5 Key Success Factors

Whether you’re working on personal development or running a business, you are on a unique path. No one has the same goals as you do, which could make you feel as though no one understands the obstacles that you face. No matter what you’re trying to achieve, there are some key success factors that are similar for everyone. Incorporate these into your life to rise to the top.

How Do You Define Success?

It can be argued that you can’t achieve success if you don’t know what it is. Identifying what this word means to you is crucial for your journey.

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you get there? Imagine that success is the destination on the map. You can find your way along many paths, and you know that you’ll reach the endpoint as long as you keep moving toward it (and don’t lose the map).

But what if someone erases the destination? How will you know your target?

You won’t.

Defining success allows you to set meaningful goals.

This is where it can get tricky, though. Most people define success based on outcomes. They see success as a quantifiable result.

But if you view success in this way, you may never be happy. Your path can shift, and your outcome may change. That destination on the map is going to be hard to reach if it’s constantly fluctuating. When that happens, you end up chasing your tail and never feel satisfied.

When you’re thinking about what you want to achieve, whether it’s a big vision for the future or a micro-goal for today, consider the way that you’ll feel when you accomplish it. That’s the destination that you want to mark on your map.

Some examples of the ways that you would expect to feel when you’re successful include:

  • Optimistic
  • Easeful
  • Patient
  • Trusting
  • Compassionate
  • Abundant
  • Accomplished
  • Proficient
  • Grateful

When you define which feeling underlies your determination, you can begin to move toward it in everything that you do. Taking the time to notice these emotions can help you stay focused. It will also prevent you from continually taking on more and pushing harder in hopes that it will make you happier.

What’s Your Why?

It’s important to understand what success means to you. However, that’s only part of the equation. Another key to success is knowing your “Why.” Simon Sinek explains that if you don’t know the reason behind your motivation, you might end up:

  • Becoming more depressed the more you achieve
  • Burning out on your obligations and responsibilities
  • Losing focus

Simon Sinek wasn’t the first person to talk about finding your why. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” As humans, we crave more than survival.

Ultimately, if you don’t find your why, you may never achieve the feelings that you expect to come from success. You might get the car, home, spouse, job and bank account that you always wanted, but you could still be unhappy.

That’s because most people who don’t understand the true intent behind their behavior end up correlating their sense of self with something external, such as their job. Is your purpose in life to get up and sit at your desk for 8 hours a day?

Probably not.

Your purpose might be to help others, inspire people, feel financially free or make meaningful connections. When you know what it is and keep your sights on it, you’ll be motivated to get up every day even when you lose your job or have another hurdle to struggle with.

Your why will help you take consistent action toward your goals.

Do You Set Goals?

Motivational gurus say that goal-setting is a key success factor. Many reference a 1953 Yale University study in which students were asked about their goals. Only 3 percent of the students had written goals and an action plan. A whopping 84 percent hadn’t identified any goals.

Twenty years later, the differences between the students were remarkable. The group that had set goals without writing them down was earning about twice as much as the students with no defined goals. Those who had written down their goals were earning about 10 times more than everyone else, on average.

This study had to do with income, which is a financial marker of success for many people. Based on what we have already covered, it’s tough to know whether these individuals were truly successful based on their own definitions.

Unfortunately, the study never happened. It was simply concocted to inspire people to set goals.

However, it’s a step in the right direction.

Goal-setting is important because it helps you create that map that you’re using to get to where you’re going. Without the map, you can certainly get there, but it’s likely going to take much longer. Without goals, you’re not as efficient. You can lose focus, and it takes time to get back on track when you get derailed without your map in hand.

Setting goals also relieves stress. Uncertainty can make you sick.

When you have some idea of what to expect, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, and your sympathetic nervous system doesn’t have to work as hard. This leads to better health, an improved mood and less chance of burnout, which you would probably agree are crucial aspects of a successful life.

Key Success Factor: You Need to Receive as Much as You Give

Some experts say that giving is one of the keys to success. However, this can lead you down a rough road that leads to burnout.

Most of us are taught that focusing on bringing value to people’s lives is going to get you further than taking what you need. Therefore, we learn that receiving is negative. Concentrating on yourself instead of others is seen as arrogant and selfish.

We end up building walls that prevent us from receiving, which is a crucial part of giving. In the book “The Go-Giver,” by Bob Burg and John David Mann, the authors say that one of the Laws of Stratospheric Success is the Law of Receptivity.

This states that “the key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.” The mindset behind these authors’ philosophy is that you will only be happy with the value that you provide if you know what you want to receive from that value.

Receiving Helps You Stay Focused on Your Why

Thinking this way can prevent you from succumbing to self-doubt when you worry that you aren’t giving enough, good enough or proficient enough—in other words, when you’re concerned that you’re not providing value. It can help you measure the success of your achievements.

For example, if you’re a motivational speaker who wants to connect deeply with other people, being able to receive gratitude from someone you’ve helped will keep you motivated. It will also prevent you from being disappointed if you don’t fill the room every time you take the stage.

As long as you connect deeply with at least one person, you won’t stress out about the “false” measure of success, which is the number of people who attended your speech. You’ll still be confident that you’re doing the work that you need to be doing, and you’ll feel successful even if the numbers weren’t as high as you expected.

Receiving Prevents Burnout

Still, we live in a society that prizes giving more than receiving. So many people make the mistake of plowing ahead when they’re trying to achieve their goals. Taking action is incredibly important. Success doesn’t hit many people while they’re lying on their couches.

But you have to balance it out with receiving. If you don’t, you’ll end up in a cycle of burnout. This can feel like depression or make you think that you’re stuck in a rut. Most likely, you’ve been pushing too hard and forcing an issue.

If you burn out, you won’t be able to continue to move down your path. You’ll be stuck at the “You are here” point on the map.

Giving is associated with control. When you’re giving, you’re in the driver’s seat. You can predict what will happen, which makes you feel calm.

Remember what you learned about deactivating the sympathetic nervous system before? Giving feels good because it helps you know what to expect and diminishes your stress response.

The problem is that most people put themselves in stressful situations while they’re giving so much. Giving takes time. It’s work.

People who are constantly in giving, or action, mode often:

  • Don’t sleep enough
  • Don’t take time for themselves
  • Don’t make quality connections with their loved ones
  • Push their bodies to the limits
  • Eat convenience food instead of nourishing meals

These are not the best practices for achieving success. You can’t set priorities, take action and make effective decisions when you’re exhausted.

Do You Need an Education to Achieve Success?

One of the greatest myths is that you need a college degree to be successful. First of all, success doesn’t always equal wealth. Second of all, a college degree doesn’t always guarantee that you’ll make decent money.

Many people who have done great things, earned a lot of money or found ultimate happiness didn’t graduate from college. Others work in a field that’s completely unrelated to their degree.

Colleges don’t always teach you how to be successful. Scholastic achievement doesn’t ensure that you will gain the life skills that you need to succeed.

A college education is not a key success factor. However, you must be a lifelong learner if you want to succeed in anything.

How often do you come across people who think that they know everything? They may use their smarts to get to a certain point in their life, but they may come up against obstacles. When that happens, the person who is resistant to learning will keep trying to push a square peg through a round hole. Failure to learn predicts a lack of progression.

In addition to the people who believe that they have all the answers are those who want to take in as much knowledge as possible. People are often willing to learn things that they don’t know anything about.

Therefore, if they’re given an opportunity to learn more about a topic with which they’re already quite familiar, they may pass up the chance. But being curious when you already have a solid background in a subject puts you in a prime spot for learning.

Here’s why you’re more receptive to learning when you already have plenty of knowledge about a subject:

  • When you have some knowledge, you can set better goals for your learning.
  • You already know why the topic is important to you.
  • You can take bite-sized doses of learning; you don’t have to learn it all at once.
  • It’s optional; you already know enough to get by, and learning more is the icing on the cake.

Therefore, one of the key success factors is being a lifelong student. Don’t ever assume that you are as informed as you’ll ever get. If you take on that attitude, you may block major opportunities for growth.

Build Relationships to Improve Your Chances of Success

It’s hard to achieve success in a vacuum. Although you may have plenty of skill, knowledge and resources, you need to establish relationships if you want to succeed in life.

While this is especially true for business, it’s also a solid guideline for personal development. Let’s tackle the business end of things first.

If you want to sell anything or influence people, you need to put yourself in front of them. But no one likes to feel like they’re being sold to.

People do crave connection. They want to be heard. They want to vent about their problems. They seek out solutions, but they need you to listen to them first.

If you want to be successful in your career, you’ll have to create relationships with people. This involves establishing trust with your client base. It might mean that you build associations with your colleagues. You might need to have a strong link with a supplier.

Business networking can help you expand your reach. People are most persuaded by word of mouth. When you form solid relationships, you create a group of people who will talk you up, and you don’t even have to ask.

Relationships are also vital to personal growth. People need connection with others to thrive.

Having an interconnected personal network gives you support when you’re falling behind. Your closest allies will be there for you whenever you need them.

Building relationships can help you thrive in your personal life because you won’t depend on your own perspective. When you’re feeling stuck, stifled or uninspired, you can reach out to your loved ones to shift your mindset.

Use These Steps to Develop Successful Relationships

Over the years, you’ll build so many different types of relationships. You have to be able to ask for help if you want to succeed. Here are some tips for creating bonds with people that can help you in multiple ways throughout your life:

1. Think in the long term.

When you have a problem, you want a solution, stat. Asking for help at that point is courageous. However, don’t look for a quick fix when you’re dealing with people. Strive to forge connections that will last.

This means that you have to build relationships even when you’re not feeling a sense of urgency. You’ll also need to recognize that relationships will evolve. It’s easy to take your old relationships for granted, but don’t ditch the peers who have supported you for ages just because someone else comes along to inspire you.

2. Bring value to your relationships.

Remember our talk about giving? Every time that you want to connect with someone, think about what you have to offer them. Don’t be the kind of person who takes advantage of others.

Instead of looking for people who can help you profit, think about how you can use your gifts to assist them. When you give value, though, don’t worry about what you will get in return. Trust that you’ll receive what you need because you help others.

3. Be intentional.

We are all busy, and it can be hard to set aside time to connect with others. Being intentional about your bonds can help you set up relationships that last a long time and add value to both of your lives.

Invite people to join you on your lunch break. Acknowledge major events and milestones that your people are going through. Check in with people just to see how they’re doing.

Cultivate a Positive Mindset

Have you ever met a pessimistic person who achieves major success? Eventually, negativity will drag you down. Even if you gain riches or get together with your soul mate, you will not be able to appreciate your success if you don’t have a positive mindset.

Moreover, there are plenty of obstacles on the way to success. A positive person sees them as challenges and comes up with ways to work with them or get through them. A negative person may stop in their tracks.

Your attitude is everything. This philosophy is reflected in many different religious and spiritual traditions.

As above, so below” is a maxim that is attributed to Hermeticism and Tarot. It means that your ways of thinking create your life, and the problems in your life reflect mindset issues.

Author James Redfield said, “Where attention goes energy flows.” He describes how thoughts have their own energy vibrations. Those vibrations attract similar frequencies from the universe. If you go through life with negative thoughts, you may not achieve the successful outcomes that you desire.

Negative attitudes often stem from limiting beliefs. They’re learned behaviors. You may have picked them up in childhood, from a traumatic situation or as a result of repetitive patterns in your life.

If you aren’t aware of your thoughts, you can internalize negativity as truth without knowing it. That negativity can drive your actions throughout your life.

Some tips for cultivating a positive mindset include:

  • Noticing and writing down your negative self-talk
  • Crafting positive replacements for your unconstructive inner dialogue
  • Practicing gratitude even when you’re feeling like nothing is going well
  • Don’t listen to the news as much
  • Start your day with positive affirmations
  • Look for the lessons in your failures
  • Seek out the humor in a bad situation

Practice Presence

To be successful, you need a healthy dose of vision. Being able to dream big can set you up with incredible potential for success. However, your aspirations won’t come true without action, and you can only take action in the present moment.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid setting goals or planning for the future. However, if you live in the space of possibility, you might neglect the things that you have to do in the moment.

Living in the present means that you enjoy the journey as much as the outcome. Remember when we talked about focusing on the feeling that success brings you? When you do that as you live in the present, you find success in every moment.

These brief rewards keep you going until you reach the next milestone. Instead of plugging along, dreading every moment of your work and waiting until you reach your goals, you’ll enjoy your life when you practice being present.

Your life is not just scenery that you pass on the way to your goals. Everything that you do is important. You can find meaning and purpose in every person that you speak with and every event that happens, no matter how small.

When you learn how to live in the present moment, you’ll find personal joy. Studies show that people who are happier tend to achieve more success in the three primary domains of life.

This explains why some people aren’t satisfied when they reach their goals. If you aren’t fully engaged in the journey, why do you expect to step into your connection when you finally reach success? If everything that happens to you is fleeting, you can expect your success to fly by without recognition too.

Maybe you achieve everything you want, but what good is that if you don’t notice?

Stay Creative

Many people—especially adults—say that they’re not creative. When you’re a child, you’re encouraged to explore the fantasy realms in your mind’s eye. No one tells you that your drawing of Batman is terrible because it doesn’t look anything like Batman.

When you’re young, you’re praised for translating the creative messages that you receive into real-world experiences, whether it’s through play, art or other pursuits.

The older you get, the more you’re trained to leave that creativity behind. At some point, the artwork that you create is compared with other people. You often feel inferior if you can’t produce something that has a logical explanation from an outside perspective.

Moreover, you’re urged to be productive. There isn’t much room for daydreaming and creativity if you’re always trying to make things happen in the real world.

But creative thinking is crucial to your success. It enables you to envision different scenarios when something isn’t working the way that you planned. Creativity allows you to reorganize your mindset and approach situations from different perspectives. Unless you have a creative person telling you what to do, you can’t move past barriers without a healthy dose of ingenuity.

Research shows that people who come up with creative ideas and stick with them are the most likely to be successful. Creative people work without limits in mind. Doing so enables them to see more possibilities than someone who lives with constant mental restrictions.

Fail Frequently so That You Can Succeed Sooner

Many people don’t try to succeed because they’re so scared of failing. It seems obvious that you can’t achieve what you want if you don’t try to go for it. However, many people live in fear of failure.

As we’re taught to strive for success, we also learn not to embrace failure. In school, we don’t move ahead if we get poor grades. When we make mistakes, our parents may criticize us.

But failure is a key ingredient to success. Without it, you would have no boundaries. You would have no way of assessing whether something works or not.

Psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky won the Nobel Prize for their work surrounding failure and reward. Most people are more affected by loss than they are by reward. Therefore, they go to great lengths to avoid failure. The majority of the population will work harder to steer clear of a letdown than achieve what they want.

If you move down your map avoiding obstacles at all cost, you might live a comfortable life. But chances are, you’ll be so busy looking at the next curve in the road that you’ll forget about where you’re going.

Many successful business people have stories of failure in their past. But because they have incorporated the other key success factors into their lives, they learn from them. They find creative ways to move past the loss. They stay positive, and they ask for help when they need it.

Plus, because successful people know what keeps them on their path, they have an inner spark that doesn’t let them get lost. Even when they fall off the horse, they keep getting back on.

No matter how you define success, you can achieve it if you keep these points in mind. One of the best pieces of advice that anyone can give you on your journey is “Don’t work so hard.” When you set the foundation by establishing your goals and adopting the mindset that’s necessary for success, you’ll find it in everything that you do.

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