Do You Know The True Meaning Of Success? By Dr Linda Berman

turner prize winners

Turner Prize Winners (One of a series). Gretchen Andrews.Wikimedia Commons    

What is success? What does it really mean for you ?

There are many ways of interpreting success and its definition depends very much on the individual.

Every one of us has our own way of describing this;  it is important to be accepting of others’ versions of success and at the same time to reflect on our own ways of thinking about it.

Some people may measure and define their success in terms of the amount of money they earn, the make of their car, the size of their house.

imageVictor Dubreuil. Barrels of Money. c. 1897 oil on canvas. Wikimedia Commons.

“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.”

Steve Martin

Others see success as reaching the top of their career, or achieving great heights academically, winning prizes, becoming famous in their field, or a combination of all of these.


Graduation cap. Adrien Facélina. Wikimedia Commons.

Such successes and achievements through hard work, talent, ability, and luck, can be very satisfying and exciting, and something to aim for in life.

Of course, it is important for everyone to have enough income to be able to meet their needs.

There are, however, other, perhaps more subtle and meaningful fundamentals of success.

imageJosé Felipe Parra (–1890)  Still Life with Walnuts and Meerschaum. Wikimedia Commons.

“For money you can have everything, it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money.”

Arne Garborg

It is on those fundamentals, the ‘kernels,’ in relation to success, that I will focus in this post.

  • Success is About Persistence, Perseverance and Resilience.


Gabrielle at the Gate. Henri Jean Guillaume Martin. Wikioo.

“Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

imageRobert the Bruce, in a cave, watching the spider. Wikimedia Commons

(To read the story of the above image, go to

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas A. Edison

Perseverance and staying power are important aspects of coping with difficult tasks and getting us through the hard times.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

 Helen Keller

Perseverance and staying power demand faith in ourselves, a strong feeling that we will achieve some of our main aims eventually.

Those who have succeeded in their efforts, even those possessing true genius, often say that it is principally hard work and resilience, together with self-confidence, that facilitated their success.

Let us take a look at what they have to say about this in the following quotations:

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”

Stephen Hawking.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

Marie Curie

“Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”

Louis Pasteur

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Albert Einstein

imageAcrobat on the Trapeze. Max Beckmann. 1940. Wikimedia Commons.

“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

William Feather

“Doggedness depends on emotional traits – enthusiasm and persistence in the face of setbacks – above all else.”

Daniel Goleman

  • A Successful Life Depends On Knowing Yourself And Being Authentic.

47547259161_087e5c66da_oAnna Halldin Maule – Grön Blomma [2018] Oil on Canvas. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

Christopher Morley

Learning about oneself can have a positive impact on our lives, our relationships and our work. It can mean that we see others more clearly, and relate to them in a more honest and wise way.

Only if we are true to ourselves will be able to attain a degree of happiness, inner peace and success in our lives.

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Benjamin Franklin.

Understanding what your values and principles are, knowing and valuing who you are as an individual, will mean that you can forge ahead with a strong sense of self and a clear, focussed attitude.

Even if this feels different from others around you, it is crucial to recognise and value your own unique diversity, your special ways of thinking.

Thinking differently is one of the fundamentals of success.

“To be normal is the ultimate aim of the unsuccessful.”

Carl Jung

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”


  • Success Is  Having The Freedom To Be Fulfilled And Creative.

imageImprovisation 11. Wassily Kandinsky. Wikioo.

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If we are not satisfying our inner creative urge, we will not feel happy, successful or true to our authentic selves.

49192427062_aeda5f0d40_oGeorgia O’Keefe. Anthurium [1923]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.”

Georgia O’Keeffe

What does Georgia O’Keeffe mean by ‘making your unknown known’ ?

In the book ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Art and Letters’  by Juan Hamilton, she explains that ‘by unknown—I mean the thing that means so much to the person that wants to put it down—clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand.’

We could interpret this as an attempt to understand the unconscious, something that we can feel, but that is just beyond our grasp.

For O’Keeffe, working on this is what matters in life, not success. However, one gets the feeling, paradoxically, that for her, accomplishing this in her work is a version of success.

The achievement lies in O’Keeffe finding the freedom to innovatively express her ‘unknown’ in her brilliant artwork.

Allowing ourselves the freedom to be, give voice to our deepest convictions and think creatively, both in and out of work, is essential to having a successful life.

“Everybody has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.”

Paulo Coelho

“Creativity is the greatest expression of liberty.”

Bryant H. McGill

In whatever way we choose to be creative, allowing ourselves to play, and to freely use our imagination, will lead to innovation and invention.

“Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”

Albert Einstein

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”

Carl Jung

  • Success Is Helping Others.

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Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida – Doctor Joaquín Decref y Ruiz [1907]. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“At the end it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.”

Denzel Washington

22402279518_454963a829_oAndrew Hunt. Xian [c.2014] Gandal’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

Maya Angelou

Helping others to feel happy and to be healthy is certainly a path to success.

Making a difference to others is crucial if we are to lead fulfilling and effective lives.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Leo Buscaglia

Helping others is empowering, and giving unconditionally can be beneficial both for ourselves and the people we are supporting.

It means that we will also inevitably learn important life lessons from the experiences we have, as we relate to people, in ways that can help us to improve our own health and wellbeing.

“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”

Shannon L. Alder

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

John Holmes

the-meal-the-bananas-1891Gauguin. The Meal.Wordpress.

“The only time you look in your neighbour’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbour’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

Louis C.K.

  • Success Is Having Satisfying Relationships.

“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”

Bertrand Russell

To love and be loved is one definition of success in life, for loving involves giving, self-sacrifice, joy and happiness. Love completes us. To my mind, that is success.

“When you’re lucky enough to meet your one person, then life takes a turn for the best. It can’t get better than that.”

John Krasinski

“Love is the whole thing. We are only pieces.”


imagePaul Barthel. Glückliche Kinder. (Happy Children.) Wikimedia Commons. c 1900.

“What is success?
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

© Linda Berman.

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  1. For me feeling of contentment and peace within is a successful life. Whether we are able to contribute to society or serve others is also not that important. Whatever we may do, as long as we are sincere, dedicated and content and at peace can be call it life well lived or successful.

    Liked by 1 person

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