What do young people see as success?

A couple of weeks back, I asked what you see as success, which was a question mainly aimed at young people.  I understood that we all look at success differently, with one person’s definition of success varying from another, but I was not sure about what young people’s definition of success would specifically be.

I was intrigued to learn that in spite of age, gender or peer group, the vast majority of young people that I spoke to see success as achieving their goals – specifically their personal goals.  These may be career goals (getting a secure job), academic goals (passing exams, finishing with a 1st at uni) or lifestyle goals (having a nice super-bike, learning to drive).  Whatever they might be, young people seemed to have set goals in mind that they wanted to reach.

A 20-year-old male said: “I see success as totally fulfilling one’s goals or aims to a desired standard.  To me, it’s more  of a destination rather than a journey, so perhaps you could have an unsuccessful journey but a successful destination.”

It appears as if young people want to look back on their life and feel proud, like they’ve achieved and accomplished something.  They look at success as a process that will eventually lead to something great or meaningful.  However, there are some who not only want to achieve their goals, but also achieve their dreams – interestingly enough, those that mentioned dreams were in their 20s (with the exception of one 19-year-old).

I also began to understand that young people want to work for their success, as there is something special about achieving what may have been so long out of their reach.  This 22-year-old man illustrated it best: “Success to me is having a goal or dream that seems almost impossible to achieve, yet somehow you achieve it, and there is this amazing feeling afterwards, like you’re unstoppable.

A small number of individuals in their early 20s view happiness as success, rather than achieving their goals and dreams.  A 22-year-old woman said: “To me, the real meaning of success is happiness, to be able to wake up everyday happy within yourself.”  However, another young woman also saw fulfilling achievements and accomplishments alongside being happy as success, because they would “in turn make you happy”.

I was a little surprised at how few individuals linked success to happiness, but this highlights the society we live in, where happiness seems to be a continuous afterthought.  And does the fact that only individuals in their 20s mentioned happiness suggest a slight gap between them and the teenage generation?

Some religious young people associate success with their beliefs.  Various individuals see it as living the life God planned for them, fulfilling what God wants them to fulfil, trying to be a good Muslim, following the path God leads them down or trying to get to Heaven.  One 19-year-old female said: “I believe success occurs when you take on Jesus’s character, because in doing that, everything falls into place.”

Photo by Simply CVR and used under Creative Commons Licence.

Referring to their beliefs revealed what was in the hearts of these individuals, yet such a small number of these types of responses raises the thought that religion is becoming a lot less meaningful in our society.  It suggests that believing in something is far less important than having all of the “goods” that this world has to offer.

Others see success as love, family, material things, freedom, being content in their personal achievements, settling for nothing less than the top, helping others better themselves, gaining all you need in life, living meaningfully and unsurprisingly, making money.  I was genuinely surprised that more young people did not mention money.

Yet ultimately, young people want to grow and be able to look back at their life and say that they’ve accomplished something – they may have failed at certain stages, but failure is all part of the journey to success. “Success is when you excel further in your life than you were previously.  Success is a good feeling – it means progression as an individual, as well as maturity,” said a 25-year-old man.

Success seems to mean a lot to young people, as it allows them to look at themselves, all that they’ve been through and everything they’ve become.  A 15-year-old male puts it beautifully: “Success means a lot, as it means you have learnt from your prior failures and haven’t given up.”

There is also a sense of pride, as they want others to see them as individuals who do their best and are making something out of their lives.  A 19-year-old young mother said: “Having a child makes me want to achieve nothing but the best for me and my daughter, and settling for nothing or less, as we were created to be the best… My success will be when my daughter is old enough to see all I have done for her to lead and direct her.”

Gaining an understanding of what young people see as success was an eye-opening experience, which forced me to consider what I see as success.  I hadn’t paid much attention to this fact before, so thinking about it was quite tough, but I eventually came to my conclusion.  To me, success is being truly happy and becoming the person that you’ve always wanted to be; you will have reached your dreams and be living the life that God wants for you.  How do you view success?


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