Illustration of a man working
Illustration of a man working. Photos courtesy of

Whether in our career, passion, personal pursuits or any endeavour, we all know what we want, and that’s success. But do we know why we want success?

The definition of success has been a longstanding subject of debate. And there is no right or wrong because there is no universal standpoint that applies to everyone equally. Imagine success as a moving target that adapts to time, geographical standpoint state of mind and constantly on the move. Everyone perceives success differently.

Alexander the Great set out to conquer the known world. Although failed to do so, he successfully built a large empire for himself. Amelia Earhart successfully became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Bill Gates has donated USD 35.8 billion of his wealth to his own foundation, which is the world’s largest private charitable foundation. No doubt everyone would label these individuals ‘successful’.

But what about a Gojek driver and his daily struggle to put food on the table and putting five kids through school? What about a single mother working an admin job by day and selling street food at night to raise two small children? What about those born with disability, enduring social and physical difficulties while still contributing to society through simple everyday items made by hand? Do these real-life heroes not deserve to be called a success?

Why We Crave Success

The truth is success is too broad a term to be defined. I am therefore more interested in looking at the more fundamental question—why do all of us crave success?

Success is part of our life plans

The very idea of success has been part of our life plans since forever. We have been defined by the things we achieve as soon as we’re born: literally being able to open our eyes, talk, walk, enroll in school, get good grades, graduate, get a good job and so on. Achieving these milestones rewards us with praise and recognition from those around us, as well as positive emotions and self-satisfaction.

We want the benefits of being successful

Success is desirable and enjoyable because of the benefits that comes with reaching certain goals. Over the years, we’ve come to develop a strong association between these benefits and a state when we are successful.

Winning is addictive 

Undeniable. Achieving is like a personal victory that adds value to our efforts and pumps our egos. People love winning. As kids, we were taught to win the games we play, despite there being rewards or not. Winning itself is the reward.

We want to overcome past mistakes

The opposite of success is failure. Failure is everyone’s destiny. It’s natural to make a mistake on our way to reach our goal, but this failure pushes us further towards our goal. We lost, but in the end, we want to win. Victory preceded by many failures can compensate previous losing experiences. The pattern repeats perpetually as we overcome past mistakes to get better.

Success can be a solution

Success can be a solution for our problems. The positive experience of success can weaken the influence of negative experiences in our live. We often find it easier to move forward, when we expect success as we avoid handling different, unpleasant problems in our life.

Ahead, we bring you inspirations from all walks of life. Those who have worked hard all their lives to reach to the top. Those who have done the same and wasn’t so fortunate. Those who spent countless years changing lives and giving. Those who were disadvantaged yet refused to give up. Those who have earned their own measure of success. Let us learn from these examples and get inspired as we push on in these times of struggle to keep reaching for our own success.

This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine April 2020 issue Staying Successful in Times of Challenge". Available at selected bookstores or SUBSCRIBE here.

Refa Koetin

Refa Koetin

A full-time, dream-powered writer, Refa handles NOW! Jakarta publication and other editorial projects in the company. When not writing at his second home (the office), he can be found roaming the city hunting happy hours or exploring its diverse culinary scene. He is also a sci-fi addict, ex-gamer, fitness junkie, beer lover and burger fan. Hit up +62 856 188 0336 for nerd talk or happy hour info.