Success Explained: What Drives Success Beyond Achieving Goals

Oct 5, 2023

Why don’t they quit?

On October 6th, 2010, an app was released on Apple’s app store that reached 25,000 users that day. Just over a decade later, it had over two billion monthly active users. The founders themselves have a hard time keeping up with the app they have built. “It was getting away from us and in some ways, it still is”, says CEO and Co-Founder Kevin Systrom. This app is Instagram. If anyone has beaten the game of success, it’s Kevin Systrom and his Co-Founder Mike Krieger. They are free from financial struggles and can move to the beach and sip margaritas until the sunset, every sunset.

What continues to drive the Instragram founders forward if they have already reached success? Let’s explore how we can find greater motivation in life and how to feel successful without building an app.

Break big goals into smaller diverse goals.

Many Olympians who achieve their lifelong dream of winning gold sometimes experience long bouts of depression after their victories. How can this be? They won! They have done it! Don’t they get to revel in their success for the rest of their days? Unfortunately, no. If our goals are set up like finish lines, we must stop to consider what happens after they are crossed.

Taraje Murray-Williams is a judo athlete who competed in the Athens Olympics in 2004 at the age of 19 and the Beijing Olympics in 2008 at the age of 23. He has elaborated on his mental struggles of feeling purposeless after his days of competition and when asked if he had advice for future Olympians heading to Rio he didn’t miss a beat. “Plan beyond the [Olympic] Games.” Metrics are great at tracking progress but are not set up for an end result. To live a successful life, we need to shift our focus from results to the process of development.

Fall in love with the process

The reason Systrom still gets up every morning and works instead of relaxing on a beach is that he loves the process of making Instagram more desirable. Critically, there is no finish line. It’s not about achieving a certain number of users per month or having a bank account with a certain sum. While these are important to measure, what brings success is showing up every day and doing work that is meaningful. “Every day I wake up and get to work on the most amazing thing in the world…and I love working with this guy”. Systrom points to his Co-founder Mike Krieger.

No matter what you are working on, ensure that it gives you purpose as you struggle to advance. Don’t assign your worth to a specific metric that you have labeled as an end goal. You rob yourself of success if you don’t reach it, and you lose your purpose if you do. Apply an infinite mindset to your goals. There is no winning at health, you can’t finish being a hard worker and there is no end to becoming more productive. It’s the daily practice of getting better that brings fulfillment. Fall in love with progress, not results and you will feel successful each day you do the work.

Kristin Keim is a sports psychologist who works with athletes to build an identity outside of their sport. “You have to separate the individual from the result. This [sport] is something you do, something you enjoy — it’s a gift, enjoy the process, enjoy this moment. … If you can get a medal, amazing, but look beyond that to a bigger life objective than just being an Olympian.”