How do you really define “Success”?

What do people mean when they say someone is successful? Do they mean that the person they call “successful” has reached a certain threshold that they aspire to reach themselves? Or there is an absolute minimum to be reached? Is there a threshold of achievement beyond which one could be called “successful”? Who decides that threshold? Why can’t I call myself successful?

Let’s take an example. Is a man who is just declared “successful” by newspaper headlines today not one yesterday? Why not? What did he to today to become successful? Assuming that he is capable of achieving more and there are already people who have achieved much more than him, why are we calling him successful today? Would a film star be called successful if he gives just one hit? If not then how many hits? If yes, then why? He could give five flops tomorrow and his career might be finished. Are we being premature?

A young man, who leaves his village for a decent paying job in a city like Mumbai might be called successful back home. His folks back in his village might look at the way he dresses, the way he talks and the way he spends money, and marvel at it. “Look at him,” they might say, “he has become a big man”. But this guy would be a nobody in Mumbai. A nondescript face in a vast sea of humanity.

The example above probably was an extreme case, but the point is if success is so relative, how can I find my place in the hierarchy of life’s achievements? Is it a constant attempt to define and redefine yourself? Your priorities, your happiness, your contentment?

If I am happy with myself, am I successful? Or, let’s say if I think I am successful, but I am not happy at all, am I really “successful”?

When I think I could one day lead a happy life doing what I love to do, I am always disturbed by the fact that someday someone will tell me that I am happy with myself because I have stopped trying to reach greater heights. He would say people who want to reach heights of success are in a perpetual state of unhappiness. And this unhappiness drives them further.

But this confuses me further.

Given that each of us lives a different life under different circumstances and contributes differently to the society we live in, is it possible that we have as many definitions of success (if not more) as there are people?

When I look at myself and try to find my own definition of success, I am assaulted by conflicting theories that I myself put forward and many cases people around me throw at me.

Am I successful? Am I not? Do I want to become one? Do I not?

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