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The Need for Success


Explanations > Needs > The Need for Success

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We want to be successful in the actions we take, reaching the goals we set out to achieve. We also seek to avoid failure.

We define the domain of success differently. For some it may be career, for others it is family. How we define success also varies, for example in our children having a well-paid job or producing grandchildren.


A man defines success in terms of his career. He spends many hours climbing the ladder there and less and less and time with his family.

A child gets moderately good exam results. They feel like a failure because they had been persuaded by their teachers that they could get top marks. 

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We seek to meet our basic needs by taking deliberate action. While this can be simple and short-term, our can also be complex and build towards a greater achievement.

It is the thought of success that drives us on. As we work towards goals, we imagine how it will feel when we succeed. Then when we succeed we feel the buzz of joy as our brains reward us for our work. The harder we have worked and the greater the achievement, the greater the elation. In this way, evolution has created a powerful internal mechanism for survival and growth.

Success also helps us in our social situations. People like those who succeed and seek to associate with them. It you are successful, people will listen to you and follow your suggestions. In this way you can create even more success through the actions of others. This is how successful companies work.

The opposite of success is failure. We fail when we do not meet the criteria by which we measure success. Some people are driven more by the desire to avoid failure than being attracted by success. In any case, succeeding always feels good.

We feel more successful when we have struggled and worked hard towards our goals. Easy success just does not feel that great. On the other hand, if we define our success goals too high, we never reach them. Sometimes people are perverse in the way they set themselves up to fail. It is as if they feel unworthy of success or that it will simply raise the bar for them and make their lives harder.

So what?

Know what success means for you. Define your success goals to challenge yourself, yet still make them achievable. Do the same for other people. Challenge them. Congratulate and celebrate their successes.

See also

Achievable Challenge

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