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What is the true definition of success?

“Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.”

― Aldous Huxley

Success, what does this word mean? In the Oxford Dictionary, it is simply described as ‘the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose’ the aim or purpose here could be wealth, social status or fame. This definition, generally speaking, envelops all the other definitions of success. However, when we think about the importance of the word in our lives, this definition looks quite bland. It fails to do justice to the greatness of the feeling that we think we ought to feel when we become successful. It barely describes the divine positive glow that we perceive on the faces of the so-called successful people.

So, rather than believing in what the dictionary tells us, we search for the right definition in movies, in self-help books, in biographies or in any other medium that describes success as a superbly grand feeling of achieving something. We experience a part of that feeling while going through these movies or books, and thus form the opinion that success might be the only thing worthwhile in life. If we do not become successful, our life amounts to nothing.

Misrepresentation of success by the media

rags to richesLife is much more ordinary in comparison to how the media makes it appear. Over the decades, after careful evaluation and manipulation of its viewers, media has apprehended a very particular picture of what its users want from it. Whatever we see on the most popular media outlets has to first pass through a series of quality tests that determines the commercial viability of the content. In short, we are not told the truth, but we are told that which is entertaining.

In this scenario, the word ‘success’ has emerged as something of a great brand value. For example, people particularly like to see the ‘rags to riches’ story. The story about a person from humble backgrounds who strove hard for greatness and success, and ultimately achieved them after putting in much effort and hard work. This story generates a high viewership and – if told in an effective way – it never fails to move the audience.

The psychology behind it is quite simple. Most of us can relate to the person with the humble backgrounds, and what the person ultimately achieves is what we want from our lives. No, we do not particularly like acting or singing or creating something; we like to be rich, famous and – most of all – to be appreciated for what we are doing. From his example, the person of the story shows us a way of getting what we want, and inspired by that, we decide to make our career choice, which has nothing to do with our genuine interests and everything to do with our desire to be recognized and to be loved. 

Don’t judge a book by its cover


Looks can be deceiving. What we see in the media is just the face. It is far from the complete truth. For every person succeeding, there are thousands of failures, and since those who give the opportunities to others themselves are so imperfect, sometimes even the truly talented don’t get a chance. The worst part is, as failure without success doesn’t have a brand value, it gets completely edited out. We don’t even hear about it. The only failure we mostly come across in media is the transient one that comes in the life of the so-called successful. It is an extremely brief account of years of hardships that lasts for just a few minutes on the screen or a couple of pages in books. It is ultimately overshadowed by the success that comes right after that.

It might sound painful. But this is the truth. Just like media, we too edit it out from our conscience, letting only the rosy celluloid dreams stay there. It’s easier to do than to question the veracity of the range of information that we come across on a daily basis. As what would our lives be if we find out that even our hardest efforts might not give us the result we desire?

The thing we commonly believe in as success is nothing substantial, it is a myth created by the media for its own gains. We must get past it and discover a reliable and more realistic definition of success if we want to save ourselves from any deception and disappointment. Here is how you should go about it.

Success lies in the process not in the achievement

Success lies in the processIf you have ever seen how a movie is made you might know that it is a very tedious and boring process. Same is the case with writing a book or practicing for a sport or even devising a business strategy. All these things would appear boring to everyone except those who feel an irrepressible inner urge to excel in them, to master them. Such people are more interested in thoroughly learning the craft than to be able to make money and fame out of it. They won’t leave it even if they are told that success and fame just don’t exist in what they are doing.

This is what the true calling is. To be able to enjoy and to have a profound interest in what you are doing. It is one of the better definitions of success. Doing things just for the sake of money isn’t the way to go. Work is likely to occupy most part of your adult life. Luxury, comfort or anything you make from money, though important, would fill a comparatively smaller portion of your life.  Making career decisions based on something like that is bound to repress your inner instinctive impulses, which might lead to a general dissatisfaction with life.

The true definition of success is subjective

winning approachEverybody is different, and so success is different for everybody. There aren’t a few types of jobs that no one likes to do. However, to progress as a society, it is necessary that those jobs be done. Many of us, who are unable to discover their true calling, settle for something they don’t find that attractive. It’s okay if you do that too. You can look for your success in other things.

You don’t have to be rich and famous to make your loved ones proud of you. Just be there with them. Understand the little things that make a difference in their lives, and make doing them your top priority. Be kind to others. Rather than looking for happiness in what you do, just be happy and do your work. Happiness is a choice that you can make and not a condition, and true success lies in choosing to be happy not in wishing for happiness.


Dr Prem Jagyasi (c)

Dr Prem is an award winning strategic leader, renowned author, publisher and highly acclaimed global speaker. Aside from publishing a bevy of life improvement guides, Dr Prem runs a network of 50 niche websites that attracts millions of readers across the globe. Thus far, Dr Prem has traveled to more than 40 countries, addressed numerous international conferences and offered his expert training and consultancy services to more than 150 international organizations. He also owns and leads a web services and technology business, supervised and managed by his eminent team. Dr Prem further takes great delight in travel photography.

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