Tuesday 18th December

What is success?


Success is often linked with celebrity, academic grades, winning in sports, how far we get up the career ladder and money. All of those are valid but in my view it’s vital that we define what success means for us in a holistic way, in all areas of our life.  So what do we really mean by success? Success must have specific criteria or we wouldn’t be able to label people and their achievements and ourselves and our achievements as successful. And what do we envisage as success for our children and those young people we care for and work with?


What does the dictionary say?




1) the favourable outcome of something attempted.

2) the attainment of wealth, fame etc.

3) an action performance etc that is characterised by success.

4) a person or thing that is successful.





1) to accomplish an aim, especially in the manner desired.

2) to happen in the manner desired.

3) to acquit oneself satisfactorily or do well in a specified field.





1) having succeeded in one’s endeavours.

2) marked by a favourable outcome.

3) having obtained fame, wealth etc.



All these definitions have a common theme of attaining something desired. Success in any field is dependent on knowing what you want to achieve. For some this means very single-minded focus on a specific big goal. For example, if your goal is to become the best in the world in your field, other goals will necessarily take a back seat. For most of us it is possible to achieve more balance.


There are some general “criteria” we can use as a starting point for reflection and discussion about aspects of success:


family success – as adults and children - being safe and secure, being nurtured, feeling loved and cared for, feeling love and care for our family (traditional family and / or the family of people very close to us who mean as much, and sometimes more, than family) , being able to be open and honest with our family etc.


financial success – enough money to live the life you choose. But is it that straight forward? Don’t we all value economic independence, money earned from our own endeavour, and isn’t it vital that we equip our children with the capacity for economic self-determination?


personal success – feeling you’re living the life you’re meant to live – being, doing, having what is important to you. Continuously developing yourself. Contributing to your family, your community and beyond in meaningful ways.


relationship success – knowing yourself, being able to manage yourself effectively with others, being able to “tune-in” to others and respond appropriately,  feeling valued and valuing others.  As a parent it was very important to me that my children were equipped to go anywhere and handle themselves appropriately with people in any the situation.  


academic / qualification / career success – achieving academic success to enable you to go on and earn your living; doing work you enjoy, work you are passionate about, achieving in your career so you feel you’re where you’re meant to be.

NB qualifications success – “obtain the qualifications and grades I need for my chosen pathway, to do what I want to do”. The crucial thing is to make sure young people are doing RELEVANT qualifications, in subjects they want to do and are interested in and / or are essential for them to achieve their future goals! I don’t mean this is a soft option. I have no interest in young people being limited by the low expectations and low aspirations of family, teachers and community and am the first to challenge all young people to attain the highest levels they can. This is particularly important if they’re unsure of their chosen path as good grades at each stage mean maximum choice at the next stage!


And then there are success criteria in

specific fields of endeavour:


There is a whole continuum of success in any field and to move along the continuum requires consistent application of C.A.N.I (constant and never-ending improvement). The essential motivation and determination to continuously improve comes from having clear success criteria and goals you’re passionate about. For example:

musical success – passing grades, getting into the right college / musical community, developing excellence to be able to earn your living from music and go on to achieve the financial success that will give you artistic freedom

sporting success – winning, medals, representing your club, city, county, country and being able to earn my living from your sport.


There will be more on determining success in the “Set Goals” chapter because being clear about our goals is essential to realise the results we’re seeking. We have to be very specific about what we want to achieve and systematically align our actions to achieve those results.


We could no doubt debate this for hours, and I have done with lots of people but the bottom line is that each individual needs to decide what success means to them.  And we need to enable our children and young people to define what success means for them


Everyone has inside him/herself a piece of good news!

The good news is that you really don’t know how

great you can be, how much you can love, what

 you can accomplish, and what your potential is!

Anne Frank


How do we enable our children and young people to define success for themselves and develop the aspiration and motivation to succeed?


Some young people know what they want to do with their lives and others don’t. As parents, carers, teachers, youth workers etc we have a duty to inspire, instil the belief that anything is possible, guide and coach but not control children and young people’s dreams and aspirations. In this I think it’s crucial that we nurture our children to live without fear of failure and have the courage to pursue what they really want. Challenging and supporting our children to be the best they can be is a constant balancing act; which includes enabling them to pursue their interests, find their passions and determine their own positive future.



“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go”.

T. S. Elliot


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Beverley Burton - interview about her book, 'How Can We Equip Our Children to Succeed?'