How to be Successful in Life



For a long time, I have strived to get ahead in life, but I didn’t really know how to be successful in life.  As the years have gone by though I have come to learn something about the path to success and how to achieve it.  Now after having some time to practice the method, I am ready to share my perspective with you.

Do you know how to be successful in life?

Success Definition

Per the norm here, let’s first take a look at what the definition of the word success is at

Define-Success-at-Dictionary-comAs you can see, according to them you basically achieve success by the completion of one’s goals, the attainment items or position, or as achieving honors.  While these can all be markers of success, I have come to find myself that I have a much better way of measuring true success.

What is Wrong with the Classic Definition?

The Class definition is the old way.  Now it is time for a new way.

First let’s dive into the classic definition here and see how it is flawed and often leads to self-destructive behavior.  Now first I would like to point out that it is not 100% wrong, but the general perspective that goes hand in hand with that leads you down a dangerous path.

You see achieving a goal is a success, but does that mean you are a successful person?  We can all set goals, easy or hard, and achieve them, but that does not necessarily that we are a success.  We can also achieve wealth, position and so forth to the point that society says we are a success, but just as those things can happen they can be undone.  Should that happen, are you no longer a success?

I think now you might be starting to see what I am getting at here.  Whether or not we attain our goals or reach a certain level within society it does not truly translate into us being a successful person.  What it does do is define our successful moments in life, but at a cost that might be more than some are willing to pay.

Let’s take a look at an example:

Martin is going on a hiking trip to a very beautiful and arduous trail.  He is so excited to reach the summit of the trail where there is a breathtaking view to behold and this is his ultimate goal.

Martin’s goal is to reach the trail summit and enjoy the view.

He spends a lot of time gathering all of the things that he will need for his trip and all throughout that process he is envisioning himself enjoying the view at the end of the trail.  It drives and motivates him throughout all of his preparations.

Finally, the time arrives and Martin proceeds out on his journey.  He walks fast and with purpose, reaching the summit is still driving him as he hikes along the trail.  However, bad weather sets in and not long before the summit, he is forced to turn back before reaching his goal.

Looking at the above example, was Martin successful in his journey or was he a failure?  He did not achieve his goal of looking out from the summit and enjoying the grand view, but does that really make it a failed moment in life?  Is he a failure?  Do I have you thinking now?

The Secret to Success

A great book that goes well beyond just confidence.

So now that I have the wheels in your head turning, I bet you are wondering what the secret to success is?  Well, after reading the book The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris and combining what I learned from it with my own life experience and practicing it, I now have the key.

The key to living a successful life comes down to living a life by your values.  In order for me to explain this a little better, let’s revisit our example above:

Jenny is also going on the hiking trip with Martin.  She is excited about this beautiful view that martin has been telling her about.  However, she just loves the outdoors and is happy to be out and active in it.

Jenny prepares for the trip just like Martin.  However, instead of the summit being her focal point she is taking this trip because of her values.  Some of the values that she lives by that are pertinent to this trip are:  Being Active, Socializing, Being Adventurous & Exploring Nature.

As they begin their journey, Martin is always talking about reaching the summit and enjoying the view.  For Jenny though, she is enjoying Martin’s company and every step of their adventure.  The feel of the breeze blowing through the woods against her face, the subtle smells of the forest, and all of the beauty of it with each turn in the trail all bring her joy.

While Martin pressed onto the summit, Jenny was succeeding with every step of the journey.

As you can see here, Jenny is enjoying every moment or step of the journey as it is aligned with the values in life that she finds important.  Martin is so focused on just the goal at the end of the trail that he is disappointed with the trip and views it as a failure.  Jenny on the other hand had a great time despite not achieving the overall goal.

I think now you are starting to understand the perspective that I am bringing to the table, but how can you work this into your life?

Applying the Key

The Key to success is living through your values.

So now that you know the key to living successfully is to live life by your values, let’s take a look at making sure you understand just what your values are.  Most of us live our lives with certain values, but often they are truly undefined or focused on per say.

First thing is first, let’s define what your values are that motivate you through life.  This is a task that is easier said than done, so don’t fret if things don’t come to you right away.  Your first task though is to start thinking about what motivates you the most in life and then list out your top 5.  Obviously there are a lot more values that guide our lives, but to get you started down this road let’s just work with the most important ones first.

Using myself here as an example I will tell you what my top 5 values are:

  1. The Golden Rule
  2. Love
  3. Commitment
  4. Forgiveness
  5. Honesty

Looking at my list, the most important value in my life is the Golden Rule.  Working in a sales/customer service type industry, I am constantly working with various people and this gives me many opportunities to act on my value of the Golden Rule.  Every time I am able to treat someone the way I would expect to be treated, I am successfully living my life.

The same goes for the other ones listed here.  Each time I get the opportunity to show Love, Commitment, Forgiveness and Honesty, I am living successfully according to my values.  I think that now you can really understand how to live a successful life, right?

Share Your Thoughts

Please share your thoughts and perspective with us.
Please share your thoughts and perspective with us.

As always I would like to invite you to share your thoughts with us in an effort to help us all see a little more perspective into the subject.  Whether you have questions still or a story that you could share with us to support this, just leave it below in the comment section below.  Please don’t hold back, it could be your perspective that helps unlock this concept for someone else!

If you enjoyed this content, please take a few minutes to take a look at some of the other articles that I have written here:

Thank you for stopping by today and I wish you well on your journey through this life.

James W D

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16 Replies to “How to be Successful in Life”

  1. Thanks for an insightful post about success and values. For me it’s important to live by my values or it doesn’t feel right like a shoe that doesn’t fit. If I don’t do that something inside me starts to feel wrong and it comes out in different odd ways until I grab it and turn things around again.
    Just being alive is a success. We don’t have to be anything to be successful.
    But when that said I also want to be successful in what I do but if I fail I am still a success.


    • Tove, You are very welcome. Happy to share my knowledge and perspective with the world in an effort to make it a better place. I think you are very right in that just being alive is a success, however those feelings do get escalated when you are able to live by your values. Failures and mistakes are also very important as they provide you with a learning opportunity to do better next time you are in a similar situation. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us!

  2. Hey man, great post. Truly inspiring. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I judge my life, and if I am happy with where I am, am I a success? I guess it is age creeping up on me. Your post has given me some really cool new ideas to think about. I like what you say about just because we achieve our goals, doesn’t mean we are a success, and just because sometimes we don’t, doesn’t mean we aren’t. I’m gonna go away and think ha.

    • Matt, Glad I was able to get the wheels turning in your noggin there. That is what this site is all about, changing the world for the better one person at a time. Hope to see you back someday with the thoughts and perspectives that you come up with now that you are thinking about it.

  3. Nice post, I have to say I am a bit like Martin and living my life based on what I thought was the best for me, goals, goals, goals. This article made me stop and think a bit more about values and if I am really happy as I thought I was. There are many things I need to change in my life and I believe I might have been trying too hard and putting my family and friends a side. Life is too short and I am sure I will achieve my goals sooner or later but I have to try to achieve them with more balance in my life. Thank you James, keep on doing great job

    • Lenka, Thank you for sharing your story with us. I was striving to become like Martin and it never sat well with me. As I uncovered this perspective it was like I was finally able to see again. As an added benefit of putting your values first is that family and friends are high up in that department.

  4. Okay here goes. Top five….family, happiness, meaningfulness, ethics and morals, making a difference. I think that’s it–family is very important to me, and happiness while it constantly eludes me is definitely something I strive for. I want to live a meaningful life–meaning i want to have helped people, changed the world for the better. Ethics and morals meaning i live by a set of rules that do not change no matter how i am treated. I think this is similar to your Golden Rule. Finally, Making a difference–that’s sort of included above, but i want to leave the world a better place when i die. Thank you for this post.

    • Hillary, Thank you for sharing your values and the perspective behind them. I think that we are both very similar people as I could have easily been the author of your comment. As a matter of fact, the whole reasoning behind this site is my way of making a difference in the world. You’re welcome and thank you for stopping by, I hope to see you again.

  5. Hey, James!
    Love Jenny & Martin…I’m def a Jenny. I’ve always felt that being successful was a matter of perspective, and, can be measured by not what you achieve, but how and why you chose that path.

    • The Jenny & Martin example is a great way to show exactly what I am working on explaining. I am glad to see that you and others here so far have really enjoyed the example. I totally agree with you that success is a matter of perspective and not something that can be determined by society. It is all about the how and whys!!

  6. Great post….I have one values in life that I’m applying to my self everyday, and I think for me this is the most important. For me is “commitment” everything you do in your life if you have commitment, I’m sure every person who doing this will become successful in his/her life. Thanks for sharing this post!

    Excellent motivation!


    • Eric, Commitment is certainly a great value and one that I hold high as well. I have always done my best to make my kids understand how commitment works and why it is a very beneficial value. It certainly has paid dividends with them!

  7. James,

    I love your top 5 Values! I would say I have a very similar list, though I had never really thought about it. I’ve also worked in 2 retail environments. In both cases, I was happy to work there because I always knew that when a customer had an issue, I could deliver the exact same outcome for them that I would want if I were in their position. I could never work for a business that was “OK” with cheating or tricking its customers.

    I agree that “success” cannot just be about achieving a goal. Though by that scorecard, I have certainly been extremely successful! Yet it didn’t always turn out to make me happy.

    For example, I decided I wanted to transition from a magic clown (yes, I am a clown college graduate!) to a standup comedian. I moved to San Francisco (this was in the early 1980s) and started performing at open mikes. One night, a headliner called me over to his table, and asked, “Can I talk with you?”

    Of course I said yes! I was sure he was going to offer me an opportunity to work with him, and that my career was about to take off! Instead, he said, “You’re not really a standup comic. You’re more of a storyteller.”

    From the very depths of my being, I thought, “I’ll show you!” And I proceeded to work for 7 long years to prove him wrong. And I did! I learned to write standup jokes: “setup – punchline.” And I honed my craft and delivery. I won a competition and became sought after. And I was just ready to take my act on the road.

    Yet I hesitated. Why? I struggled with the question, and looked deep down within me. And I realized I was tired of writing “setup – punchline.” I wanted to write longer, more varied pieces. Sure, I wanted to make people laugh, but I also wanted to make then ponder, wonder, think, cry, and delight. I realized, I was not really a standup comic, I was more of a story teller.

    I was struck with a sudden realization: that comedian HAD BEEN TRYING TO DO ME A FAVOR! And show me my true interests.

    So, I had succeeded as a standup comic, then quit, and got a Master Of Arts in Writing from the University of San Francisco, to pursue my true calling!

    Not that my standup days were a waste, but their success did not make me happy.

    Thanks for another insightful post!


    • Roger, First off thank you very much for sharing your story as it certainly provides another great insight to this perspective. It certainly goes to show that true success is when we are aligned with our values as that is also when we can experience true happiness. Like you said, that experience was not a waste, as in hindsight here you are now able to see a bit more as to the why things were the way they were. Glad to see that you stopped by again, much appreciated!

  8. James, I loved your example with Jenny and Martin. I am definitely trying to be like Jenny and always keep in mind that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. It works great for me when I am on a road trip… that’s the time when I enjoy every foot of the journey and don’t care much about having a plan or have any goals set. Whenever I am surrounded by “old way success” people, I get pulled into their world and think about achieving goals no matter what and no matter how. And that’s why I travel so much. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Eva, That is great that you already have a good angle on making this transition. I used to be very much in your shoes as far as that was concerned. After reading The Confidence Gap I was able to take my beliefs to a whole new level and was able to tie in many other areas of my life with it as well. Next time you find yourself surrounded, just do your best to be a positive example for them!

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