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The top measure for success

A new white paper released by National Australia Bank (NAB) has revealed that Australians aged between 16–70 rank happiness, not money, as the top measure for success.

The NAB commissioned Ipsos study of over 2000 people, aimed to discover just what it is that Aussies regard as ‘success’. And although happiness rated as the number one measure from a personal standpoint, money still held the top spot when participants were asked what they thought society values.

Other top measures in the study are as follows:

2. good family relationships

3. feeling fit and healthy

4. being a ‘good person’

5. having a good marriage

6. having good mental health

7. being in control of my life

8. being financially secure now and in the future.


Surprisingly, buying a house came in at number 15 and being rich at number 22. 

“It’s clear that Australians are rethinking success; that they want to live a life that is shaped by the happy relationships they have with their family and friends, by the way they look after themselves physically and mentally, and by being a good person,” said Chief Customer Officer Andrew Hagger.

How Aussies personally rate success contrasts dramatically when compared to how they think society views success, with being rich at the top of the list, followed by owning a home and having a well-paid job.

Around 56 per cent of Australians feel they’ve achieved success in life, but for many, success is still a work in progress, with 71 per cent saying they’re still working towards it.

Most Australians believe they’re good people (83 per cent) and have good family relationships (82 per cent), but fewer feel they’ve been successful at the things that contribute to their wellbeing. Only 61 per cent feel ‘happy’, 62 per cent say they have good mental health and only 58 per cent feel in control of their lives.

As far as having a good marriage, well, it seems the Baby Boomers have figured out the formula for success in that department, with 85 per cent thinking their marriage is good, compared to just 61 per cent of Gen X respondents.

Four in five Aussies believe that the power to be successful is in their hands, with 68 per cent saying they’re confident they can create a successful life. Working hard is ranked as the best way to reach that goal, with being good with people ranked second.

Read the Rethink Success report

Opinion: Can happiness pay the bills?

Personally, I’m a huge fan of the findings of this survey. But let’s keep it in check. The study first asked what we think is the measure for success. It then asked how we think society measures success. Which factor matters most?

Well, it should be what we think, but what we think doesn’t pay the rent, or the mortgage, or put food on the table. Society’s opinion of what is considered successful will always win out. Yes, reality bites.

What is most promising about this study is that our perception of what it means to live a good, successful life is shifting. I love that we’ve rated happiness higher than money. It shows that, as a society, we do have heart. We’re not all about the money. It really should make us feel good about ourselves and will, hopefully, lead to a shift in other areas of our lives, such as acceptance, forgiveness, kindness – the list is endless.

These are the areas that matter to the wider community. If we can redirect our personal views of what it is to be successful to the ‘universal’, then our world will become a better place in which to live. Money may make the world go ‘round, but we make our society what it is. Let’s make it a happier place.

What do you think is the most important measure of success? Would you like to see more ‘happy’ and less money making the world go ‘round? Is it possible to believe that we can change our communities for the better? Or am I just being a hopeless optimist?

Related articles:
Can money buy happiness?
Out of your mind for happiness
Australia ranks high for retirement

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