What is Success?

by Stephen Mills on January 31, 2010


A while back, Jonny at thelifething.com ask me to participate in a success eBook by answering two questions: What is Success? and How Do You Achieve it? I had to answer each question with a single sentence and that made it tough.  There are a lot of ways to answer both questions and putting them in a single sentence is necessarily going to limit your answer, but I thought it was great idea.  Head on over to The SUCCESS EBook (it’s free) and find out how 25 others answered the same question.  I was surprised at how many of the definitions of success reflected thoughts similar to mine in that they didn’t emphasize material success.

I answered that success was having the freedom and ability to do those things you truly want to do and that reflect your most deeply held values.  I said that you achieve success by eliminating the 80% to 90% of your commitments, activities, and relationships that don’t totally align with those values.

You may think that 80% to 90% is extreme, but I’m sticking with it.  When people are making the choices about what to stop doing to make room for the things they really want to do, they generally choose the easy stuff like watching less TV.  In reality most of what they think they have to do or is essential, are the things that do not reflect their true values.  I wrote about eliminating these in The Brain Surgeon, the Janitor, and the Six-Inch Pizza and Edit Your Life.

Another important factor in getting to meaningful success is detaching yourself from outcomes.  That may sound hard or paradoxical, but I don’t think it is.  It’s not what you get, it’s what you do.  A specific outcome is not going to make you happy.  Living your values is going to make you happy.  When you are successful, you aren’t attaining something, you are doing something.  At least that’s the way I look at it.  This was explored in A Values-Based Approach to Goals and Redefining Our Ultimate Goals.

What do you think?  Leave a comment and join the conversation.


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Success Posts From Around The World | thelifething.com
March 4, 2010 at 6:17 am

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Gordie - Lifestyle Design For You February 1, 2010 at 1:15 am

Hi Stephen,
I saw your quote in there and happen to agree with it mostly. I don’t know if I could eliminate so many commitments at once, but that’s the goal over time.


Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 1, 2010 at 6:15 am

I like the fact that you define success in an emotional way, which has to do with the emotions you experience, rather than external results. External results are just ways we try to make ourselves feel good. And sometimes fail miserably. 🙂

.-= Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..The Law of Attraction vs. Science =-.


Tess The Bold Life February 1, 2010 at 9:19 am

I absolutely agree with eliminating 80-9-% of our commitments, activities and relationships. We did exactly that in order to move to the South West a couple of years ago. We let go of the place we lived our entire lives, our kids, grandkids, friends, jobs…And here we are happy and warm. We’ve not filled our lives back up and like it that way;)

That’s what stood out for me, yet I agree with your entire definition and need to check out the ebook and the other posts.
.-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Born To Run =-.


April February 1, 2010 at 9:39 am

Hi Stephen,
I whole heartedly agree with you that success is having the knowledge of yourself, the courage and determination, and the good fortune, to pursue what you really like. I am also intrigued by the “Investment Banker and Mexican Fisherman”, although I couldnt find the article! Anyway, I made a rush site discovery visit today and will be back! I’m seeking kindred blogs…tired of all the bad news and negative programming out there, I started a blog last month to get more good, positive content onto the web to help make a difference spreading the good. Anyway, http://www.goodoodles.com is out there for any good it does and any feedback, guidance you can offer is always welcome! Thanks for yours and happy Monday!


Nimit Kashyap February 1, 2010 at 11:41 am

I totally agree with you “success is freedom”
.-= Nimit Kashyap´s last blog ..WordPress ecommerce plugin GetShopped =-.


Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com February 2, 2010 at 4:47 am

Success is how you define it. Make sure it is defined or the moving target will never be hit.
.-= Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com´s last blog ..Lessons From a Month of Meditation =-.


Farouk February 4, 2010 at 6:19 am

i strongly agree with you, few days ago i was thinking of bad moods and why do we catch them and i found that in most of the time we feel bad because of being forced to do things that we don’t want to do (going to a job that we dislike….etc)


Vin - NaturalBias February 4, 2010 at 8:34 am

Hi Stephen,

Here’s an excellent couple of sentences describing success that I learned from Paul Chek.

“Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.”

Success isn’t always the same thing as happiness!
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..A1 Beta Casein: The Devil in Your Milk =-.


Felicity February 14, 2010 at 3:52 am

Success to me is to touch a project to which I am apt to devote every moment with grit, eradicating fear of its outcomes. This definitely complies with your wisely composed article here (“detaching yourself from outcomes”).


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