After seeing some of my personal development posts like when I talked about comparing yourself to others and the separation of work and play, my friend asked me to define success. He asked me what it took to be considered successful, both in your own mind and in the eyes of others. My brief answer consisted of a single word: happiness. I firmly believe that if you are truly happy with your lot in life and there are no deficits that plague you, then you have truly achieved success.

I could tell that he was a little disappointed with that answer, because it did not provide him with a specific direction to follow or a particular strategy to deploy. The fact of the matter is, success is different for each person. We may see someone like Steve Jobs and the rest of us will say that he has become very successful with the iPod and Apple iPhone. Somehow, though, I imagine that he won’t consider himself successful until he overtakes some of his rivals. *cough* Bill Gates *cough* I could be wrong.

In mulling over the meaning of success, I’ve come up with what I call The Five F’s of Success. To be truly successful, you need a very healthy balance to your life and this includes every facet of your existence. Only when you satisfy all five criteria can you consider yourself truly successful.

This is the most obvious place to look. You may not need to be a multi-millionaire, but if you’re making enough money to sustain your preferred lifestyle, then you can check this one off your list. Speaking for myself, I feel I’ve made huge strides in my career as a freelance writer. Before I embarked on this journey, I never thought that it would be possible for me to make a livable wage working from home. Whether it’s on a per annum or per hour basis, I’m making more money as a freelance writer than I made with any of my previous jobs. There’s obviously still room to grow. Where you set the bar for monetary and professional success is largely up to you. Are you happy with $50k a year? $100k? $1 million?

Ask most people and they’ll tell you that family always comes first. Ask any working dad or working mom why they work so hard, and most will not tell you that they’re saving for a new yacht or a hot new sports car. It’s so that they can provide a nurturing and healthy environment for their children, saving for their respective college funds. The concept of a family has changed considerably in recent years, but whatever you define as your family, I feel that is the most important aspect of anyone’s life and family is an absolutely integral component to success. I wouldn’t want to be rich if it meant that I was lonely. Friends may come and go, but family is forever.

Social isolation is not a good thing, even if you’ve never been much of a social butterfly. Even if you work at home all the time, dot com moguls still need the real world. Get out there and interact with some real people! What’s the point of enjoying financial success if you’re enjoying it on your own? Two things that I look forward to every week are sitting down for the some dot com pho and playing a rousing game of poker with my buddies. It’s not the food or the money; it’s the social interaction and the feeling of being connected with the world.

Take care of yourself. I’m not saying that you need to survive a grueling marathon or make it to the top of Mount Everest in a single go, but you should strive to be reasonably healthy. This involves eating right (don’t live on a dot com diet) and partaking in some form of regular exercise. If you have a loving family, great friends, and a healthy financial standing, but you’re coughing and wheezing all the time, struggling to catch your breath as you take a Sunday stroll through the mall, then I don’t believe that you can call yourself truly successful. A full life consists of full balance.

This is perhaps the hardest component to success to achieve, because it cannot really be defined. It’s the X factor; it’s that special something that makes you feel like your life is truly complete and whole. For some people, this X-factor can be found in religion, understanding your place in the grander scheme of things. For other people, it is through education and enlightenment that they find fulfillment in their lives. For others still, charity and philanthropy is where they find fulfillment. You might find it in blogging and personal expression. What completes your life?

I feel that while I am on the road to success with my freelance writing jobs, I am nowhere near where I could consider myself truly successful. I don’t think I will ever consider myself wholly successful and that’s why goals are the bane of my existence. But it won’t stop me from trying.