We all have goals, but few will labor to achieve them. Instead, we marvel at those who have reached theirs. In our naturalness bias, we believe successful individuals have some esoteric abilities that distinguish them from the rest of us. What we overlook is that the final product we admire results from a series of mistake-ridden, unrecorded, and painful setbacks. I’ve compiled seven proven steps you can learn from those people whose achievement inspires you.
“It is in the moment of decision that our life is shaped.”Tony Robbins
Deliberately choosing to change one’s unpleasant circumstances is the first step toward success. While life-changing decisions differ across individuals and situations, they share the same vigor and determination. This is the precise moment you say; That’s it! I have had it! I can’t take it anymore! You don’t know what the outcomes will be, what resources and efforts it will require, but you commit to claiming your fuller, happier, and more meaningful life. Steve Jobs decided to make a dent in the universe after he knew he was adopted. His stolen bike drove Muhammad Ali’s decision to learn to fight. Life has plenty in store for you. Are you ready to decide today to reach the next level?
Acknowledge Your Strengths
Many of us fixate on our flaws while discounting our unique talents. As a life coach, I spend a great majority of the time helping clients focus on their strengths. Success results from improving our deficiencies and leveraging our strengths, not disparaging ourselves. When you catch yourself saying “There is nothing successful about me,” remember, nobody can consistently fail and vice versa. Acknowledge your advantage and use them to fuel you. See your failures for what they are—temporary setbacks to help you improve.
For those who value success, constant improvement is the norm, not the exception. You must make the Kaizen—a popular Japanese philosophy meaning continuous improvement—your philosophy. There is no room for complacency. One way to remain motivated is to stay open to new learning opportunities.
You mustn’t compare yourself with others; be the yardstick for your own improvement. Steve Job’s words: “life is too short to spend it living someone else’s life,” illustrate this. Comparing ourselves to others can be as delusional as being complacent. As much as we need mentors and role models, to achieve success, we must capitalize on our uniqueness. Fail. Learn. Improve. This is the virtuous cycle that will guide your self-improvement journey.
Activate Your GPS
Success means associating yourself with the right people. Those who listen, energize, and boost your spirit. I call them GPS (Great People Solely). A myriad of studies have shown the significant effects our social circles have on our beliefs, attitudes, actions, and overall well-being. Plato, at the peak of the Greek Empire, noted, “what is honored in a country will be cultivated there.” Psychologist Emma Seppälä, Ph. D. noted, “we are wired for empathy.” Another study shows that we’re 57 percent to be obese if we hang out around overweight folks. So, from today, start building a social village with people who share your vision, interests, and are energy-givers. Well, activate your GPS!
Cultivate a Bias for Action
“I will start tomorrow.” Sounds familiar? Taking action can be the most daunting aspect of success. Fear of failure, procrastination, complacency among many others stop us from taking action toward our goals. While there are several ways to initiate actions, the following two techniques are an effective starting point. First, be fully present. Excessive focus on the past or the future will generate frustration and cause paralysis by analysis. Second, break your herculean goal into more manageable tasks. You want to create a portfolio of macro and micro-goals strategically linked. Your long-term goals should excite you, while your short-range goals are evidence of progress. Think of an aim you’ve been putting off; write your next step. Don’t continue until you have written it down.
I am going to…
“Where attention goes, energy flows” is a popular saying to help us focus on our goals. Despite its usefulness to goal setting and success, this advice can do more harm than good. Single-mindedly focusing on a goal as if it’s a must-have may create tunnel vision detrimental to progress. The ambiguous and complex nature of goal setting demands openness and flexibility.
Some are fortunate to discover their calling early, but many don’t. For countless, finding our true north requires us to navigate several paths. Thus, we must embrace a result-oriented and process-oriented mindset. While we deliberately choose a goal, we should keep our aperture open to opportunities. For instance, Dr. Clayton Christensen’s career in academia is the perfect example of an emergent strategy. Having been rejected by the Wall Street Journal, he took a different opportunity that eventually led to teaching, which he found rewarding and fulfilling. Therefore, I think a better piece of advice is to be “strategic” in your goal-setting endeavor.
Clear goals, effort, or extraordinary talents do not guarantee a smooth ride, nor do they exempt you from failing. Therefore, you must remind yourself that a failure is an option, quitting is not. The bleak moments that accompany success exist to strengthen your resolve, not to weaken you. Be persistent. Keeping your eyes on the prize in the face of adversity will make every day count, every action meaningful.
The enjoyment of a splendid piece of music comes from listening to it, not looking at the score. This article is neither comprehensive nor normative; it results from my obsession with helping others set, reach, and maintain their goals. How much my article succeeds depends on your willingness to experience these principles in your own unique way.