What Success Really Looks Like vs. What People Think


One universal definition of success is complicated because it doesn’t consider any kind of level or degree of success nor does it include any emotions or status. The dictionary definition of success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, while simple and direct, if you ask anyone what the definition of success is, you find that everyone has their own answer.

Success is also often associated with happiness, the thought is that once you complete something you will be happy. We know that is far from the truth because not every successful person is happy, and a lot of unsuccessful people seem to be the happiest.

People think success looks like expensive cars

Success is subjective, it will differ from person to person based on many different things, from the way they were raised to the people they surround themselves with. Continue reading so you can learn to identify what society defines as success as well as how to recognize it in yourself.

What do most people believe success is?

People believe success to be money and cars

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word success? Is it a big house, expensive cars, or a lot of money? Don’t let this trick you into thinking it’s success. Many poor people buy expensive houses and cars they can’t afford so they can look rich and successful.

Many times we get confused about what success is because we see other people’s lives. Comparison is life’s way of stealing joy. Comparing your success with other people’s success is the fastest way to diminish your happiness and discredit all your hard work from your own success.

Unfortunately, it’s easier today than ever to compare ourselves to other people. We see so many celebrities and influencers on television and social media flaunting the nice things they have, and it can make us feel insignificant.

The truth is that success can only be defined by you. What you see as successful in your life is not the same as what’s successful in someone else’s life. It will be hard, but you can’t pay attention to what everyone else has.

Different upbringings can greatly determine what success is. If you grew up without money, success to you could be reaching financial freedom and finally not stressing and living paycheck to paycheck, if you did grow up with money and it was never an issue, success can look different for you.

Being successful can look like many things, whether it be financial, health, status, etc., but no matter what, it is defined by you and how you want to live and enjoy your life.

Read here about the most powerful motivators.

Difference between success and happiness

Happiness exit sign

Success and happiness can feel interchangeable or that one can’t exist without the other. Some think to be happy you need to be successful, and others think to be successful you need to be happy. Which do you side with?

In simple terms, success is feeling proud after having put time and energy into achieving a meaningful goal. Success is therefore something you can actively pursue and get results at the end. Depending on what your goal is, success to you can be a destination you attain.

Happiness is not a destination, it is a state of mind. It is not something you can pursue, instead, it is your perception of the situation and what you make of it. In other words, it’s just a feeling, like being sad or mad. You choose which to react to depending on what occurs around you.

Seeking happiness from success can leave you disappointed if you haven’t resolved your perception of things. To be happy and successful, you must be happy and unsuccessful. Happiness is work that you need to solve from within, not from things you can acquire.

Happiness can come from success if the success has value, meaning, and purpose behind it. If success puts you in a more comfortable state of living, then yes, that can bring you happiness, but beyond the money is more than status or material things.

What does real success look like?

What success looks like

In this survey by Emily Kestel, 60 people answered the question, “How do you define success?” and “What does success look like for you?” Check out the article here. There were 5 common themes from all the answers: having an impact, feeling happy and healthy, achieving work-life balance, accomplishing set goals, and being financially comfortable.

In another article from pursuethepassion.com, 13 definitions of success from different professions were revealed. You can check it out here.

After reading so many responses about what success means, it’s safe to say it is very subjective. Everyone had their own answer to what success looks like to them.

Something I noticed was that nobody said success was about having sports cars, big houses, or anything material or luxury of that sort. The overall common theme was living a joyful, comfortable, fulfilling, and freeing life.

Some people did have more ambitions than others, but that’s the beauty of it, everyone is living their life the way they want to.

Read here the about life-changing impact motivation has on the world.

What does success feel like?

What you feel after having success can depend on what you decide to pursue. You’re more likely to feel accomplished long-term if you went after something important and meaningful that added value to your life.

Success is a happy positive proud feeling. Typically, you get the successful feeling after you have achieved your goal, and now you are reaping the reward. There is now a weight lifted off your shoulders and a confidence that comes with knowing you succeeded in something you set out to do.

Success is a personal feeling because only you can understand all the hardships and barriers you had to go through to reach the destination. All the time, energy, and effort put into making your dream a reality was all done by you. It’s important to recognize that and be proud of yourself.

We all come from different backgrounds and have different stories to tell, so only you can appreciate all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into reaching your success.

Freedom comes with success. Setting goals to achieve something usually means changing your situation for a better life. Success ultimately comes down to having the freedom to live life doing exactly what you enjoy with all the people you love.

Read next: What does it mean to achieve a goal.

Hong Singer

I'm the creator of Ambition Forward. I keep things simple by focusing on the goal and being consistent in my actions to get the results I want, and I'm here to help you do the same. I encourage you to look for the things that bring you joy and go for it!

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