What is success? We are always striving for it, but how and when do we know that we have achieved it?

There are probably as many definitions of success as there are people in the world. Each of us has his or her personal vision of what success is. For some success means fame and fortune, for others it means having a loving family, for others it means happiness.

 Dictionary.com defines success as 1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors, 2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

Maxwell Maltz, author of the seminal book Psycho-Cybernetics, used the word success as an acronym to define success:

S – Sense of direction, goals

U – Understanding of others

C – Courage to act

C – Charity

E – Esteem

S – Self-Confidence

S – Self-Acceptance

My favorite definition of success comes from Earl Nightingale’s recording The Strangest Secret: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthwhile goal.” The key part of this definition is the phrase “progressive realization.” This means that you are striving or progressing towards your goal; you are not standing still or moving backwards. You are taking positive steps in the right direction, even if they are miniscule baby steps. Sometimes we do digress, but on the whole we are moving forward. As the old saying goes, “one step back, two steps forward.”

Notice that Nightingale’s definition does not state the “attainment a worthwhile goal.” It is the striving, the work we put in towards our goals that makes us successful, not the attainment of that goal. Success is not a destination, rather it is a process. We are successful when we are trying.

Success does not mean that you don’t fail. Failure is part of life and part of the learning process. One of the fallacies of our education system is that students are punished for failing. Their tests and written assignments are returned with red pen marks pointing out their “mistakes.” Instead teachers should point out what the students have done right and show students what their strengths are.

One of my favorite quotes is: “The difference between a failure and a successful person is that the successful person has failed more times.” A person who is a failure gives up and quits trying. A successful person overcomes his or her mistakes and continues trying, continues to make mistakes, continues to succeed.

Don’t give up. Continue to try and you will be considered a success.

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