How Do You Define Success? Six Factors to Consider

by Ron Haynes

You’ve heard the cliche, success is a journey, not a destination. In many cases I agree. There is more fun in the chasing than in the catching. I went fishing with a friend of mine and caught a very large striped bass. He was thrilled and scrambled around to find a camera to take a picture. When I bent over to let the fish go, he said, “What are you doing? We can clean it and fry it up back at the cabin!” My reply was, “Man, I don’t want to clean this fish.” Then I let him go.

Tiny FishSuccess is like that. We love the thrill of the chase, the excitement of what’s going to happen, the what ifs, and the hopes that come with them. Once you’ve “arrived,” you have to set different goals to get those thrills again.

Too many people think that success is wrapped up in things, but the truth is, success is wrapped up in how you see yourself and how you’re able to enjoy your life. To have a completely successful life along these lines, you’ll need to consider these six components:

1. Peace of mind.

Can anyone truly consider themselves successful if they lack this ingredient? People around the world are constantly searching for peace of mind. I define peace of mind as freedom from fear, worry, anger, and guilt. I think we seek peace of mind through many channels, some of them are destructive and some are worthwhile. Some seek peace of mind through faith, some through money, others in relationships, others in work, ans still others seek to fill this void through participation in vices such as gambling or drugs. Very few ever truly find peace of mind outside of their faith, however. Success, no matter how you define it, must have peace of mind in the mix, otherwise your success will be bland and watered down.

2. Health and energy.

“Success” without good health and the energy to enjoy life isn’t success at all, it’s just a shell of what it can be. Many people that are financially successful in the world’s eyes spend their fortunes in desperate attempts to regain their health or to stay youthful and vibrant. Any success without health and energy is like a high performance car with no gasoline in the tank. As they say in Texas, “All hat and no cattle.”

3. Loving relationships.

No matter how much financial success someone enjoys, again, it’s a hollow feeling if you have no one to share it with. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, it can be parents, children, friends or other family members. Remember that Scrooge was financially successful, but he had no peace of mind and he had no one to share it with. His success was empty.

4. Financial freedom.

That is, freedom from thinking about money all the time. Not necessarily being “rich,” but having enough money to pay your bills, feed your family, and take care of basic necessities. For some, $50,000 in the bank would be plenty, for others, $5 million wouldn’t be enough. To be sure, many people think of finances when they visualize success and it IS a major component in our culture, but for the purposes of defining success, I’m talking about the feeling of freedom, that deep sigh that everything is okay.

5. Worthy goals.

Most people have financial freedom as their top goal, but once you have that big pile of cash, then what? That’s why you constantly see millionaires and billionaires getting involved in some type of other business venture or philanthropy. Many people misinterpret their chasing as greed, but for someone who is already financially rich, it’s the chase that they love. Money is just the way to keep score. Humans need to be chasing something. We desperately want to improve ourselves, or someone, or something. It’s just human nature. Either we move or we die.

6. Personal fulfillment.

Maslow called this step Self Actualization. This is the concept of “being all you can be,” of feeling like you matter and that you’re making a difference. This is the feeling that you aren’t just going through the motions for no reason, what you do and who you are is of vital importance. If you have the first five components, but feel unfulfilled and useless, you don’t enjoy the full measure of success.

Not all of your endeavors will incorporate all six of these, and any one of them can be a pursuit in itself, but many of these aspects will show up in your pursuit of success. You can adapt these six components into any goal you set for yourself. Money for example.

  • You’d want the security that it represents.
  • The ability to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle.
  • The relationships that improve with enough money. Many arguments involve money.
  • The freedom it represents. You can do more with it than without it, after all.
  • The ability to set goals much higher than “where’s my next meal coming from.”
  • Lastly, the ability to use money to bless the lives of others.

Applying it to finishing your degree and you’ll see:

  • That it represents the relief you’ll experience once you’ve finished.
  • The health and energy you’ll feel as a result of accomplishing your goal.
  • The relationships it can open up for you.
  • The potential for financial freedom it represents.
  • The higher goals you can now set for yourself.
  • The feeling that you became a new person through accomplishing your goal.

What are you chasing? What are the goals that you have and why do you have them? How do they mesh with the six aspects of success? How will your life change once you reach the goals you’ve set?

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.

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Neat list. I’ve never really thought of success as having so many layers, but it makes perfect sense. Were these in any particular order? I mean the last one made sense because its the highest need according to Maslow, but were the others listed that way on purpose? I think I’d like to hit financial success first and later work on the others 8) know what I mean?


Hey, thanks for commenting. Yes, true success does have multiple layers. I think of it this way, if I have 4 or 5 of these and one of them is missing from my life, could I really consider myself 100% successful? I don’t think so, at least not for me.

Were they in any order, no, not really. They all have equal weight in my book, though health and energy would be one that was way up there.

Andy Wood

I once asked a group of teenagers to list, in order, the five things it would take to make them perfectly happy. I must confess, I thought I had their answers pegged – vain things like a driver’s license, popularity, or a girlfriend/boyfriend. Boy was I wrong. Ninety percent of their answers had something to do with relationships. I’ve repeated the informal survey since, always with similar results.

Adulthood changes the way we keep score. And it changes our presumptions. But I don’t think it changes what matters most in terms of how we gain success in the truest sense of the word.

Thanks again for your great insights.



I am glad that I happened upon your site. You have a lot of great information that is very useful and good to have when one is not sure of where they are headed, or possibly how to head in a direction that fits what they are wanting to attempt and if something will work. I think you do a terrific job of making these lists that are an easy and useful tool in helping to point out what one may need to do to move forward in their attempt to reach a goal when they may have been stumped for direction otherwise.

I have found it helpful many times that by listing things it makes it more clear what needs to be done and in what order also. Your suggestions meet many needs that are basic and necessary to move forward and obtain some of the goals that may not have seemed obtainable if not for somone like yourself putting them to paper/computer for others to read.

I enjoy reading your posts and the replies, I think it is great that we can have so many insights of varying degree and all aimed at the end result of progressing one’s destination of a goal(s) with many ways to get there.

Thanks for taking the time to care enough to put all that you do down for others!

Best regards, Vi


For my understading it is being good in what you do in your career . This is what I can write about . If anybody knows how do define Success in your own terms please write me back as soon as possible .


Thank you for sharing these things.. I have be re-evaluating things lately and this gives me a new perspective.

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