achieve success

Success Is Not What You Think

What is Success? Success is not what you think… Think of the most successful person you know…

Why did that person come to mind? Are they wealthy? Highly educated? Happy?

Do you know for sure?

Often we label “successful people” as those who are financially abundant or in a position of power. Yet every year there are countless examples of “successful people” not having it all.

The famous musician who—we think—could get any partner they want, admits that they struggle with loneliness and desire a loving romantic partner.

The uber-wealthy businessman boldly shares his grief about not being there for his children while they were growing up.

The gold medalist shares their struggle with feeling a lack of purpose in life.

These people seem to have achieved success, but they don’t feel it. So what is true success if it’s not all about money and power? Is there a way to know if you’re on the path to success?

In this article, we’ll dive into what true success is and how to achieve it.

Emotions Measure Success

We often think we’ll achieve success once we “make it” and only then can we enjoy life fully. Once we have the dream home, the perfect family, and experience luxurious vacations, then we’ll feel fulfilled.

The truth is success is completely internal.

Motivation Picture Quote on Success

This means that no outside person can view a picture of you, read your job description, or see your net worth and tell you whether you are successful or not.

Those aren’t accurate measures of success. The only way to know if you are successful in life is to ask yourself the following questions:

Am I happy with the person I am?

Am I living up to my full potential?

Do I feel purposeful and valuable in life?

Your answers to these questions give you a clear picture of your level of success. Here’s why.

Most people spend what they earn. So even if you receive a 10% pay raise, your day-to-day tasks and lifestyle will not change.

Sure maybe you’d buy a slightly nicer car or take a great vacation which will bring you momentary happiness, but it will not change your life.

Even those who go from nothing to extreme wealth seemingly overnight will tell you, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” Why not? It’s the thing we’re all chasing, so why don’t those who get it sing its praises?

The more money you earn, the more you become used the that level of wealth. No matter how much it is, eventually you’ll become desensitized to its glory.

Here’s a common example. Say when you were younger you dreamed of becoming a nurse. You chose your path and did the work to achieve your dream. After years of exams, long days, and struggle, you did it. Instead of basking in the joy of your success, you’re now faced with the reality of the job you worked so hard to get. Crazy long shifts, not much free time, exhaustion, dealing with sick people who take their discomfort out on you…

Very quickly you lose the excitement around achieving your childhood dream and it just becomes your normal life. Your nurse’s salary which you thought would make you feel rich, soon doesn’t feel like enough.

achieve success

So how can you create a life that feels like a success?

Quit Comparison

Step one to start recognizing your success is to quit comparing your life to others.

Things are almost never what they seem. When someone posts about the overnight success of their new business, they carefully leave out the five years they had the idea, but let fear stop them from pursuing it. Then the two years they spent designing their business plan and learning how to make it happen. Then the full year of networking and reaching out to people before finding the team that could help them achieve a successful launch.

That “overnight” success was eight years in the making and thousands of hours of work. They made strides toward their success slowly, while keeping their day job, so by the time they publicly made the transition it looked like an instant success.

You didn’t see all that went on behind the scenes. Keep in mind that everyone is on their own journey. This will help you stay laser-focused on yourself and know that everything is happening in your favor.

Decide to Go For It and Make a Plan

Successful people believe in themselves. When you hear success stories all over the world they almost all start with a point in time where no one believed in them. They got no after no. Everyone told them it wouldn’t work.

The people who have a sense of knowing that everything will work out for them and decide to try no matter what others think are the ones who get the big rewards.

When you decide what you want to pursue, do not ask for advice or opinions from people in your life who have not done the thing you plan to do. Learn from those who have experience in your area of focus and then pave your own way.

Once you know why you are doing what you’re doing, each day feels more purposeful and fulfilling. It’s easier to wake up early and get to work when you have plans that excite you.

Since achieving big dreams doesn’t happen overnight, every single day should be designed to move you closer to your end goal. Do this by writing down 3 things you plan to accomplish the following day that contribute to your goal.

Planning just 3 things makes any task feel doable. It gives you a feeling of success at the end of each day and over just a few weeks elicits massive results.

If you want to write and publish an entire book, it may seem too daunting as a whole. First, you must decide to go after your goal. Then you can chunk your work with just 3 things a day. This could be:

  1. Write for one hour
  2. Email 10 possible readers
  3. Share 1 social media post to show the writing process and build excitement

If you get those three things done, you feel successful which builds the momentum that will propel you towards your end goal.

The Joy Is in the Journey

Have you ever had a big goal? Say you wanted to get a college degree.

While you’re attending classes you feel productive. You know exactly why you’re doing it, which helps you feel like you have a place in the world.

That’s what everyone is craving, belonging. You belong in those college classes because you, like all the other students in your class, are working towards earning a college degree.

What happens when you do it? You earn your degree, and maybe throw a graduation party to celebrate.

Very quickly the excitement wears off and you think, now what…

You lost your sense of belonging, no longer a student. Now you must face the world as a beginner, start from the bottom, and try to find a path that feels right. You felt purposeful and excited while on the journey to earning your degree, but now that you’ve achieved it you must find a new goal to pursue. That feels scary. But it’s common.

When you speak to people with financial success, many of them will talk about the good old days. They’ll say they were happiest when life was simple. When they were struggling to pay rent for their tiny apartment, working 20 hours a day to make their dream happen.

That was the good old days when compared to their life now full of lavish mansions and jet-setting around the world… Why?

Because joy comes from working towards something you believe in. Material possessions quickly lose their sparkle.

5 Buckets of Success

Successful people are not just those who earn a lot of money in their careers. The feeling of success comes from being happy with the person you are and what you contribute to the world.

To define what success means in your life, you must identify your values.

You can think about this in five buckets:

Career / Service to the World

Do you feel fulfilled with the work you are doing? Are you inspired and excited by the way you are serving the world?


Are you pouring energy into the relationships that are most important to you? Do you dedicate enough quality time to your loved ones?


Are you able to live the lifestyle you feel deserving of? Can you provide for yourself and your family without stressing about meeting your needs? Do you feel safe in your home? Can you nourish yourself and your family with healthy food, clean water, and adequate clothing?


Do you feel loved and accepted for who you genuinely are when surrounded by friends? Do you feel mentally and emotionally stimulated by the people you choose to spend time with?

Health / Relationship with Self

Are you spending enough time with yourself? Do you make time for the things that you love to do? Do you prioritize self-care by feeding yourself well, having a daily movement practice, and daily mental health practice like time in nature, meditation, or journaling?

Not all five buckets need to be balanced with an equal amount of time and energy invested. You get to decide your top priorities and what it takes to feel successful in each of these areas.

How to Feel More Successful?

Too often we feel the pressure to give all our energy to the career and financial bucket, which we know only returns short-term satisfaction. You can increase feelings of success by analyzing the five areas of success and investing in a bucket you’ve been neglecting.

Having a rich, meaningful conversation with a friend could be the spark you need to remind yourself how beautiful your life is.

An exercise you can do to quickly boost feelings of success is to write a letter to your younger self. When you think back to a younger version of yourself, what would they think of who you are now?

You might realize you’ve done everything you set out to do and more! When you realize how much you’ve accomplished and how much you’ve overcome, it’s easy to feel proud and excited about life.

Your life is up to you. Choose to live as the person that your future self will feel most proud of.

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