4 Definitions of Success That Will Never Fully Satisfy You

UPDATED: May 27, 2024
PUBLISHED: November 18, 2016

We all have our own definition of success, right?

For some it’s to work for themselves, build a business, travel, migrate to another country, master a particular skill or craft. It’s great to have a definition of success—to outline your goals and dreams. It’s what motivates us to strive, thrive and grow.

Related: How 5 Successful People Define Success

But there are certain things people attribute to their idea of success that just aren’t as satisfying as you think they might be. They never truly satisfy, and if they do, it’s only temporary.

Here are the four definitions of success that will never fully satisfy you:

1. Achieving Enormous Wealth


“Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold.” —Bob Marley


We all start out wanting to be rich, don’t we? Perhaps when we’re younger and know less about the true joys of life.

How many of the world’s billionaires do you think started out with the goal of making a billion dollars? Most likely none of them. They became billionaires, but that wasn’t their true intention. They wanted to change the world. They wanted to have an impact on people’s lives.

Mark Zuckerberg was obsessed with creating Facebook and connecting the world. Jeff Bezos wanted to build the largest and simplest e-commerce companies. Making it your sole intention to earn millions or billions is never the road to lasting satisfaction.

2. Having a Lot of Friends


“Nobody likes being alone that much. I don’t go out of my way to make friends, that’s all. It just leads to disappointment.” —Haruki Murakami


Wanting to be liked by everyone is innately human. But this simple fact can seriously damage our lives in ways you might not expect. When you aim to build and maintain a lot of friendships, it causes several problems:

  • You often go out of your way to do things for people who are happy to ignore or belittle you whenever it suits them.
  • You try your best to please everyone, which means your attention is spread out, and you’re not there for the true friends you have when they need you the most.
  • You might not end up building strong relationships with a few individuals, and therefore you won’t have people in your life willing to do anything for you. You’ll just have a lot of people who aren’t willing to do much.

Related: Why You Need to Surround Yourself With Like-Valued People

Your goal shouldn’t be to build a ton of friendships in life, but simply to search and find unbreakable friendships with a select few.

3. Retiring at an Early Age


“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” —Marc Anthony


Many people enter into entrepreneurship wishing to retire by the time they’re 30 or 40 years old. It’s certainly possible. The issue is that once you find something you truly love doing, you won’t want to suddenly stop doing it. You’ll want to continue doing it until the very end.

Look at people like Warren Buffett. He is 86 years old and he continues to work because he loves it. Being one of the richest men in the world, he could certainly have retired more than 30 years ago, but he didn’t. Passion. That’s what it is.

So having the goal to retire at an early age probably means you’re not going to enjoy what you’re doing in order to get there. You’re simply selling the best years of your life to live your later years in “freedom.”

4. Acquiring Materialistic Things


“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.” —Chuck Palahniuk


I used to be obsessed with upgrading things in my life, other than myself. My TV, my car, my clothes, my phone. And I grew up in a time when technology was just starting to progress at a rapid pace—from 10 years old when I got my first colorless Nokia brick mobile, to the color phone, to the flip phone, to the slide phone and finally to the touch-screen smartphone, all within a span of 12 years.

You begin to realize a lot of the material things you acquire in life will fade. There are certain items that might hold sentimental value to you, but 90 percent of the things you own will quickly become old and outdated.

A sole goal to purchase your dream car or buy amazing pieces of technology will only keep you happy for so long. Several years later, your possessions will be worn and showing signs of age, and something newer and better will come along.

Albert Einstein once said that if you truly want to live a happy life, then you should tie it to a goal, not to people or things. That is the true definition of success.

Related: The Definition of Success

Dan Western is the founder of Wealthy Gorilla, a self-improvement site that’s reached more than 1.5 million people worldwide. Dan helps others transform their mindset and live the life they want to live—not the one they’re told to.