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“Success,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.” This description is not far off from society’s overall accepted definition today, where unfortunately, unless you are obtaining and accumulating a fair amount of material wealth and possessions, you are considered unsuccessful in society’s eyes.

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Where does this definition come from? Is it corporate driven? After all, it’s what we see on our television screen all day long. Clever marketing defines success, influencing our thoughts, wants, needs, and actions, encouraging mass consumption and the accumulation of material possessions and wealth.

Does it really matter what we do for a living? What type of ‘things’ we have or where we live? Or is a homeless person with no material possessions with a giant, loving, caring heart more ‘successful’ than someone who has all of that other stuff? What do you see as successful?

Or is success determined by the individual rather than the collective? Could it be, perhaps, that those who give their power over to this definition of success are the only ones affected by it? What about those who neither care nor pay attention to this version of success? What about those who have freed themselves from the mental prisons of societal definitions?

It’s unfortunate that many people out there still consider success and the accumulation of wealth, possessions, popularity, or stature to be in the same category. I do not say this to cast judgement, because ideas and ways of knowing the world change and move on with each generation, and not everyone has access to the same information, but I do wish it were otherwise. I think we would all be happier if we were free of these manufactured desires.

At the same time, from the very moment we go to school we are shown how the world works and what we need to do to be successful in it. We cannot really blame or point fingers at those who define success as the accumulation of material possessions, but by that same token, we should not judge those who do not meet nor want to meet those criteria.

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A survey conducted last year by researchers at Strayer University found that 90 percent of Americans define success as more about happiness than about power, possessions, or prestige. If you are still defining success as power, possessions and prestige , you are in a strong minority, which is a good sign. (source)

On a side note, the fact that these definitions and ideas of success are so heavily marketed by the mainstream entertainment industry is a good indicator of who (hint: the 1 percent elite) is really the driving force behind it.

According to the survey, “success” includes multiple variables, like attaining personal goals, having good relationships, and loving what you do for a living. Brian W. Jones, president of Strayer University, comments on these findings:

Today’s official definition of success doesn’t reflect the reality of how Americans think about, discuss, and ultimately pursue success. If we take it literally, it would mean people who love their jobs, have happy families or help their communities aren’t successful. This is a dangerous notion as it can lead people to believe they are unsuccessful because they haven’t amassed a certain amount of wealth or fame. Our belief is that there are many definitions of and paths to success and that all journeys to success are unique and should be celebrated. We believe the official definition os success should reflect that. (source)

The university has launched a petition through in an attempt to draw attention away from the dictionary definition of success, and onto one that resonates more with the people. They hope to inspire people to look inside themselves and think about what success means to them personally rather than societally.

“What is success? It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.” – Paulo Coelho

We had people rate their success on a scale of 1 to 10. But when we asked their loved ones to do the same, their answers told a different story. Visit for more stories like this.

For every signature, Strayer University will donate 50 cents to Dress For Success:





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