Success is the topic of a thousand clichés, songs, and inspirational quotes; it’s conquering the proverbial mountain, or winning the proverbial foot race. It is elusive, yet we cling to the hope that, someday, we will acquire it.  We not only pursue success, we crave it desperately as we climb the ladders and jump the hurdles that present themselves along our paths. The question is: How do we achieve and appreciate success?

First, we must get a major misconception out of the way. Success is in no way equivalent to wealth. Just as money can’t buy Paul McCartney’s love, it also cannot make us feel successful. Accomplishments in the worlds of business, art, and service give us satisfaction because we are achieving goals that we can be proud of; money is simply the tangible byproduct of our work. If we use profit as the mirror of our success, we will find that we have not pursued our passions, and do not feel any true sense of worth. We love seeing headlines like “Billionaire Gives Away Fortune, Finds True Happiness” and things like that, because it reminds us that our focus should be what makes us happy, not what earns us the most money. This must be understood if you have any hopes of being successful.

Success ultimately comes down to one thing: attitude

The good news is that you are completely in control of that, and therefore in control of your success. The less-than-good news is that, in the face of adversity, a positive attitude is difficult to maintain. When you feel that your work is being rejected or unappreciated, the urge to become ill-tempered can be overwhelming. Snap out of it. Later, you’ll only regret the time you wasted. Enjoy your work when it is going well, and endure the unpleasant times. Keep working, keep thinking, and keep overcoming whatever is trying to hold you back, because you won’t feel good about climbing the mountain if the mountain does not exist. Expect to have hardships along your way, and expect to rise above them. Maybe there will be one obstacle, maybe five-thousand, but if you value your work and your efforts, you will reap the benefits of your perseverance. Your success will come from your growth and your experiences, not solely the end result.

The last and most important facet of success is that you will not achieve it alone. Even the most reclusive artists found inspiration from those around them. Allow others to help you, and accept their contributions graciously. Just as with money, hogging all of the credit will not make you feel any better about your work. Lead when it is time to be a leader, and keep an open mind when constructive criticism is offered.

Surround yourself with people who share your passion, and they will share in your success, celebrating your victories with you.

In the same way, they will pick you up when you feel overwhelmed. When you grow tired of motivating yourself, having others to cheer you on will allow you to find strength. There really is no greater resource as you search for success than people whom you trust.

This all may seem rather wishy-washy, but isn’t that the whole idea of success? We have goals that feel unreachable, but we strive for them anyway. With faith in ourselves, and the people around us, we build and create things that bring us joy, meaning, and knowledge. These personal gains equip us to continue our paths of success, even when we feel like we cannot go any farther.

If you believe that you can succeed, you will. Hold your head high, push the limits that have been set for you, and feel yourself become the successful person you have always hoped to be.