Redefining Success: How to Pursue Fulfillment Over Achievement


In a world that constantly celebrates achievement as the ultimate measure of success, what if there's a different way to define success? What if, instead of chasing after material accomplishments, we could find true fulfillment in our lives? This idea may sound radical, but it's gaining traction as more people are realizing that achievement does not always equal success. In this article, we'll explore how pursuing fulfillment can be a more meaningful and satisfying path to success. We'll delve into the role of passion, the importance of balance, and even look at real-life case studies of individuals who have prioritized fulfillment over achievement. If you're ready to redefine your own personal success and prioritize fulfillment, keep reading to discover how you can start this transformative journey.

The Traditional Definition of Success

In today's fast-paced and competitive world, success is often measured by external markers such as wealth, power, and status. Society tells us that the more money we have, the higher we climb on the corporate ladder, the more prestigious our job title, the more successful we are considered to be. We are conditioned to believe that these achievements are the ultimate definition of success1 .

From a young age, we are taught to focus on academic excellence and career advancement. Our parents, teachers, and society at large encourage us to strive for the best grades, attend the top universities, and land high-paying jobs. While these goals can be meaningful and provide financial security, they can also create a narrow view of success.

Cultivating Materialistic Mindset

This traditional definition of success is deeply rooted in a materialistic mindset, where the accumulation of money and possessions is seen as the ultimate goal. In this mindset, success is equated with happiness and self-worth. However, this narrow view can leave us feeling unfulfilled and disconnected from our true passions and purpose in life.

The Pressure of Societal Expectations

Living up to these societal expectations can be daunting and overwhelming. We constantly compare ourselves to others, fearing that if we don't achieve a certain level of success, we will be judged and deemed failures. As the American author John Wooden wisely said, "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming"2 .

Chasing a Mirage

When our sole focus is on external achievements, we often find ourselves chasing an elusive mirage. We may achieve financial wealth but feel empty and unfulfilled, as our lives lack purpose and meaning. As renowned author and speaker Simon Sinek explains, "Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion"3 .

The Importance of Balance

It's crucial to recognize that success is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Each individual has their own unique values, passions, and dreams. Instead of blindly following society's definition of success, we should take the time to reflect on what truly matters to us and find a balance between achievement and fulfillment.

As the American entrepreneur and author Tony Hsieh said, "Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you"4 . This quote reminds us that when we pursue our passions and align our work with our values, success and financial rewards will naturally follow.

The traditional definition of success may not bring us the fulfillment and happiness we seek. It is essential to break free from society's narrow view and redefine success on our own terms. When we prioritize passion, purpose, and personal fulfillment, we are more likely to experience a truly meaningful and well-rounded success.

a metal structure with a sky in the background
Photo by Chanwei on Unsplash

Why Achievement May Not Always Mean Success

In our society, achievement is often seen as the ultimate measure of success. We are taught from a young age that success means achieving high grades, landing a prestigious job, and accumulating wealth and material possessions. While these accomplishments can certainly bring a sense of pride and satisfaction, they do not always equate to true fulfillment and happiness. In fact, placing too much emphasis on achievement can often lead to a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction.

The Illusion of External Validation

One of the main reasons why achievement may not always lead to success is the reliance on external validation. When our worth is tied solely to our accomplishments, we are constantly seeking approval and recognition from others. This can create a never-ending cycle of needing to achieve more and more to maintain our self-worth. As the acclaimed author Mark Twain once said, "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."

Ignoring Personal Values and Passions

Another reason why achievement does not always guarantee success is the tendency to ignore our own personal values and passions in the pursuit of external markers of success. When we prioritize what society deems as important over what truly resonates with us, we can end up feeling unfulfilled and disconnected from our true selves. As the American psychologist Abraham Maslow once stated, "What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization."

The Perils of Burnout and Stress

Focusing solely on achievement can also lead to burnout and chronic stress. As we relentlessly strive for success, pushing ourselves to the limit, we may neglect our mental and physical well-being. This can result in feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and a lack of joy in our accomplishments. The renowned author and poet Maya Angelou wisely said, "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."

The Importance of Emotional Well-being

True success is not just about what we achieve, but how we feel about ourselves and our lives. It is about finding a sense of purpose and meaning, and cultivating positive relationships and emotional well-being. As the philosopher Aristotle once stated, "Happiness depends upon ourselves."

While achievement is certainly a measure of success in certain aspects of life, it is important to recognize that it does not guarantee fulfillment or happiness. By shifting our focus towards personal values, passions, and emotional well-being, we can redefine success in a way that is more meaningful and satisfying. As the author Eckhart Tolle profoundly stated5 , "The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it." Let us redefine success as a journey towards fulfillment, rather than a destination of achievements.

Exploring Fulfillment: A New Success Indicator

In a world where success is often measured by external achievements such as wealth, fame, and status, it's important to take a step back and ask ourselves: is this really what success is all about? Shouldn't success be more than just a matter of material accomplishments?

Shifting Our Perspective

The concept of success has long been tied to conventional achievements such as career advancements, academic accolades, and financial gains. We are conditioned to believe that the more we achieve, the more successful we become. As a result, many people spend their lives chasing after external markers of success, only to find themselves feeling unfulfilled and empty inside.

Rethinking Success

But what if there is another way to define success? What if we shift our focus from external achievements to internal fulfillment? This is the idea behind exploring fulfillment as a new success indicator.

Fulfillment is a deeply personal and subjective experience. It is about finding a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and happiness in what we do and who we are. It goes beyond the traditional measures of success and delves into the realm of emotional well-being and personal growth.

The Importance of Inner Satisfaction

Achievements can bring temporary happiness, but true fulfillment comes from within. It is about aligning our actions with our values, passions, and interests. As author Regina Brett once said, "Success is not what you have, but who you are."

According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, the highest level of human need is self-actualization – the realization of one's full potential and the pursuit of personal growth. This can only be achieved when we find fulfillment in our endeavors and live authentically.

Finding Your Fulfillment

No two individuals have the same path to fulfillment. It is an ongoing journey of self-discovery and exploration. However, there are some key elements that can help guide you towards a more fulfilling life:

  1. Discover Your Passions: Take the time to uncover what truly brings you joy and fulfillment. Explore different hobbies, interests, and activities that align with your values and ignite your passion.

  2. Define Your Values: Clarify your core values – the guiding principles that shape your decisions and actions. When you live in alignment with your values, you will experience a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose.

  3. Set Meaningful Goals: Instead of chasing after societal definitions of success, set goals that are meaningful to you personally. These goals should reflect your passions, values, and aspirations.

  4. Cultivate Meaningful Relationships: Surround yourself with people who uplift and support you on your journey towards fulfillment. Build deep connections and nurture meaningful relationships that contribute to your overall sense of well-being.

Embracing Fulfillment as Success

It's time to redefine success and embrace fulfillment as a new success indicator. As Earl Nightingale, author and motivational speaker, once stated, "Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal." It is about finding meaning and purpose in our lives, rather than simply accumulating external achievements.

So, let us shift our perspective, prioritize inner satisfaction, and pursue a life of fulfillment. As we do so, we will discover that true success lies not in what we achieve, but in how we live our lives and the impact we have on ourselves and others.

person holding compass facing towards green pine trees
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

The Role of Passion in Pursuing Fulfillment

Passion plays a crucial role in pursuing fulfillment and redefining success. When we are passionate about something, we feel a deep sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. It becomes our driving force, motivating us to overcome obstacles and push ourselves beyond our limits. As the American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said, "Passion is the genesis of genius."

The Power of Passion

Passion is a powerful force that can ignite a fire within us. It gives us the energy and enthusiasm to pursue our dreams and create a life that truly fulfills us. When we are passionate about what we do, it doesn't feel like work; it becomes an integral part of who we are.

Finding Your Passion

Discovering our passion may not always be an easy task. It requires self-reflection, exploration, and sometimes trial and error. However, the journey itself is part of the process and can be incredibly rewarding.

Here are a few steps to help you identify your passion:

  1. Reflect on your interests: Take some time to think about the activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. What are the things you love doing in your free time? What topics do you find yourself constantly gravitating towards?

  2. Explore new areas: Step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Take up new hobbies, join clubs or organizations related to your interests, or enroll in classes and workshops. Exploring different areas will expose you to new experiences and potential passions.

  3. Pay attention to your emotions: Notice how you feel when you engage in certain activities. Pay attention to the activities that make you feel excited, energized, and fulfilled. These emotions can guide you towards your true passions.

The Connection Between Passion and Fulfillment

Passion and fulfillment go hand in hand. When we pursue our passions, we are more likely to find meaning and satisfaction in our lives. It brings a sense of purpose and happiness that cannot be achieved through external achievements alone.

As the American author and mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, "Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls." When we follow our passions, we open ourselves up to new opportunities and possibilities. We become more engaged, focused, and driven in our pursuits, which ultimately leads to a deeper sense of fulfillment.

Fulfillment Through Passion

At times, we may feel pressured to conform to society's traditional definition of success, which often revolves around external achievements such as wealth, status, and recognition. However, true fulfillment comes from pursuing what truly ignites our passion, even if it may not align with conventional notions of success.

By embracing our passions and pursuing them wholeheartedly, we create a life that is authentic and meaningful to us. We become more connected with our true selves, our values, and what truly matters to us. As the American actress and singer Judy Garland once said, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."

So, don't be afraid to follow your passion. Embrace it, nurture it, and make it a cornerstone of your pursuit of fulfillment. You deserve to live a life that brings you joy and purpose, and passion is the key that can unlock that door.

Passion is a powerful force that fuels our pursuit of fulfillment. It gives us purpose, meaning, and the drive to overcome challenges. By identifying and embracing our passions, we can redefine our own personal definition of success. As the British philosopher Alan Watts once said, "What would you do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?" Let your passions guide your journey towards true fulfillment and create a life that brings you joy and satisfaction.

Balancing Achievement and Fulfillment for A Well-Rounded Success

In our fast-paced and driven society, it's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of achievement. We are often bombarded with messages that tell us success is defined by external markers such as prestigious job titles, impressive salaries, and material possessions. However, true success goes beyond these superficial measures and is rooted in a sense of fulfillment and purpose.

Achievement vs. Fulfillment: The Dilemma

While achievement can bring a sense of accomplishment and validation, it can also come at a cost. We may sacrifice our personal relationships, health, and overall well-being in the relentless pursuit of external success. As the saying goes, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" True success should encompass more than just professional accolades; it should encompass our entire being.

The Need for Fulfillment

Fulfillment, on the other hand, is about finding joy and satisfaction in the various aspects of our lives. It involves aligning our actions with our values and passions, and finding a sense of purpose that goes beyond just achieving external markers of success. As legendary author Maya Angelou once said, "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it."

Finding fulfillment means recognizing that there is more to life than just the pursuit of achievement. It means realizing that our overall well-being is just as important as our professional accomplishments. Fulfillment can be found in the relationships we build, the experiences we have, and the positive impact we make on the world around us.

Striking the Right Balance

Achievement and fulfillment are not mutually exclusive; they can coexist and contribute to a well-rounded success. The key is to strike a balance between the two. It's about finding a way to pursue our goals and ambitions while also prioritizing our well-being and overall fulfillment.

To strike this balance, it's essential to cultivate self-awareness and reflection. Take the time to assess your values, passions, and what truly brings you joy. Are you pursuing your goals solely for external validation, or do they align with your authentic self? Reflect on your definition of success and make sure it includes both achievement and fulfillment.

Additionally, learn to prioritize self-care and well-being. Make time for activities that bring you joy and help you recharge. Surround yourself with a support system of loved ones who encourage your pursuit of both achievement and fulfillment.

As we redefine our definition of success, we must strive for a well-rounded version that encompasses both achievement and fulfillment. Balancing these two elements is the key to living a purposeful and meaningful life.

Let us remember the words of American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." Embrace who you are, pursue your passions, and find true success in achieving both external accomplishments and personal fulfillment.

man sitting on mountain cliff facing white clouds rising one hand at golden hour
Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

Case Studies: Individuals Who Chose Fulfillment Over Achievement

Sometimes, in our pursuit of traditional success, we overlook the importance of finding true fulfillment in our lives. This can lead to a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction, despite all our achievements. However, there are individuals who have chosen to prioritize fulfillment over achievement, and their stories serve as inspirations for all of us.

John's Journey of Self-Discovery

John was a high-powered executive at a multinational corporation, widely recognized for his professional achievements. He had climbed the corporate ladder, earning promotions and substantial financial rewards along the way. But he began to question if this path was truly fulfilling.

John decided to take a leap of faith and pursue his passion for wildlife conservation. He left his prestigious job and embarked on a journey of self-discovery. Through volunteering in wildlife sanctuaries, he found a deep connection with nature and a sense of purpose that he had never experienced before.

John shares his transformative experience, saying: "I realized that true success isn't just about titles and money; it's about making a positive impact and finding personal fulfillment in what you do."

John's story reminds us that fulfillment lies in aligning our work with our passions and values, not just chasing accolades or financial rewards.

Emma's Entrepreneurial Endeavor

Emma was a successful lawyer, known for her sharp intellect and legal expertise. She had built a thriving career and was on the path to partnership at her prestigious law firm. However, she felt unfulfilled and craved more freedom and creativity in her life.

Driven by a deep passion for fashion and design, Emma decided to leave her secure job and start her own clothing line. The journey was not easy, and she faced numerous challenges along the way. But through perseverance, Emma created a brand that encompassed both her love for fashion and her commitment to sustainability.

Reflecting on her decision, Emma says, "I realized that success is not just about climbing the corporate ladder; it's about pursuing my true passions and creating something meaningful."

Emma's story teaches us that fulfillment comes from following our dreams and taking risks, even if it means stepping away from the conventional path to success.

Mark's Meaningful Mission

Mark was a highly accomplished accountant. He had established a successful accounting firm and was highly respected in his field. However, he felt a sense of emptiness, as if something was missing from his life.

Driven by a desire for purpose and impact, Mark decided to use his financial expertise to help underprivileged communities. He left his comfortable office job and joined a non-profit organization focused on financial literacy for low-income individuals.

Mark's decision wasn't driven by monetary gain or professional recognition, but rather by a deep desire to make a difference in the lives of others. His new role allowed him to empower individuals, providing them with the knowledge and tools to build a better future.

Speaking about his journey, Mark says, "True fulfillment comes from helping others and making a positive impact. It's not just about the money we earn, but the lives we touch."

Mark's story serves as a reminder that fulfillment can be found by using our skills and expertise to make a difference in the world, regardless of societal expectations.

These case studies show us that success should not be solely defined by material achievements or societal expectations. True fulfillment lies in pursuing our passions, making a positive impact, and finding purpose in what we do.

As Albert Einstein once said, "Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value."

So, let us not measure our success solely by societal standards, but by the fulfillment we find in aligning our work with our passions, making a positive impact, and living a meaningful life.

How to Redefine Your Personal Success Towards Fulfillment

Now that we understand the importance of pursuing fulfillment over mere achievement, let's explore how you can redefine your own personal success towards a more meaningful and satisfying life. Here are a few steps that can help guide you on this journey:

1. Reflect on Your Values and Priorities

Take some time to reflect on what truly matters to you in life. What are your core values and beliefs? What brings you joy and fulfillment? Identifying your values and priorities will provide you with a clear direction for redefining your personal success.

As author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said, "Identify your problems but give your power and energy to solutions." By focusing on what truly matters to you, you can shift your perspective and redefine success in a way that aligns with your authentic self.

2. Set Meaningful Goals

Instead of solely focusing on external achievements, strive to set meaningful goals that align with your values and passions. These goals should be driven by purpose rather than societal norms or expectations.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, "What a man can be, he must be." When you set goals that align with your true desires, you unleash your full potential and experience a deeper sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

3. Cultivate Self-Awareness and Mindfulness

Developing self-awareness and practicing mindfulness can greatly contribute to your journey of redefining success. By regularly checking in with yourself and being present in the moment, you can gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts, emotions, and desires.

Mindfulness meditation can help you cultivate a sense of inner peace and clarity, enabling you to make conscious choices that support your personal definition of success. As author Eckhart Tolle once said, "Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life."

4. Embrace Failure and Learn from It

It's important to remember that failure is not the opposite of success; it's an essential part of the journey towards success and fulfillment. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone towards growth.

Author and entrepreneur Sara Blakely once said, "Failure is not the outcome - failure is not trying." By reframing failure as a necessary part of your personal growth, you can overcome fear and take more calculated risks in pursuit of your unique version of success.

5. Foster Healthy Relationships and Community

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who support and uplift you on your journey. Building strong relationships and having a sense of community can provide you with a support system that encourages your pursuit of fulfillment.

As author and speaker Jim Rohn once said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." Seek out individuals who share your values and inspire you to grow personally and professionally.

Redefining your personal success towards fulfillment is a journey that requires introspection, courage, and a willingness to challenge societal norms. By reflecting on your values, setting meaningful goals, cultivating self-awareness, embracing failure, and fostering healthy relationships, you can create a life that is truly fulfilling and aligned with your authentic self.

Remember, as the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." Embrace the opportunity to redefine success on your own terms and experience a life of true fulfillment.

empty road surrounded with trees with fog
Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash


In a society that often measures success by achievements, it is important to challenge this conventional notion and consider alternative indicators of fulfillment. As we have explored throughout this article, fulfillment should not be solely equated with accomplishments, but rather with a sense of purpose and satisfaction in one's actions and contributions.

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." – Albert Schweitzer

While achievements can provide temporary moments of fulfillment, they may not necessarily lead to long-term happiness and contentment. Exploring and pursuing our passions, on the other hand, can ignite a fire within us and help us find true fulfillment. It is crucial to prioritize our own happiness and well-being, rather than solely focusing on society's expectations or external validations.

Finding this balance between achievement and fulfillment is a personal journey that requires self-reflection and introspection. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to redefining success, as each individual's path will be unique. The stories of individuals who have chosen fulfillment over achievement serve as inspiration and remind us that it is possible to find success on our own terms.

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." – Albert Schweitzer

By embracing our passions, seeking purpose in our actions, and nurturing our well-being, we can redefine our personal success towards fulfillment. It is an ongoing process that requires self-awareness and the willingness to challenge societal norms. Ultimately, as we strive for a well-rounded success that incorporates both achievement and fulfillment, we can find a deeper sense of purpose, happiness, and satisfaction in our lives.

1Dave Ramsey, Financial Peace (1992)
2John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court (1997)
3Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009)
4Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose (2010)
5Mark Twain, "The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain" (1998)
6Abraham Maslow, "Motivation and Personality" (1954)
7Maya Angelou, "Wouldn't Take Nothing for my Journey Now" (1993)
8Aristotle, "Nicomachean Ethics" (350 BCE)
9Eckhart Tolle, "The Power of Now" (1997)
10Regina Brett, God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours (2010)
11Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (1968)
12Earl Nightingale, Lead The Field (1982)
13Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fck (2016)
14Tony Robbins, "Passion Is the Genesis of Genius" (2012)
15Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (1988)
16Judy Garland, Good Old Lonesome Me: A Dark Comedy (2017)
17Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)
18Mark 8:36 (The Bible)
19Maya Angelou
20Ralph Waldo Emerson
21Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007)
22Tony Robbins, "Awaken the Giant Within" (1991)
23Abraham Maslow, "Motivation and Personality" (1954)
24Eckhart Tolle, "The Power of Now" (1997)
25Sara Blakely, Interview with Forbes Magazine (2014)
26Jim Rohn, "The Seasons of Life" (1981)
27Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance" (1841)