How Americans Define Success

If you were to ask someone what they believe others feel success is, they will inevitably answer things like position, power, and wealth. If you ask them about what their personal definition of success is, however, their answers are very different indeed. And it does seem, indeed, that Americans no longer envy others for their success in terms of wealth, power, and position, but for their other achievements as well. For instance, Charles E Phillips Infor CEO is greatly respected for his professional achievements, his strong marriage to wife Karen, and for his philanthropic work. Few people know, or care about, his net worth or annual earnings.


So what do people put forward as definitions for success? Answers include:

  • Having a loving social circle of friends and family members.
  • Not having to worry about how to pay the bills.
  • Doing something you love doing.
  • That children are being raised to be compassionate, caring individuals.
  • How many other people you have positively influenced.

These pointers above seem to be the definition of success for almost every American. In fact, a study from Strayer University showed that 90% of people in this country believed success was about having good personal relationships and reaching personal goals. In fact, only 34% said that being rich equated to being successful.

There seems to be a collective shift in which Americans are starting to care about their wellbeing above all else. What is important about this, is that people also realize that the path towards success is no longer a single one, but rather that there are many opportunities available to them. Suddenly, becoming successful has become a personal journey.

The study also showed that 70% of people feel those who are successful have strong work ethics and are very focused. Around 75% said they would class themselves as successful. 51% said they had achieved the majority of personal goals.

What most people feel is that having a strong and supportive family network is the most important thing of all. That defines them more than what any ambition possibly could. This is interesting, since the breakdown of the traditional family unit is something that has been of particular concern to policy makers for many years.

That said, Americans do feel that some things still need to change in order for them to be truly successful. This includes:

  • 50% wanted a change of career, because are dissatisfied with their job to at least a degree.
  • 40% want to go back to college to change their education.
  • Most wanted to have better skills to manage spending, budgeting, savings, and investments.

It isn’t clear whether age played a role in how people answered the survey, although all respondents were over the age of 18. There is a feeling that younger people may still be more focused on how fast their career is moving, and that the elderly start to become more focused on their relationships and health. That said, all seem to agree that success is not a single thing, but rather a multitude of different particles.

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