Success! At some point or another, we all strive for it in life. Commonly it is believed that success brings us happiness and most would agree it is a requirement to have true success. Some people have happiness as a goal itself. In spite of wanting success and happiness, it can sometimes elude us. We can just get too discouraged with goals and admit defeat from time to time.
Definitions from en.wiktionary.org (Wikipedia Dictionary):
● The achievement of one’s aim or goal.
● (business) financial profitability.
● The fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.
Failure… The word on its own has very powerful negative connotations. To be referred to as a failure is probably one of the worst things that can happen to you and your self-esteem. Even those who are not success driven, avoid failure like the plague. Can it be avoided? I think figuring out how to minimize the causes of failure is a great place to start our search for an answer.
Deterrents for Success
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas A. Edison
Most people’s Kung Fu is strong when it comes to making excuses for our actions and decisions in life. If you try hard enough you can make an excuse or argument for anything that is contrary to your personal beliefs. This is a double-edged sword when it comes to success. You can argue for why you can’t achieve something because of circumstance, or you can argue why you can in spite of any circumstances. You often hear about the power of belief. Belief in one’s self is the ability to never give up. People may just be giving up too early instead of pushing on towards what they are capable of. So maybe the question is not how do we avoid failure but how do we not give up on our goals and dreams?
When you have the mindset that you will succeed in spite of any circumstance, some amazing things happen. You see the path to previously thought impossible goals. Limitations change to new prerequisite goals. If flexibility is limiting you from becoming a dancer, your prerequisite goal might become yoga.
While learning yoga you might find a continuous growth model that becomes your passion in life. People usually want to find an interest or passion for something before taking their first step towards a discipline or calling. Finding your passion sometimes requires doing first, not the other way around. Action often precedes passion in life. So my recommendation is to get out there and try some stuff. You can not see what is over the next hill until you reach the top and take a look.
Growth vs Goal Aquisition
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Sir Winston Churchill
I have discussed success to this point as being a final destination. I would like to argue that this is a flawed concept in itself. I think this mindset of one day having success, is the biggest cause for failure above and beyond those listed above. You may be living in circumstances right now that others would have as their end goal. You may be pretty darn lucky having a leg up on life and yet you might not feel successful or generally happy. Why is this if you already have what others consider their goals and dreams?
People are quick to adapt to new success or good fortune in their lives. This topic of adapting to happiness derived from events is discussed in greater detail in my post on Cheat Days and Addictions. Happiness from success diminishes over time, meaning that the happiness is derived more from growth at the time of completing the goal and not from having the success itself. After making this observation we can then make the realization that our starting points or personal limitations have no bearing on success in general.
When attempting to always have success in life, growth must become our new direction. Then maintaining enthusiasm for growth is what actually ensures your success. However, after working on a goal for some time we can become fatigued. We can have the feeling of failures adding up or a lack of progress towards our goals.
Often the loss of enthusiasm is from setting goals that are so far off that we can’t imagine reaching them. This is in tandem with not being specific in the actions we can take to get there. Lets examine a primitive example.
Picture yourself in an endless field with a soccer ball at your feet. Each time you kick the ball you have to run down the field to where the ball landed to be able to give it another kick. The farther you kick the ball the more work it is to run down field for another go at it. Kick that ball too far out in front and you may not bother running after it again. You may abandon the ball (goal) and move on to something that is closer to you and easier to achieve. If kicking the ball too far hinders the feeling of growth then it is in our best interest to kick lightly for shorter distances to keep enthusiasm up. This (near to us) small goals mindset is what is required to maintain forward momentum for growth.
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do we swim, swim!” – Dori – Finding Nemo
Ever think you would be taking advice from a cartoon fish? Dori seems happy with her small goals of keeping momentum in life, right? I think some might wonder about her direction in life though. She does seem to keep getting lost, forgetting things and a little panic ridden when this happens. How can we avoid this when we are sticking to a plan which involves setting only small goals?
Big Goals in Life
Small goals are fine for creating momentum and boosting confidence, however I think there is no arguing that achieving larger goals makes us feel more accomplished and blissful. So how can we achieve larger goals while maintaining enthusiasm and momentum?
Again lets change our mindset and point of view. These larger goals are now going to be viewed as our compass. It is discouraging to always think about big goals since they are usually far off, and a bit unrealistic. Unrealistic for the current you to take them on as a very next step in life. They would not be big goals if we could achieve them so effortlessly at a moments notice. Thoughts of your larger goals in life should be much less often in our day-to-day thoughts.
Frequency of visiting our large goals in our thoughts, should be similar to checking a compass only to ensure you are heading in the right direction. We need to ensure we are not dwelling on the daunting size of our very big goals in life so we can focus on what we can actually act on. What is actionable are the small steps we can take right now to get us closer to the destination.
Success is not Possible Without Failure?
If you could do everything already, there would be no success and there would be no failure. This, however is not the case and even our small goals can and will bring failure.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison
Like success, failure also needs to be redefined and reframed. Failure must become an integral part of success and growth. Every time we take action we take a step closer to our destination. Whether we are finding out what to eliminate (failure) or finally finding the way that works (success). Failure should be welcomed as much as success to truly master enthusiasm for life goals. If you can grasp this concept alone and nothing else in this post, you would be unstoppable.
“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” – Thomas J. Watson
So far we have redefined our big goals as a compass heading only for direction. Being able to focus on small items we can action immediately for our means of traveling towards big goal destinations. We have also determined growth is what is making us happy instead of sitting on successes. What would our new definition of successful sound like?
● Someone continuously achieving mindful growth in the direction of goals and dreams.
● A person that considers both success and failures as progress.
● A mindset where constant effort itself always results in growth.
“There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only lessons learned” – paraphrasing Tim Ferriss
Happiness can be derived from one’s ability to continuously set and achieve realistic and easy to action goals. I think we run into trouble when we try to find meaning in life first instead of trying to find meaning through doing. It is often through experimentation we find our passions. Failure in our efforts is our friend and once we embrace failure we become unstoppable. You will be achieving inevitable success through continuous growth. You ultimately realize the journey itself is what is making you happy all along and that this process can continue indefinitely.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Paraphrased Marianne Williamson quote from the film Coach Carter
If you have struggled with success in your life as I have, I hope these thoughts served you as well as they have served me over the last year or so. I took on this article as much for me as I did for readers. I wanted a guide I could follow and steps I could fall back on to ensure success in whatever I decided to do with my life. Success can come and go, but more often then not I think the reason is less circumstance and more that we forget how to be successful. I will be using this article as a map and compass to revisit when I forget the way to success.
“Most of the time, the greatest rewards come from doing the things that scare you the most. Maybe you’ll get everything you wished for. Maybe, you’ll get more than you ever could’ve imagined. Who knows where life will take you, the road is long, and in the end… the journey is the destination.” – Coach Whitey Durham (One Tree Hill)
Tips for Keeping Your Compass Heading:
- Make dreams and goals the same thing. They are both something you can’t currently do that you should be working towards.
- If you don’t have a compass heading, make one of your dreams a goal ASAP and put it on paper to remind yourself.
- Make your phone background related to your biggest goal in life, this alone can sometimes spark conversations on your topic of passion in life.
- Make all actionable goals VERY specific to ensure no further planning or procrastination is possible when it comes time to take action.
- If a task does not seem possible, find out what the actionable prerequisites are and work on those.
- Treat each failure as knowledge gained and a step closer to a goal.
- The only way to truly fail is to give up on growth as a human being.
Future Related Articles:
- Surrounding yourself with positive people that have similar goals (*Future Article Link*)
- Checking your compass and making action plans at times when you are most honest with yourself. (*Future Article Link*)