What are "Success Orientations"?

"Success orientations" are ways that human beings go about achieving success in life. The word "success" is used to title this model because of all the things human beings want in life, an overall driving force is the need to be successful.

Human beings want to achieve many things, including being successful at the big things in life:

  • Making their parents happy with them and their choices in life.
  • completing an education.
  • achieving a successful career.
  • finding a partner to spend life with.
  • having and raising children.

On a shorter time frame, this same drive for success plays out in the hundreds of day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month challenges that face human beings. Such smaller challenges as:

  • Getting the dishes washed after dinner.
  • Finding something good to eat in the refrigerator.
  • Getting to work on time in the morning.
  • Buying some nice clothes at the shopping mall
  • Ensuring there is enough money in the bank for the mortgage payment this month.
  • Saving enough money for a vacation this year.

People are different

What differs between people is how they go about achieving these large and small successes. This focus on how people actually go about achieving success is crucial in understanding the model. A person is naturally oriented toward one particular orientation or a mix of two different ways of accomplishing things. In rare cases they can do things in 3 different ways equally well. They may want to do something in a certain way, think it is the best way to do it, but may actually do it in a different way. This different way is the result of a natural and powerful orientation that they have toward achieving success.

The three success orientations

Relationship - Other people are central to success and happiness of a relationship oriented person. Those who are oriented towards relationships have an expectation that friendships, associations, and interactions with other people will most often or always be the route to success in life.

Process - Instructions, directions, policies, rules, and steps to follow are needed for success and happiness. Process oriented individuals look for and follow processes that have a high probability of generating a successful outcome. The goal may not be fully understood, but the process is trusted to achieve success.

Goal - The shining light in the distance is the goal to be focused on with unwavering attention. Some people focus almost exclusively on goals to be achieved and let nothing get in the way of their success in achieving those goals. They can define their goals with utmost precision and direct all their personal energy toward achieving these extremely specific visions in their minds.

How success orientations are useful

Success orientations can be useful in many ways, including being a prediction tool for some situations. Examples of how success orientations can be used:

  • Understanding some observed, repeating behaviors. For example, why do some people regularly call their friends and family first when faced with a problem to solve? Answer: They are very relationship oriented.

  • Self-reflection. "Why do I feel most comfortable in a job when the job description is clear and I have a fixed and understandable set of instructions to follow to do my required tasks"? Answer: I am very process oriented.

  • Interpreting what people say. "I am going to climb Mount Benson today in 2 hours!" Interpretation: A goal oriented person who intends to climb the mountain by herself in 2 hours as a personal test of her ability to overcome any obstacles, even if it means taking shortcuts off the regular paths. She is not relationship oriented ("by herself") nor does she follow processes ("taking shortcuts off the regular paths").

  • Putting teams and organizations together. To run a bank, whose real product is perceived safety of money, who would you hire? Lots of goal oriented people? "Let's see how many loans we can give this week! A prize for the most loans!" Perhaps not. Lots of relationship oriented people? "You are my friend. Therefore I will loan you a million dollars." Perhaps not. How about lots of process oriented people?. "May I see some government issued photo identification, please, sir. I require this in order to allow a withdrawal from your account." YES! Hire lots of these people for bank jobs!

  • A myriad other uses that are just now emerging. The goal of Success Orientations Publishing is to put the model to practical uses for the benefit of a variety of users in a wide range of contexts and applications.


Like any model of human behavior, the success orientations model must not be used prescriptively. This can lead to oversimplifications of situations, mis-interpretations of complex human motivations, unethical and illegal discrimination, and other bad outcomes. The model can be very useful, but is only one tool of many that can be used to help understand human behavior and should be used as such - as just one tool of many to help bring understanding and insights to our thinking.

Learn More!

Want to learn more? Success orientations is an open source model. See the emerging web site that will support the dissemination, research, discussion, and critical analysis of the success orientations model:

Indepth information on Success Orientations

A much deeper and more fully explained look at the success orientations model is included in the first applied book on success orientations called "How to Teach International Students", available for purchase through this web site.

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