Author: Dr Jo Baldwin
What does success mean to you? I suspect for many of us there is an association with needing to be the best. But I don’t believe that’s necessarily the case.
The dictionary definition of success is:
the accomplishment of an aim or purpose; the good outcome of an undertaking
Notice that it doesn’t use any superlatives or mention being better than anyone else at achieving that aim.
So I hope that takes a little of the self-imposed pressure and expectation off you? Too many of us make life more difficult for ourselves by believing that success means being the best. Comparing ourselves to others and noticing that we don’t seem to be measuring up just leads to us feeling demoralised.
I think success is just getting stuff done– no matter how big or small the task might be. And being successful at lots of small things helps life run more smoothly and with more ease.
But the key to greater, or more consistent success, is recognising that it doesn’t just come to you – you have to be pro-active in making it happen. So if you do want to be the most successful in some context, then it’s worth developing some strategies to help.
Here are some ideas, which I think are the secrets behind highly successful people.
1. Get Ready
Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “ Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success”.
There are various ways of getting ready; preparing the ingredients and kitchen equipment before starting to cook the fancy dinner will mean the recipe will turn out just right. Doing the research before the job interview will mean you know exactly how to pitch your responses. Having your gym kit laid out the night before, with the trainers by the door, helps your motivation to maintain your keep fit goals.
Prepare for opportunities that come along but also prepare for the possible obstacles or hurdles you might encounter. Think ahead to what might derail you and plan what you can do to reduce the impact. This way you minimise the chance of failure.
When you plan, schedule, organise and co-ordinate you make things happen consistently and effectively. Having good habits like systems and preparatory work in place means you can be the conductor of your life; in control and successful.
2. Don’t settle for the status quo
Don’t be left standing still whilst others move past you. Keep on growing and developing. Look for ways to continue to learn and evolve so that your skills improve and your chances of success increase.
This might require some hard work or you might find that actually there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in learning new things. Whichever, it’s one of the key requirements to help you achieve success. The successful person knows that resting on their laurels doesn’t get them anywhere.
3. Maintain discipline
Identify what is important to you about achieving success and the steps you need to take to get you there. Then be disciplined and purposeful so that you maintain control and focus. Put boundaries in place around these important tasks so that you’re not distracted by other people, opportunities or ideas.
Be selective about what you choose to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to. Diverting your time and energy, by saying Yes to someone else’s demands, could be the difference between success and failure.
4. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable
The fear of failure can often be the very reason you fail! Why is this? Well, when you start taking steps towards achieving something, you might find yourself out of your comfort zone and the discomfort you experience here stops you from making forward progress towards success, hence failure.
If you can identify your fears in advance and acknowledge them, then you can process them and meet them head on. If you can learn to embrace the challenges and be willing to accept a certain amount of discomfort, in the knowledge that on the other side of that discomfort there is growth and success, then your chances of success improve dramatically.
5. Develop self-belief
Success is more likely when you believe it will happen. The secret here is to look back at times when you were successful, especially when you overcame hurdles and achieved anyway.
The problem is that we are programmed to look for the negatives, so we focus on past failures instead. Even failures can be useful though. Reflect: Why did you fail? What could you do differently next time? Was there some external factor outside of your control that contributed to the failure?
Start to create a memory bank of successes – no matter how small or insignificant you think they are. Each day acknowledge something you did well, something that was better than last time, something you did independently that you used to need help with.
Celebrate your wins! Either award yourself a mental pat on the back or actually reward yourself with a small treat when you take successful steps towards achieving a goal. Shining the spotlight on your successes will take the focus off the failures and it will become easier to develop self-belief.
“Practice makes perfect” – well you might not need perfection, you might just need ‘good enough’. But the most successful people don’t leave anything to chance – they practice.
Repetition is a powerful tool when used in the context of improving a skill such as playing an instrument or a sport. I played piano as a child and hated the repetition of scales and arpeggios but it was the only way to hone that skill. Playing the same two bars over and over, developed the muscle memory in my fingers for that tricky bit, which meant I passed grade 8 with distinction!
Practise can also take the form of mental rehearsal. Such as mentally running through what you want to say before an important conversation. Or the mental rehearsal and visualisation you may have noticed a rugby player doing before he takes a kick for conversion.
Finally, rehearsing out loud is useful for practising a speech or presentation to become familiar with the words so that they trip off the tongue. That person you always assumed was naturally good at public speaking became successful because she practised.
So, you see, you need to work at success. Hopefully some of these ideas will help you as you approach your aims and goals. As you go along, remember to be kind to yourself and recognise that sometimes, unavoidable external factors get in your way. Instead of criticising yourself for failing, look at what you can salvage, what you can learn and in this way you will develop the resilience to keep on moving forwards.
I wish you every success in life!