What does ‘success’ mean to you?

what does success mean to you

I’m sometimes asked why I’m always talking about success. Why not ‘fulfilment’ or ‘happiness’?

And it’s not that *I’m* obsessed with success, it’s that we’re *all* obsessed with success.

Traditionally the image of success that so many of us have been striving for has been the prestigious job title, a comfortable salary, the big house, a snazzy car and, more and more, lots of exotic travels around the world. These days we have a new image of success emerging with all the ‘thought leaders’ and entrepreneurs who are bestselling authors, impactful speakers and all-round gurus in hustling and making money while they sleep.

We’re bombarded with these images on social media, where people are inevitably presenting their absolute shiniest self, as most of us share only our successes (along with a bit of moaning now and then).

So I talk about success because it’s what we’re all talking about.

But more than that, I talk about success because, when it comes down to it, success means ‘the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose’ – and this opens up to your own personal definition of success in a way that is meaningful to you and that will bring you that happiness and fulfilment that we’re talking about more and more as well.

In my efforts to redefine what success means to me and to help others do the same, I’ve been exploring this idea via a survey (you can still answer the questions here if you haven’t already done so!) as well as through questions asked in my private Facebook group. I’ll be continuing this research but, in the meantime, I wanted to already share some insights.

Watch the Facebook Live video if you prefer that to reading 🙂

So, first: what does ‘success’ mean to you?

Well, at a general conceptual level, there were quite a few different ideas thrown out:

happiness, freedom, independence, flexibility, balance, having time, feeling inspired, feeling fulfilled, feeling appreciated, being able to do what you want, wanting what you have, personal satisfaction, financial security, stability

“When you get out of the bed looking forward to the day ahead and later, go to bed with satisfaction on the day’s achievements and have a good night sleep.”

Sounds good to me!

Then there are also specific areas that people have referred to.

(1) health and wellbeing

good health, simplicity, living hassle free, being close to nature, being in harmony with yourself

(2) family and friends

loving family, close friends, personal relationships, people I love, bringing joy to others

(3) learning and challenging yourself

to keep learning, achieving meaningful goals, learning from each experience, solving problems, using my strengths and my potential, being good at what you do, doing your best

(4) work and career

having an impact, making the world a bit better than before, enjoying what you do, passion for what I am working on, belief in what I am doing, empowering others and changing the world, making a positive difference in the lives of others, contributing to society, being ethical, being engaged in what you’re doing, getting recognition

(5) fun and enjoyment

having the time to enjoy the world, being able to take spontaneous decisions, having enough money to do the ‘extras’

Next, what are the biggest contributors to success?

Again, some of those areas crop up here as well.

my husband, being married to the same woman, having support from friends and family, having friends to talk to, my beautiful children, being connected to the right people

passion and love for what I do, having discovered what I’m good at and what I enjoy

having earned enough money to live comfortably, not being tied to material things or places

having courage, not being afraid to try new things, setting goals, planning and following through, determination not to give up, doing the right thing no matter how hard, hard work, resilience, tenacity, perseverance, determination, being patient, being humble, being practical, being true to yourself

One of my favourite quotes:

“I am now exploring how to be successful according to the standard set by myself.”

And what are the biggest obstacles?

Basic mindset and beliefs

being brought up to be career driven with the assumption that my personal life would fall into place, self-doubt, lack of confidence, negative thoughts, demotivating thoughts, fear of jumping, fear of letting go, not knowing the essence of yourself, laziness, hesitation to move and end up at the same place

“I’m struggling with my own fears around stepping away from conventional ‘success’ and finding what I really want.”


I’m not proud of what I’m doing or where I’m doing it, it’s negatively affecting my personal life and my wellbeing, my work is taking too much energy, I’m very frustrated in my professional life, I get caught up in paperwork that has to be done, I hate my job, my career does not challenge me

“I want to wake up in the morning with a sense of purpose. I want to know that the work I do is helping people who need it. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a corporate world doing [insert mindless task here].”


a lack of financial abundance to allow you to have the impact that you want, not making as much as you would like, a lack of financial stability, a lack of a consistent flow of income

“I am putting off doing what I want because I need (or think I need) the financial security of a day job.”

A lack of clarity and focus

figuring out what I want to do, having a lack of focus, feeling directionless, not knowing my life purpose and therefore having a lack of motivation, inability to decide on what I want to do next, being at a crossroads and not being able to determine the next milestone, taking that first step out of my comfort zone, getting distracted

“Something is missing. And the scary part is – I don’t know what.”

“I need a change, but don’t know what kind of change.”

“I’m not sure if I’m on the right path.”

“I’m not sure how to get there.”

And it’s this last part that I want to focus on.

In my experience, the biggest barrier to achieving your goals – whether we’re talking about a career change, setting up a business, or some other constellation of success that you’re working towards – is not knowing what your goals are.

Not knowing what you want to do makes you dilute your efforts across different ideas, it means you’re not completely committed because you’re not sure it’s the right thing for you, and it means that you’re unlikely to end up where you want – as you don’t know where that is!

Once you work out what it is that you want – and I’m afraid this is often the hardest part! – the rest will start to fall into place. It will still be hard work but I promise you that the immense focus and determination that you get from getting clear on your goals will make things so much easier after that.

What next?

There’ll be much more to come in the next few weeks and months about how we can get this clarity and how we can start to take those steps towards our own definition of success.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you to broaden your idea of ‘success’ and to start to consider different areas of your life, beyond the traditional obsession with work and career. To help you do this, I’ve created a little ebook with details on the 5L model (which coincides with those areas of success that I highlighted above!) along with a quiz to help you to assess where you are today.

Get the free ebook here >>


6 Responses

  1. What a great post with a lot of really useful definitions which I wish I had read many months ago when soul searching and trying to define who I am. As part of this process I also needed to try and come up with my own definition of what success meant for me and this led to me creating something I am calling Life Nomad – kind of an extension to the standard Digital Nomad definitions:

    “A person who has given themselves the freedom to make full use of their skills to live the life of their choosing wherever this may be with integrity.”

    Maybe the above might help others in some way.

    Thanks again

    1. Thanks Andy, I love it! There are a few really powerful parts to that definition: FREEDOM, which a lot of us strive for; making full use of our SKILLS – something that I’m a big believer in, as a win-win for the individual and the business/the world; living a life of your choosing – intentionality; and integrity. Very nice! I look forward to following you as you continue your journey 🙂

  2. I’m looking for a survey to use with my teenager and teenage niece to help them see what success means to them, then I can work with them to see goals and prioritize. Do u have a survey that will guide them through this? Or know where I can access one for free?

    1. Hi Lynette! I love the sound of this! I have done presentations to teenagers at schools but I don’t have a questionnaire as such that I can give you. What you can do is use my success audit and then tweak it for a younger audience. The point for me is to consider these different areas: health and fitness, relationships, learning new skills, having an impactful career and having fun! You can find the audit here: https://onestepoutside.com/successaudit. In conjunction with this, they can also listen to my podcast episode on setting goals for the year: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/rs58-a-review-of-2019-and-a-plan-for-2020/id1444846932?i=1000461337985.
      Let me know your thoughts!

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