Do We Need a New Definition of Success?

I’ve never known any kid who said, “When I grow up, I want to be a complete failure.”

Everybody wants to be successful.  We all go through life hoping to achieve something.  We want to leave a mark, and make a contribution.

We want to make a dent in the world.

success kidI’ve met a lot of people over the years who are doing exactly that. They’ve achieved financial independence, and maybe even built a small fortune.  They own companies that stand at the top of the marketplace, and they’ve become the type of leader that others want to emulate.

From all appearances, they’re successful.

But many of them don’t feel that way.

I’ve talked to people who had the external appearance of success, but they felt like they hadn’t achieved it.  It’s always something they’re striving for.  Whether they make $40,000 a year or $4 million a year, they still feel like they haven’t arrived.


I wonder if it’s because they’re comparing themselves to others.

If we define success by how we rank in the marketplace, there will always be others who are doing it better.

If we define success by our finances, there will always be someone who makes more.

If we define success by our possessions, there will always be someone who has a newer model.

Comparison is a common, but shaky way to be successful.  We’ll never be satisfied, because we’re always trying to move up the pecking order.

So, what if we changed our definition of success?  I recently heard Darren Hardy (publisher of Success Magazine) recently suggest a new approach:

What if success meant we did better today than we did yesterday?

That’s measurable.  It’s achievable.  It’s possible.  Then we’re not comparing with others who are further along.  We’re comparing ourselves “today” with ourselves “yesterday.”

Success would mean we’re moving a little further ahead today.  It doesn’t depend on what anyone else does; it’s something we can control.

I’m still thinking about this, and haven’t reached any firm conclusions yet.  But it seems that if my measuring tape for success was internal instead of external, I would have a chance to feel successful at the end of every day.

And if we did a little better 365 days in a row, think where we’d be next year at this time?

Interesting.  Tell me what you think – I’d love to hear your perspective.  (Comment below)

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)

  • Derek Atchley

    In such a competitive world it’s easy to get swept up in comparison, we’ve all been there and most often even catch ourselves and try to stop. I find the biggest problem with it is that we are comparing a moment in time with our entire lives.

    What if we could really put a magnifying glass on that persons entire life. Would we really want what they have gone through? would we be willing to sacrifice the same things? Do we have different core motives, that if we took a second we would realize that what they have or where they have gotten is of little value to what we hold important on the deepest level?

    I used to want the shiny cars and the HUGE houses, then I realized that what I really want is peace. Not world peace, while that would be nice. I want inner peace, the ability to sit, slow down, take in life and find peace with the pace. I also realized I am not willing to sacrifice what some have to accomplish what they have. I will settle for less to achieve my Major Purpose.

    But, I digressed into a bit of a sideways thought. I think what I was trying to get at is a little healthy comparison mixed with understanding your purpose can be a great way to move yourself forward in life. As long as you realize that more of anything is not always better and it’s okay if the Jones’s have a little bit more than you.

    By the way, I like Darren Hardy’s thoughts on a lot of things. There is a guy that is type AAAAAA driver that seems to still have his foot on the pedal but with a healthy dose of perspective.

    Thanks for the thoughts,

    • Bob Zauner

      Thanks for your stream of thoughts, Derek. What’s your core audience?

      My core audience is “the great masses of human beings [that] have lost the faculty to believe, because their instinct has more or less degenerated on account of the development of their intelligence. They have thereby got the faculty to analyse, carry on research and to observe. All according to how this development increases it causes demand of logical arguments or scientific substantiation of each philosophical system or conception which they are to accept as truth. It would be absolutely absurd to blame these beings for their condition, for to them it is impossible to believe in these religious dogmas, just because they are only presented as conclusions or postulates without logical or scientific support. It is for this reason that the present “Book of Symbols” and the Chief Work, to which the symbols are a supplement, have been produced. This book is thus so designed as to help those human beings who cannot possibly believe in bare assertions or postulates without any intellectual or logical substantiation, but who, none the less, with heart and intellect, search for the justification for the condition of Doomsday, which they begin to perceive must exist behind the daily life’s primitiveness and foolishness. To these human beings’ cosmic study there is here opened a road to life’s own over-all justification of the darkness in the world as a link in the creation of the eternal maintenance of the key-note of the universe: Love.”

      Quoted from Martinus’ introduction to “The Eternal World Picture, Vol 1

    • Great perspective, Derek. And I think your ‘sideways thoughts’ were the most significant point you made!

  • Bob Zauner

    Comparison denies equality.

    Everybody is a wave. Some big, some small…relatively speaking. When a choice is made to identify with wave nature, it is allowing other waves to be an inspiration, and size becomes irrelevant. All sizes are the same size. Any social status is the same status. Everyone is at their peak in their evolution at any given time. Why blame a monkey for being a monkey, and not a Mozart?

    • Seems like comparison is the path of least resistance. Doesn’t make it right, just common.

      • Oh for heaven’s sake! Too many people have fallen off the straight track and are now stumbling around in their own emotional darkness, crying, “I gotta be betterrrrr.”
        And I give all of those people a Ruthie Raspberry: 😛 Thbzzzt!!
        What’s wrong with just being satisfied with the gift of being alive?
        “Oh, no,no, you can’t do that…you can’t just breathe…you have to Quality Breathe.”
        “And…and your heart has to pound to the Perfect Pumping Beat.”
        Because you’re missing something if you sit in a lawn chair on the porch, at the end of the day and just watch fireflies dance across the lawn?
        What’s so lame about watching an old movie online while munching a bagful of microwave popcorn?
        And are you really giving up a step or two on the “Look What I Did!’ ladder if you spend time playing Frisbee with the dog?
        Success, to me, isn’t so much about achieving some high-falutin’ status as it is NEVER LOSING your love for life.
        After all, what’s more important: Grabbing that cold, hard brass ring…or being blessed with a soft, warm hug?
        Think about it.

        • Agreed. This was just about finding one’s perspective being shaped by what others think, instead of creating our own path. People need to find deep satisfaction in who and where they are at the moment. At the same time, we were created to make a difference, whatever that looks like for each of us. Gotta find the balance.