The definition of success

President Obama successSuccess. noun. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Last night I met with some girls I had been to high school with to organise our 20 year school reunion.

I hadn’t seen either of these girls since I left school (except for on social media) and I was instantly transported back to our ‘home room’. We all had a few more wrinkles and lines and also had a whole wealth of experience behind us we didn’t have when we left school.

Now all in our late 30s, most had had a couple of careers, lived in different countries, married and had kids, lived in our own house and owned investment properties. One was a successful lawyer, one was a marketing guru come school teacher after having kids and one was climbing the ladder in finance – who also had three kids. Between four of us, we had 11 kids – not bad going in under 10 years!

We were all in the same house group at school and so did some reminiscing about the good old days of school – swimming carnivals, school performances, teachers, friends and sport.

The conversation then turned to what everyone else in the school year was doing.

One girl had just published a book and so was an accomplished writer, one girl is living in New York as a well-known artist, someone is making a name for themselves as a doctor at one of the big hospitals. I couldn’t help but this ‘did these successes make them any more successful then us?’

So the questions begs: what is success? And how do we define it?

The actual definition of success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose – but that seems a bit wishy washy for defining life as being successful or not?

So I did some research to see what the ‘famous’ people say about success and this is what I found.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of Huffington Post says this about success ‘To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third metric – a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well being, wisdom, wonder and giving’.

British politician Winston Churchill describes it as ‘Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm’.

Richard Branson‘The more you’re actively andMaya Angelou success practically engaged, the more successful you will feel.’

Deepak Chopra – ‘Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals’.

Thomas Eddison – ‘Success is 1 % inspiration, 99 % perspiration.’

Woody Allen ‘Eighty percent of success in life if showing up’.

Carrie Fisher‘There is no point at which you can say ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap’.

Steve Jobs – ‘If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time’.

Maya Angelou‘Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it’.

Barack Obama ‘The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere’.

Anne Sweeney ‘Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live’.

Colin Powell‘Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence’

Michelle Obama ‘Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives’.

Nelson Mandela‘Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do. Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I feel down and got back up again’.

Albert Einstein‘Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value’.

So there you have it – not one ‘famous’ person defined success as money or power or owning your own house or flying your own plane.

Nelson mandela successThey resoundingly defined success as the ability to bounce back – to make mistakes and learn from them. Success is about building a community and those deep, solid relationships to share our lives with people who care. Success is not a destination, but a journey and really do you ever truly reach your own success or are you still searching for what success means at 80.

The three mums I spent my night with spoke of the importance of their children, husbands, parents, the upcoming school fair, friends – not about their jobs, wealth or number of houses they owned. The things that defined their success was the life they had built for their families and themselves.

School seems like a distant memory but last night meeting these girls again was grounding and put life into perspective. We had all done ‘well’ – but doing ‘well’ didn’t consist of material success but rather successes around family, community and the experiences we had had in life to make us ‘richer’.

How do you define success?

Want more? Sign up to BombardedMum’s newsletter here to receive more juicy articles on carving out our niche as a parent and all about raising kids .

About the Author: Anna Partridge

WY1_1829Anna Partridge is a Parent Educator, School Teacher and freelance parenting writer. She is also mum to three beautiful, highly spirited children aged 9, 8 and 5. She created to share the inspirations and joys of raising the next generation and to allow mums to think about the ‘big picture’ of parenting by providing tips and advice to instil the right habits, values and beliefs in their children from the start. Anna is privileged to work alongside families to create calm and balance, help raise confident and resilient kids and support strong and connected relationships. Anna offers private parenting and family coaching at

11 Responses to The definition of success

  1. Love this Anna 🙂
    For me, the definition of success has changed as I’ve changed – in my 20s it was all about career progression & ‘owning’ things, but now in my (late) 30s it’s about my family.

    I have my 20 year high school reunion this year too – I’ve been having lots of Romy & Michelle type flashbacks!

    • Thanks for sharing @MummaMcD. Success has changed for me too – very career driven in my 20s and since having my kids and retraining as a school teacher, I am not striving to be the best in an organisation but the best for my family and the things I want to work on. Enjoy your school reunion!!

  2. Wow 20 year reunion!! Well done for getting them together – we struggled just getting a handful together for our 10 year one recently. I adore Arianna Huffington’s book and her outlook on success. Last year was quite defining for me – after a long conversation with my Dad (who’s now in his late 70s) I spent quite a long time asking myself if what I was doing with my time really leading me to a satisfied, fulfilled life. I decided it wasn’t, so I quit my full time job so I could spend more time doing the things I love. That included spending time with my son, and writing. Sometimes we’re so busy chasing goals and climbing ladders to ‘success’ that we don’t even realise the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. Great post Anna!

    • Great realisation Joy@TheMamaMinute and good on you for following the things that will be best for you and your family. I definitely share your passion for writing and love what you are doing on The Mana Minute.

  3. My definition of success has certainly changed. It used to be all about career. Now I strive to enjoy life with my family and make memories. I love spending time with my daughter instead of climbing a corporate ladder, and feel so much less stressed all the time too, which is a nice result.

    • I am totally with you on the definition of success changing @Christine. And even without climbing that corporate ladder, you are clearly successful in the area you have chosen to be as a mum and writer – congratulations!

  4. We have our twenty reunion coming up this year as well. It is tempting to measure yourself against the people you went to school with – what you have achieved within the same time frame and given a similar launching pad. Comparison: that thief of joy. I think how I bring up my boys will be the greatest measure of my success.

  5. Absolutely love this piece! “Success is not a destination, but a journey..” – yes! “The things that defined their success was the life they had built for their families and themselves.” – yes! It’s funny how when we get together at reunions the people who tend to be noted or spoken about are those who have become famous, climbed the corporate ladder, etc. But there are many others who are just as successful creating lasting memories as they raise their beautiful families and get involved in their communities. I know what I’d prefer to be doing!

    • I absolutely share your comments Erika @Ever-changing Life of a Mum! I love we have the freedom to be able to redefine success and do the work we love while creating those lasting memories and fun times with our families. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a reply