to get the hell out of dodge after high school. It was going to maneuver me into a stellar university that would set me up for an accomplished life complete with the ideal career and picture perfect family. I was going to be a successful person. After all, I had the recipe. I had a plan.

Then entered life. I was knocked down, beat down and stripped of my self-esteem, confidence and perfectly planned life. I was pushed so far off the path to success that I assumed I would spend the rest of my life wandering around searching for a mere glimpse of this yellow-brick road. Where the hell was the Wizard when I needed him?

I became so engulfed in my loserdom that I began to believe I actually had the word ‘LOSER’ inscribed across my forehead allowing everyone to share in the knowledge that I, the girl who was once voted ‘Most Likely to Succeed’, was a failure and a fraud. I wasn’t thriving or succeeding. In fact, I was failing at life over and over again. Where was the recipe for preventing that?

The Definition of Success - Loser Meme

Eventually, in a last ditch effort to pull myself out of the wreckage that was my life, I opted to study abroad in London for a semester. If I couldn’t succeed, at least I could fail in a whole new environment.

What happened next was something I never expected. I blossomed. Joy returned to my smile. Purpose returned to my life. And I received a whole new education on the meaning of success.

I was always taught that success was measured in careers, money, education and things, but I realized there are many definitions of success. And that one isn’t mine.

To me, success is measured in moments and experiences.

The laughter shared between friends, the awe of experiencing a new culture, the feeling of being loved and loving, learning to love and accept yourself – those are all moments of success in my book.

I began to realize that the successful life that I desire does not include spending most of my time trying to keep up with the Joneses. Instead, it includes travel, friendship, love, venturing outside of my comfort zone and living life to the fullest.

At the end of my life, I’m not going to look back and think of all the money I made or things I bought, but I will remember all the places I saw, people I loved and experiences that touched me.

If I can look back on my life and smile at the memory of all those experiences, then I will have lived a successful life.

Have you ever felt like you were failing at life? What is your definition of success?

  • Wow….very,very true! It is hard sometimes to find your path to being successful (or just happy?). I struggle quite a bit with what it means to be successful and where I should be in life. Sometimes things that look good on paper still don’t add up to being happy but it can be hard to figure out the why.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head. Does being happy = being successful? Or does having everything right on paper mean you’re successful? I must admit that my previous definition of success was drilled into me, so I still feel its effects today, even thought I no longer believe in it. But overall, I think we all need to figure out what works for us. I hope you find your own success! 😀

  • Amanda

    To be honest, this is something I’m still trying to figure out for myself. I know what it doesn’t automatically mean though… money, etc. 🙂

    • Yes, money does not mean success. I mean, some people are just born with that anyway. That doesn’t mean they’re born successful. They’re just lucky and should really throw some money our way! Hah.

  • kathy @ vodka and soda

    honestly, i can’t recall a time where i felt i’ve failed at life. since i was a teen, i’ve pretty much raised myself because my parents were working a lot and having to be self-sufficient at that age builds confidence and i really learned how strong i am and that i can pretty much get through anything. that sounds so lame but it’s true.

    Vodka and Soda

    • That doesn’t sound lame. 🙂 It’s awesome that you have that confidence and strength. Everyone is much stronger than they give themselves credit for and can often proceed with a lot of doubt. So it’s fantastic that you know that you can make it through anything! You rock! 😀

  • Hell yes! To me success is doing the best you can with what you’ve got. No need to keep up with the Jones’s, they’re probably in hock to keep up with the Smiths!

    • Hah! Very good point! Not even they are able to keep up with everyone. 🙂

  • Jessa O

    I have been working on redefining my “success.” in the past I always judged it by when I got married and had kids. now success is so much different and I’m alright with that. 🙂

    • Yay! I think we redefine success a lot throughout our lives. 🙂 I’m so glad that you’re finding the definition that works for you.

  • Yes! I love this so much. I shared similar problems and now, even though I’ve graduated law school, passed the bar, and am finally a lawyer, it is really the last thing I count on my list of why I feel like I am successful. Above it are all the things that really make life worth living… like my family, my friends, my hopes and dreams for the future and even the quiet moments spent soaking in my life! That is true success!


    • Yes! Totally. The things that make life worth living are all the things that make us successful. Our accomplishments are wonderful, but all the other people and experiences that we love are so much better. I’m so glad that you’ve found all your amazing successes! 😀

  • This was sooo me fresh out of high school! I had everything planned out to the T and then was almost instantly knocked onto my face! I even look at being able to get back up again as apart of my success. Great post!

    • Definitely! Being able to pick yourself up and keep going is a wonderful success. 🙂 Thanks for reading! 🙂