Success

Being successful

What is success?

Generally regarded as a favourable outcome that has been worked towards, success is a state of accomplishment. Successful endeavours come in many walks of life. For example, success to a sports team might mean winning a match against an opponent. There again, it might be something that is sought in a commercial sense, by succeeding against specific sales targets, for example. Some people regard success as a much more personal matter that revolves around their cultural development or spiritual learning. As such, success means different things in different contexts. Even in the same context, success can be looked at in different ways. For example, a successful person might feel they have failed unless they top a leaderboard, whereas someone who is up and coming might view success as having been achieved with much more modest goals being achieved. As such, it is a relative concept that can never be exactly defined.

Can success be measured?

Although whether something is successful or not is generally accepted according to certain norms, there is plenty of grey area in the middle, which means success can be argued about. Therefore, many people define successfulness according to pre-ordained criteria. For example, a business may set itself a target of achieving a certain level of turnover within the forthcoming year. If it reaches this, then it declares itself as successful and deems itself to have failed if it does not. These measurements of success are usually self-appointed, however. Indeed, they may be altered according to changing conditions. As such, there is no independent measure of success that applies in all cases.

Will success make you happy?

Many people believe that the more successful they are – or perceive themselves to be – the greater happiness they will enjoy. Although a sense of self-failure will often lead to negative thoughts which can make people unhappy, being outwardly successful is not always synonymous with great joy. In fact, many supposedly successful people will often not be truly happy since happiness often derives from other factors, such as good family life, for example. Of course, short term successes can bring great positivity, but these are not the foundations on which long-lasting happiness is always built.

How do psychologists refer to success?

According to some psychologists, there is a relationship between a positive mental attitude and success. In short, people who have a mindset of success will often define themselves as more successful. Whether or not such people are really more successful than others when judged objectively is an open question. That people's cognitive approach to accomplishment and failure relates to their self-worth seems in little doubt, however.

How can you enjoy greater success?

Setting yourself achievable goals is a big first step. Too much ambition can lead to an almost immediate sense of failure. Don't try to achieve everything you want in one go. Take steps every day that you can ascribe to being successful. This way, you'll get a sense of progress even if you are not yet where you want to be.

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Confidence is usually defined as being assured that something is going to happen in a predictable way. For example, most people are confident – even if they could never really be entirely sure – that the sun will come up tomorrow. As such, confidence tends to be built on the experience of past events. When someone has become convinced of something, their behaviour may change accordingly. For example, a gambler may bet a larger sum if they have greater confidence in the outcome. Lack of it, alternatively, may mean wagering a lower amount or not betting at all. Being confident, therefore, can lead to greater risk-taking activities, but it may also mean being more assured in what you intend doing anyway. At a personal level, confidence means being assured of what you aim to achieve or say.
Although there are other terms, such as valour and bravery, courage is the word that is most used when dealing with issues of appropriate actions taken in trying circumstances. For example, a soldier who endangers his or her life to destroy something without merit may be brave for so-doing but is not necessarily courageous. Physical courage means being able to suffer threats, pain and hardships in order to achieve something. However, it is only when that something is worthy that it is truly courageous since moral courage applies. This means proceeding in the knowledge that it is the right thing to do. To many people, moral courage is something that takes a lot of effort since it will sometimes mean acting on your own, without support, or when others are actively discouraging you.
Motivation has the same root as the word motive. As such, it is best described as the various phenomena that give us a motive to do something. A motivation to eat, therefore, might be feeling hungry. Psychologists try to explain how people behave largely by what motivates them. In theories of leadership, for instance, motivation is often used to give people a reason to do something, such as offering a reward for success. For many people, however, being motivated is something that comes from within, a sort of self-drive, if you will. As such, there are both conscious and unconscious forms of motivation.
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