How Do You Define Success? It Turns Out The Answer is Different for Everyone

What is success?

If you asked that question to a hundred different people, you’d get a hundred unique answers. 

Success means something different to different people, so the real question is, how do YOU define success? 

Dictionary Definition of Success

The dictionary definition of success isn’t overly helpful. It reads, “One that succeeds.” We can easily ask a follow-up question: at what?  Success is different depending on what you want to do. 

Another slightly more helpful definition states that success is “a favorable or desired outcome.” That’s a little more in line with what we’re getting it. Having a favorable outcome implies that you wanted something (anything!) and got it. 

The third definition is the ominous one; the one folks tend to think of when they think of success: “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.” 

Unfortunately, it’s the wealth part that tends to stand out. 

In our weird world of money before everything, the definition of success morphs from getting a favorable outcome to being wealthy. Tons of people relate success to not only financial well-being but to incredible wealth and riches.

I don’t think that’s the best way to define success.

Do We Need to be Wealthy To Be Successful?

That sounds like a strange question. Success, wealth, riches, and all the things that go with it are what we should strive for, right?


Money is great, but it’s not the end all be all. Money is just a tool that helps us do what we want. Acquiring tons of money doesn’t necessarily equate to success.

You can be successful in various aspects of your life without being rich. You can attain career, family, and life success in general. These things aren’t about money or wealth or riches. 

It’s high time that we redefined what it means to be successful.  

It’s easiest to see the disconnect between wealth and success when we look at careers.

How Do You Define Career Success?

Being at the top of your career sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Many people assume that being at the top of your field means wealth and riches, but that’s not always true. 

Many experts in their fields don’t even make six figures. If it’s a career that they are genuinely passionate about, the money doesn’t matter as much.

Do you think teachers define success by how much money they bring in or by how many kids they inspire? 

Are scientists successful when making millions or having a breakthrough discovery? Do firefighters care more about making money or saving lives? 

The examples of successful careers that don’t lead to riches can go on and on.

As these examples prove, career success is far more than money. It’s about following your dream even if it doesn’t pay. It’s also about helping people, learning, or making a difference. 

Not all these things lead to riches, but they can lead to a rich life.

Successful Career and Money

That’s not to say no careers lead to wealth and riches. Some professions do define success by the amount of money you make. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s your goal.

Financial services, sales, law, and technology are industries where you can make a ton of money in your career if that’s what you’re striving to achieve.

Some careers combine the two. Doctors make a ton of money, and they also help people. Some artists, like actors and musicians, can get rich by following their dreams and living their passions

If you are lucky enough to be passionate about something society values enough to pay well, you can have the best of both worlds.

How Do You Define Financial Success?

A lot of people define success as financial success alone. I fell into the trap. 

I wanted to be a millionaire by the time I turned 30. Why? I don’t know why. I wanted to be a millionaire so I could say I was one because that would somehow prove I was successful. 

 Now that I’m older, I know that isn’t the case.  Financial success doesn’t have to mean attaining a ton of wealth.

All I need is enough money to be able to support myself.

The amount of money required for financial success differs for everyone, depending on their situation. People with families may want to build generational wealth so that their progeny can have financially successful lives.

To me, financial success is mostly about having enough money to be able to do the things I want to do and ensuring that I’m not destitute at any point in my life.

 None of that takes millions of dollars, but it does take planning, budgeting, saving, investing, and making good financial choices. 

A lot of that can be done on an average salary.

What is the True Meaning of Success?

The true meaning of success is life success. A successful life is one where you are happy, joyful, and content. Returning to the original definition, it’s when your life has a desired or favorable outcome. 

What makes our lives favorable? What is the key to the desired outcome?

In a word – happiness.

Being happy is the key to a successful life, more so than money, financial gain, status, or anything else. 

But what does it take to be happy?

Happiness is different for everyone. Some people may find joy in a fulfilling career they are passionate about. Others may attain happiness by being a parent and raising children and grandchildren to be productive members of society. 

Everyone has different goals, dreams, passions, and aspirations, so achieving true happiness is different for everyone.

But I can tell you what doesn’t equate to happiness: money. 

Money doesn’t buy happiness

Money can buy you options, which can give you the opportunity to pursue happiness for yourself.

Rethink Success For a Happier Life

For a happy life, reconsider your definition of success. If it only relates to money, take a step back and think about what would really make you happy.