How can I be successful, a question which so many of us seem to ask at some point… probably more than once. Perhaps that’s why we spend so much of our time dreaming of being Kanye, or marrying Rachel from Suits, big bank balances, or even a higher social status.
But there is the problem, right there; successful people have big dreams, but they also work hard to make it reality. Those who seek fame and fortune don’t rest on their laurels, they take those laurels to market and invest time and energy into successful outcomes. ‘Resting on one’s laurels’ is an old Greek maxim which pretty much means to be content and satisfied with past victories, and therefore further effort is unnecessary. It came from a time in Greece where victors were given laurel wreaths for their victories and their status. Sure, if you have already achieved everything you want, then by all means rest. But if you haven’t, then let’s look at a few things successful people do to achieve more.
Set goals and make them realistic
“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” – Napoleon Hill.
If we don’t set goals we will never know where we are going. Take a family dinner as an example. We start by asking the question, where are we going? Is it to our parent’s house or our siblings? Do we know how to get there; where is our parent’s house? If we’ve been there plenty of times, that won’t be a drama, but if they have moved houses, we might need to do some research, consult Google Maps, call our sibling, or even our GPS. The point being, if you know where you want to go, you can work out how it is you can get there.
“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.” James Cameron.
It isn’t enough to set goals, they also have to be realistic. Example, setting out to achieve weight loss or, in my case, weight gain? Great! How much will it take before you have achieved what it is you set out to do?
If the goal is huge, break it down. If the weight loss goal is thirty kilograms, then work out some intermediary goals. Perhaps, aiming to lose two kilograms a month might be something which is achievable. When you achieve that, try for two and a half kilograms the following month, three the following, and so on. The point being, if you try to conquer Everest in one sitting, you’ll find that motivation will probably wane before you are even halfway. Start with one part of the apex as your initial goal, and then move to the next.
Communicate your goal
Make sure your friends know what your goal is, so in conversations they pull you up on slacking off. If you are accountable to other, not wanting to fail them is a motivation. Not wanting to have that conversation where you say ‘No, I haven’t made any headway to achieving that,’ is also a motivation to succeed. Or even bring those friends along for the journey and have group goals.
“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Make a strategy
In order to achieve those goals of self-improvement or professional development, we have to devise strategies to enable us to complete them. Ask the question of how do I complete the goal? When we talk about losing or gaining weight, the strategy is usually clear, consume less calories than we burn. So, one strategy could be to eat less, or eat foods which are lower in carbohydrates or calories. Another is to do more exercise, in order to burn more. Probably, the more successful strategy would be to do a combination of diet and exercise.
In other situations, it might require more consideration. If you want to be smarter, then do some research about how it is people become more intelligent. Some obvious answers could be read more, eat foods more conducive to brain development, study something new, or change jobs to one which allows your brain to be stimulated more. If the goal is to be more confident, then starting with increasing your own self-awareness and subsequently self-confidence may be the first step.
Organisations do this all the time, they set goals and then they put policies and procedures in place to help them achieve their goals.
This one is the easy one to explain, if we don’t work for our goals, we cannot expect to achieve them. And this is where we often slip up. Sometimes, we make goals and New Years Resolutions and never commit the time to put them into practice.
“When you invest your time, you make a goal and a decision of something that you want to accomplish. Whether it’s make good grades in school, be a good athlete, be a good person, go down and do some community service and help somebody who’s in need, whatever it is you choose to do, you’re investing your time in that.” – Nick Saban.
Start with goals, and work for them. Decide how much time can be dedicated towards achieving this goal, and then work out when it will be done. Make sure you know what will ‘achieve’ the goal, or you’ll be there forever working towards a goal you’ve ticked off multiple times. Examples: 5 kilograms lost, more self-aware by understanding your Myer-Briggs Type Indicator and reading a book on personality, more energetic (quantified by being able to get to the end of the day without being exhausted), and be more confident (quantified by introducing yourself and making friendships with ten people you have never met).
Evaluate and revise
Finally, set times to think about your goals and how you are going with them. If you achieve them, set another one. If you haven’t, ask the question, why? If your circumstances have changed, reevaluate and revise the goal. Don’t be stubborn, accept that sometimes things happen outside of our control and then work out how you can still achieve that goal.
Image by Nila Sivatheesan.