An in-depth report has found that Britain is a nation of “satisficers” rather than “strivers”, with one in two (51%) satisfied with their lot, compared to fewer than one in three (30%) who want to achieve more.

The report conducted by Ipsos, “Signs of Success”, reveals deep generational and geographical divisions in our perceptions of success, but we are united by a common belief that home ownership, financial security and independence are more important than physical possessions.

Britain believes in “quiet luxury” and discreet consumption. Just 10% say they like to own or do things that displays their wealth, while 69% disagree – and a third strongly disagree. Even among groups who might be considered more prone to ostentation – Generation Z (those aged 27 and under) and high earners – less than a fifth will admit seeking to flaunt their wealth.

Are we a successful nation?

Ipsos asked individuals to rate their own success in life so far, using a question based on the ten-point scale used by ONS to measure wellbeing. The results revealed that 13% of respondents rated their own success as a nine to ten out of ten, while a further 43% rated their personal success a seven or an eight.

However, there is a significant proportion, almost a fifth of the UK take a far more pessimistic view, rating their success between four and zero. Further, feelings of success are lower among some groups: only eight per cent of people living in rented accommodation and those from ethnic minority backgrounds attribute themselves with a nine or ten out of ten rating for success.

“Satisficers” vs “Strivers”

Britons are generally comfortable with their lot and relatively few relentlessly seek advancement. Whilst 51% agreed with the statement: “I am happy with what I have, even if I know some things could be better”, only 30% argued: “I want to get the best I can in life instead of settling for what I already have, even if that means more hard work”.

“Satisficers” report higher levels of life satisfaction and are more likely to rate themselves as having been successful. Older people in particular stand out as having this mindset: three quarters of the over 75s fall into this group.

Surprisingly, it is not always individuals with high incomes or successful careers who are happiest with their lot – those with no formal qualifications (72%), people living in rural areas (60%) and those with household incomes under £26,000 per year (59%) are among those more likely to share this mindset.

“Strivers”, by contrast, are younger and more diverse. The three most-strongly associated groups are students (60%), 16-24s (60%) and Generation Z (56%). But this group also includes the truly driven – people on household incomes of more than £100,000 are more likely than average to report a “striver” mentality.

How do you earn success?

Three quarters (77%) see hard work as being essential or very important to getting ahead in life, and around two thirds credit an individual’s skills and talents, education, and ambition as essential or very important factors. Fewer than half (46%) say it is about ‘knowing the right people’ and around a quarter feel the same about their parents’ educational levels or familial wealth. Only one in five think it is down to luck – in fact, chance is considered the least essential aspect of success of all that were tested. The most important factor for success overall is treating other people well – seen as essential or very important by more than eight in ten.

Mike Clemence, Engagement Manager at Ipsos Trends and Foresight, said: 

When it comes to the signs of success in the UK today it is not the material possessions we amass, or even the experiences we can have, that denote achievement for most. Instead it is financial stability and home ownership; these factors contribute to a sense of greater control over life which our research indicates is vital to increased perceptions of success.

Mike Clemence, Engagement Manager at Ipsos Trends and Foresight

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.