Most people would say that they want success. It’s part of the American Dream. Success is woven into our cultural values. However, only 8 percent of people fulfill their goals. What are they missing?
Successful people have a clear definition of what they want. They also adopt and practice habits that contribute to their desires.
Are the steps to success the same actions that you would take to accomplish your goals? Or are your goals some of the steps that you take to achieve success?
These are two of the questions that we answer in this article.
How Do Americans Define Success?
Success is different for everyone. Some people feel successful when they’re bringing home a decent paycheck. However, if their relationships are falling apart and they’re not satisfied with their careers, are they really successful?
In a survey that asked 2,000 people to quantify what it means to be successful, the respondents answered that the following factors are key:
- Being married
- Having 2 kids
- Having 4 best friends
- Earning a bachelor’s degree
- Earning a salary of $147K
- Working 31 hours a week
- Commuting 10 minutes to work
- Working at home
- Getting 5.3 weeks off per year
- Traveling three times per year
- Owning a home worth $461K
- Owning a car worth $41K
While the average person who responded to the survey had a bachelor’s degree and traveled 3 times per year already, most hadn’t achieved the other success factors yet.
Is that because they haven’t taken the right steps? Perhaps. We are creatures of habit. If our habits are not aligned with our quest for success, we may never get what we want.
Leaving your ingrained patterns behind for a more fulfilling life can be difficult. But the steps to success begin with your mindset. Shifting the way that you think can set you up for a meaningful life filled with everything that you could ever want.
1. Raise Your Vibration
The first problem may be that we equate success with external factors and material things. Therefore, although we may be insanely happy and have all the love that we could ever want, we may tell ourselves that we’re not successful if we don’t have X amount of money in our bank accounts.
If we keep telling ourselves that we’re unsuccessful, we’re not going to do very well at being successful.
Tony Robbins says that energy flows where your focus goes. If you’re focused on what you don’t have, you may keep attracting the consequences that you don’t want.
This can be explained by understanding energy frequencies. Although some people consider this to be a spiritual concept, it has its basis in physics.
Everything in the universe is energy. The human body is an electrical structure. Our organs and tissues have specific vibrations. So do our thoughts and emotions. That’s because any electrical signal is associated with a certain frequency.
The Law of Attraction says that you attract things that vibrate at the same frequency as you. Thoughts and emotions have more potent vibrations than something material, such as a dinner plate. Raising your vibration can help you manifest the success that you want.
- Becoming aware of your thoughts – Your subconscious often operates behind the scenes, sending you thoughts that are rooted in limiting beliefs and negativity. Paying attention to this can help you change your mindset.
- Meditating regularly – Meditation changes your brain waves and reduces your default mode network activity, allowing you to change destructive or unhelpful thought patterns.
- Eat clean – The foods that you eat have a certain vibration. Clean, nourishing foods have higher vibrations than those that are refined, highly processed or devoid of nutrients.
- Beautify your environment – If your house is always messy or you can’t stand the clutter in your workspace, you’re likely not giving off the vibrations that you need to attract success.
- Practice compassion – Hate and anger are low-vibration emotions. Although it can be difficult, practicing compassion can raise your vibration to help you manifest success.
2. Develop a Growth Mindset
Research psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that a growth mindset is a key step to success. If you have a growth mindset, you believe that intelligence and success are fluid; they can be achieved through actions and hard work. In contrast, people with a fixed mindset think that success is a result of innate talent, and you can either have it or you can’t.
If you have a fixed mindset, you will never believe that you can achieve success if you don’t have talent or skill. We all have insecurities. People with a fixed mindset let those doubts get the best of them and don’t even try.
On the other hand, if you have a growth mindset, you believe that you can create your life. You can learn, change and adapt to make the most of every situation. When you’re presented with an obstacle, you understand that you can work your way around it.
When you develop a growth mindset, you recognize that failures don’t reflect your abilities. Instead, you see failure as a lesson that shows you where you can improve or what you can do differently. You keep building on your previous experiences. The road never stops short for someone with a growth mindset.
3. Practice Awareness
Most people believe that if they want something badly enough, they can get it. When they start on the road to success, they might stay connected to their desire, but they miss the first step, which is practicing awareness. Instead of slowing down to take inventory of what’s going on in their life, they want to get moving as quickly as possible.
You can think of this as trying to use a map to get to a destination. The map only helps if it has a “You are here” indicator. If you don’t know where you start, how can you plan out the route to your destination?
People are often so impatient to start making changes that they don’t take time to notice where they are. If you don’t know what you have, you can’t get a good grasp on what needs to change.
Awareness can help you with steps 1 and 2 in the roadmap to success. For example, becoming aware of your limiting thought patterns can help you change your vibration. Awareness also allows you to develop a growth mindset because it can alert you when you’re falling into a fixed mentality. Perhaps most importantly, mindfulness lets you define what success means to you in the first place.
Without self-awareness, you might have your eye on the prize, but you may also stay into a grass-is-greener mentality. You might not recognize what you have and always feel unfulfilled, searching for something that will remain out of your grasp.
You can improve your awareness in several ways, including:
- Keeping track of your time – Use that old planner to write down what you’re already doing every day instead of scheduling the tasks that you plan to do. This will help you understand how much time it takes to perform certain actions and where you’re wasting time so that you can plan your day more efficiently. Do this for a week before diving into a new project.
- Monitoring your thoughts – When you’re moving through life on autopilot, you might not notice how much you’re speaking to yourself negatively, blocking your chances for success. Use a Notes app on your smartphone to jot down your unconstructive self-talk so that you can begin to change it.
- Notice your emotions – Most of us are taught to ignore or mask intense emotions because they feel uncomfortable. Doing this can lead to explosive tantrums in the board room when our feelings boil over. Becoming aware of our emotions throughout our lives can help us learn to manage them.
4. Build a Support System
Although it seems noble to rise to success on your own, high performers don’t do it alone. They enlist support in many areas of their lives. Giving and receiving support is an essential human need. You can find help from your family, friends, mastermind groups, online communities, book clubs, sports teams, instructors, coaches and bosses. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Successful people take the following actions to create support systems:
- Work with mentors or coaches
- Delegate tasks
- Identify which family members, friends, colleagues and peers can help them in different areas
- Try new activities to meet people
- Join teams to give and receive at the same time
- Offer appreciation to those who help them
In business and personal success, a support system can:
- Offer feedback for your ideas
- Provide accountability
- Help you through challenges
- Take on some of the load when you’re feeling overwhelmed
- Offer ideas and suggestions that you haven’t thought of
- Help you network
5. Be a Visionary
You might be successful without a vision. However, the road may be fraught with uncertainty. It’s hard to set goals and take action when you don’t know the destination. You might end up in a great place, but you might not.
Plus, you’ll likely take more ineffective action when you can’t create a plan. Zig Ziglar said that “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
Developing a vision for your success is linked to identifying what it means to be successful in the first place. This is also connected to Simon Sinek’s idea of Finding your Why.
Your vision is the “What,” but it’s supported by the “Why.” Both of these are necessary for holding your purpose in your mind so that you can continue forward even when you’re distracted or facing obstacles.
Vision work has been studied extensively in sports circles. In 2014, the New York Times reported that Olympic athletes use visualization to improve their performance. Billie Jean King used visualization in the 1960s to mentally simulate how she would beat the competition. Sports psychologists say that imagining a win is one of the keys to achieving it.
How to Create an Effective Vision
When you’re creating a vision, you don’t just use your mind’s eye. You need to use all of your senses to project yourself into the situation. You can do this for micro tasks, like rocking your next presentation at work. You can also use visualization to map out your goals.
After you create the vision for your 5-year plan, for example, you can hold that in your mind to flesh out your yearly, monthly and weekly goals. Vision work helps you stay focused on the big picture. You can make better decisions when you know that you’re working toward your vision. You can also set boundaries and say no when something comes into your life that may derail you from achieving this vision.
One of the reasons that it’s important to use all of your senses when forming the vision is that you’ll embody it in everything that you do. If you’ve already tasted success in your dream world, you’re much more likely to stay on track than if you have no idea what success might feel like for you.
Don’t expect a vision to materialize overnight. The vision that helps you achieve your purpose comes with time, dedication and focus. The more you work on this, the easier it will be to imagine the dream in all of its glory.
Think of cultivating your vision the way that you would grow a garden. You need to come back to it and water it day after day if you want it to flourish.
Some steps for creating a solid vision include:
- Meditating on your desires
- Focusing on receiving, not just plowing forward all the time
- Allowing yourself to have limitless fantasies
- Journaling about your ideas and dreams
- Considering ideas that you didn’t think were possible
- Recognizing your strengths
- Identifying your values
- Knowing what really matters to you
One way to create a limitless vision is to ask yourself: If money, time and other circumstances weren’t factors, what would my life look like if it was filled with all of the success that I could ever want? Starting with this question can help you create a vision and fill in the gaps.
6. Enlist Your Other Personas
Many successful people are visionaries. They don’t have to work at step 5 because it comes so easily to them. They are big thinkers who are consumed with creativity. They’re often inspired, and they think outside the box.
However, if you don’t have other personality traits to support your big dreams, you may never accomplish your objectives. You might become so overwhelmed when you’re hit by big ideas that you don’t know how to implement them. You may live in a fantasy world and forget to access the material world for the resources to help you achieve your goals.
Stepping into different personas as you set goals and debate big decisions can help you move forward in an organized fashion. Some of the roles that you can experiment with are:
- The mastermind – The person who sees how all the puzzle pieces fit together
- The skeptic – The person who addresses the issues that the visionary may not have considered
- The action-taker – The person who performs the steps that are necessary to achieve the vision
- The spectator – The person who sees the whole picture, from vision to implementation
When you bring all of these personas into the picture, you are much more likely to move smoothly toward success. You can also look at these characteristics within yourself when things are not going well.
There is a big chance that you’re ignoring the action-taker when your dream seems too bit to accomplish. If your plans seem to tank just when they get going, you might be failing to draw upon the strengths of the skeptic or the mastermind before you take action.
Don’t forget to let the visionary start by telling you what’s possible. Allow the visionary to brainstorm without limitation. The other personas will come in to create structure for those dreams.
7. Set Goals
Most people jump straight to this step without setting the foundation. While setting goals is important, it’s not the only key to success. You need to have the right mindset and support system before you can get to work on your goals.
Once you feel comfortable with steps 1-6, you can work on step 7. Setting goals allows you to work efficiently. Doing this prevents burnout because you can work hard to get rewards instead of spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.
One study found that 92 percent of people who set New Year’s Resolutions don’t achieve their goals. Is it worth it to set goals if you’re not going to reach them? The answer is yes as long as you do it the right way.
Tips for Setting Effective Goals
Simply writing down what you want to achieve isn’t always going to get you to the end of the road. Many people have had so many experiences where they neglected to meet their goals that they lose faith and never try again. Here are some tips for setting goals that help you achieve the success that you want.
- Start at the end.
Remember that visionary persona that we talked about? Start there when you’re setting goals. If you work backward from your big dreams, you can create baby steps that help you work toward your ultimate goals.
Imagine that success is at the top of a ladder and your goals are the rungs. If you space them too far apart, you may have trouble reaching the next one. Breaking down the large objectives into smaller ones builds ease into the process. Some goals may even overlap those above or below them so that you can use what you’ve learned to progress toward your vision.
- Set SMART goals.
SMART is a mnemonic that helps you remember the important aspects of goal-setting, which are:
- S – Specific/Significant
- M – Measurable/Meaningful
- A – Attainable/Action-Oriented
- R – Relevant/Rewarding
- T – Time-Bound/Trackable
Although your vision may be huge and general, once you break it down into smaller pieces, you can use this mnemonic to make sure that your goals will help you reach the top rung of the ladder.
Be precise with your intentions and timing. “Land a great job” isn’t as specific as “Get paid for writing and publishing three articles by August 1.” Once you set the goal, write out the action steps that are necessary for achieving that goal. Set deadlines for those actions so that you stay on track.
Although some experts say that you should reward yourself for achieving your goals, the goals themselves should be rewarding. When the benefits are inherent in the objective, you’ll stay motivated to set and reach your goals.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t celebrate your accomplishments, though. Involving your support team in a celebration of your hard work will help you feel pride for what you’ve achieved.
- Make room for failure in your goals.
If you aren’t realistic about the potential for failure, you may avoid taking risks. You could also become so discouraged by failure that you neglect to move forward.
Instead of celebrating the achievement, set goals that allow you to celebrate your actions or progress.
In the weight-loss world, this is known as the “non-scale victory.” Many people who set fitness goals want to lose a certain amount of weight. However, if their larger goal is to lose 10 pounds by December, they may lose motivation in September when they aren’t even halfway there. If they haven’t lost all of the weight by the winter, they may be even more disheartened.
One way to prevent this from happening is to set goals that don’t involve the scale. For example, moving down a dress size or feeling more comfortable in a certain pair of pants can be an achievable non-scale victory. Eating a salad a day could be another goal.
From a business perspective, you can set some goals that encourage you to take leaps that may feel uncomfortable. Try setting a goal to reach out to 10 new prospects this week or send a pitch to your dream client. The objective is not to get them to say yes; it’s just to put yourself out there.
8. Practice Being Uncomfortable
The road to success is paved with obstacles. Getting over them isn’t always difficult, but it may be uncomfortable. Taking risks and making change are uncomfortable. If you want to persevere, you have to be ok with that discomfort.
If you can acclimate yourself to intense situations, you can thrive no matter what’s going on.
Some tips for practicing this skill include:
- Choose to start – Sometimes, getting started is the most uncomfortable part. Once you show up, you begin the momentum, and things feel easier. Instead of letting people force you into starting, practice making the decision yourself.
- Push forward when things feel hard – Your first inclination may be to quit when things get uncomfortable. If you can move past the discomfort ever so slightly, you can put it behind you.
- Put yourself in uncomfortable situations – Many people avoid getting uncomfortable. Make it a weekly goal to do something that makes you feel awkward. The more you do it, the easier it will feel over time.
- Notice how you feel in your body – Discomfort is often a product of our thoughts. If you can focus on what’s going on in your body, you can let the feeling process through you and leave. When you’re feeling uncomfortable, focus on the spot in your body that reflects the discomfort, such as the butterflies in your stomach. When you give that sensation some attention, you’ll notice that it dissipates.
9. Work on Self-Improvement in Every Area of Your Life
If you’re trying to be successful at work, you may think that you need to put all of your time and effort into that category. You might feel as though you don’t have time for a relationship. You might neglect your health because you’re too busy to exercise or cook dinner.
You can only get so far by working hard in one area, though. Experts talk about achieving work-life balance and how it can help you stay happy and satisfied even when you’re working hard in your career.
Creating balance in your life can:
- Make you more productive
- Help you manage stress
- Allow you to unleash your full potential
Work toward self-improvement by making sure that you:
- Exercise or move your body regularly
- Rest when you need to
- Get quality sleep
- Avoid negativity
Work-life balance isn’t the goal to work toward; it’s a strategy for helping you find success. If you don’t have balance in your interpersonal relationships, finances, leisure time, hobbies and other categories, you will experience a low vibration in those areas. That dull frequency can pull your entire vibration down, affecting your ability to manifest what you want elsewhere.