Have you ever wondered what the path to success looks like?
Before we get down to “the optimal path,” I want you to try something for me: Google “what does success mean?”
According to Wikipedia, success is the state of meeting defined expectations, or, simply, “the opposite of failure.”
TED talk speaker and famous marketer Richard St. John says that success is ever-evolving, and failure only occurs at the point when you stop trying.
Lifehack goes on to outline 19(!) parameters that characterize success – from doing your best, to overcoming fear, to balancing your work with your passion.
As you probably noticed, the variety of answers generated with this search can generate a bit of frustration, especially when you’re trying to learn exactly how to find the path to your best self and know what habits will create the success and lifestyle you want.
So let’s start with this: success doesn’t need to be an all-encompassing term, like an omnipotent concept that hovers over your entire life. Rather, success can be different in each nook of your life: professional, personal, physical, health, relationships, financial, spiritual, etc. Once you’ve parsed these categories apart, you can define success for each, as in what feels right, freeing or easy to you. And this also means you need to identify what feels wrong in each of those categories.
For example, maybe one life goal is to eliminate debt. To you, not keeping your paycheck is constantly on your mind and a weight on your shoulders you always carry around. Now that you’ve pinned down “the obstacle” to this particular success, you can establish a path that gives you a debt-free lifestyle.
A second goal (i.e.: success) could be to run a 5k in the next six months. You’ve always included cardio in your gym time, but never with much purpose other than to elevate your heart rate; so you’ve realized you want a reason to hop on a treadmill and go hard. Look up a running plan that keeps you on target to crossing that finish line with thunder.
Do you have a relationship dragging you down, depleting you of energy, time and happiness? Establish the best and most respectful exit strategy, what life on the other side of this relationship will offer you and make a plan to get there.
As you can see, success results from all different kinds of work, achieving different kinds of goals or releasing the weight of different kinds of burdens. But one thing stays constant: every success comes from setting an end goal and establishing a clear path toward it – then taking it.
With that, here are few keys to setting achievable goals to reach your success, and keys to staying focused on reaching them.
The Foundations of Success (in any area!)
Cement Your Goal
It’s easy to develop a vague idea of where you think you want to end up, like “be healthy” or “enjoy life.” But it’s not until you specify what you want to achieve that you’ll be able to identify the steps to get you there. To help increase commitment and accountability, consider writing it down and/or sharing it with someone. This will keep motivation higher than if the goal relied solely in your mind.
Have Confidence and Be Accountable
The ability to achieve is in you, I swear. There was a time in life when I didn’t know what I wanted or what made me feel truly good … and therefore, I felt “unsuccessful.”
But, once I laid out my plan and started getting my stuff together to make it happen, I felt a momentum of forward movement, even though I still hit some snags along the way.
What carried me through those snags, in the end? The belief that I could do it and have my dreams become a reality, along with the knowledge that I would have to make it happen – no one else was going to write that dream for me.
Failure Is Okay
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new,” said Albert Einstein.
Think of this: have you ever tried a new recipe that resulted in a dish you liked but knew could be better the next time? So you made the dish again, realizing another modification toward perfection. Finally, the third, fourth or fifth time, you nailed it.
Had you never taken the first step, you wouldn’t have found perfection in the last.
“Failure” is just feedback, the opportunity to better yourself and the process the next step or time around. You adapt, pivot or regroup to remain steadfast and focused.
Rituals. Habits. Routine. Procedure. Call it what you’d like, but according to the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, the one thing that 150 of the greatest writers, artists and scientists have in common is that they value routine. Sometimes they were accused of being compulsive, other times obsessive; but regardless, the likes of Maya Angelou, William Faulkner and Alexander Graham Bell, had a routine and stuck to it for both work and play.
What routine will provide you with the tools to get closer to your ideas of success?
Meditation is really damn hard. Go ahead, try it. Find a quiet, peaceful and comfortable space, set the timer on your phone for two minutes and then sit in stillness with a blank mind and closed eyes.
What happened? Did you have an itch to scratch? Did you want to adjust your shirt, crack a knuckle or clear your throat? Did you feel your work or home to-do list creep in your mind or your eyes start to open?
While the peace meditation generates doesn’t happen in one sitting, research shows that after just a few attempts your focus and concentration increase. Some of the world’s most successful people, from Ariana Huffington to Joe Rogan to Jerry Seinfeld, swear by the practice and the peace it produces.
Get Organized/Remove Distractions
We’ve talked about the value of organization and the positive impact it has on your lifestyle (like saving you hours and money), but it also has a profound effect on achieving success. A messy workspace is distracting and therefore hinders your productivity. It’s that simple. So figure out what is diverting your attention away from success, remove it from your proximity and refocus on achieving your success.