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Success is an ongoing process. In a broader view, success is more than the attainment of a single goal; it is a way of life in which we continually press to be more, and this "being more" has the side-benefit of "gaining more" -- more money, more social fulfillment, and more mastery of our life. When we view success as the development of ourselves, it becomes a continual process with new goals arising naturally; when we achieve a goal, it is not the end but merely a moment to be savored before engaging in the next meaningful endeavor. Our motivation does not come from a fear of failure, poverty, or disgrace; those concerns can be incidentally satisfied in the general drive toward our affirmative goals of self-fulfillment. For example, if our goal is to express our potential in our career, we have the determination and drive that might secure an objective type of success as almost just an afterthought.
Techniques for achieving success.
- Aspire to success in every aspect of your life. When success is seen as the attainment of only one goal (such as wealth), we might become a workaholic who ignores other aspects of life. A broad perspective on success includes all portions of our life: our finances, health, family, friends, intellect, emotional satisfaction, and so on.
- Enjoy every step toward success. There is a moment when a goal is reached -- but it only a moment. People who make the most of their success enjoy the many moments that lead to the culmination; they find pleasure in the self-expression, the adventure, the experience of increasing proficiency, and the attainment of the many little goals which are reached en route to a large goal. Because they love to play the game, they feel an effortless motivation, enthusiasm, and concentration -- three factors which contribute to their success. And when they reach their goal, they pause to celebrate -- but it is just "icing on the cake".
- See the "success" in everything you do. We create the habit of success by noting its occurrence whenever it happens, whether the event is a job promotion, or a good game of tennis -- "good", even if we didn't beat our opponent. Success can even be something as minor as "successfully" buying groceries, because any achievement registers equally in our mind: "I'm a success; things work out well for me." Our day can be a continual stream of attainments big and small, each of which generates a feeling of competence and confidence that we will do well in whatever else comes our way. We learn the principles of success in its many forms, and we understand the Zen statement, "If you can do anything well, you can do everything well."
- Follow your own standards of success. We feel successful only when we reach the goals that match our values. Those values come from within ourselves, not from external standards and images of wealth, position, influence, or reputation. We select goals which are meaningful, and we know why they are meaningful. Then, when we attain an objective, we feel successful and fulfilled, rather than expecting a superficial standard (or society) to give us those feelings. Our values can change from moment to moment; last year's goal might have no meaning today, so we need to re-verify that our previous goals are still important to us. We have no obligation to our past -- past goals, previous careers, or college degrees. And there is no obligation to climb ever higher; in every part of life, we find plateaus which satisfy us for a while or forever (and we find that this contentment makes us happier than does a compulsive, "never-satisfied" restlessness.)
- Prepare for the psychological demands of success. We are more likely to achieve, retain, and enjoy success if we prepare ourselves psychologically:
- Self-esteem. A person with low self-esteem creates meager goals, and then pursues the goals indecisively because he or she believes that they are neither attainable nor deserved. And if success is reached, the person feels uncomfortable with it -- or he or she tries to compensate for the low self-esteem through a display of arrogance.
- Optimism. We know that success is natural; it is to be expected.
- Control of fear. We might encounter the "fear of success" as our lives increase their speed and intensity, and as we lose certain friends and familiar routines.
- Motivation. Will our motivation dissipate when we reach a goal, or will we continually refresh ourselves with new goals? The concern that we will lose motivation causes some of us to deny ourselves the pleasure of seeing ourselves as "successful".
- Flexibility. Our lives change as we develop new friendships, make bigger gambles, budget more money, and encounter other new responsibilities and pressures (especially if success comes in the form of a more complex job).
- Failure does not have to be viewed as a disaster nor disgrace; it is simply an occurrence -- one from which we can learn and improve.
- Failure is a part of life. Failure is an aspect of everything that we do, because every ending is short of perfection (though many of those imperfect endings are still satisfying). Life is full of successes and failures; we can find poise that raises us above that swinging pendulum, and we can have an enthusiasm that sustains our grip no matter how hard we are flung in one direction or another. With a shrug and perhaps some humor, we say, "You win some and you lose some."
- Failure is just a "result." We perceive our failures caked with emotion -- disappointment, anger, frustration. But apart from the emotion, all that remains is simply "what happened"; we did that action, and got this consequence. The failure is mere feedback. In fact, we were successful; we successfully produced a certain outcome, but we would have preferred a different one. Take responsibility for the cause and the effect, and then move on. We might change our approach, or we might change our goal to one that is more achievable, but still desirable.
- In failure, sustain your self-esteem. Failure doesn't make us less of a person; it means that we are part of the human race, participating in the usual ups and downs of life. Instead of claiming a one-sided view of ourselves as a loser or winner, we can honestly see the many parts of ourselves -- the segments in which we are successful, and the ones that need more improvement. And if other people think less of you when you falter, their view can injure you only if you have first injured yourself by believing that same viewpoint. Those people belittle you because they have been beaten by their low self-esteem, and they get relief by making you appear to be even lower than themselves. Be proud of your effort and of the perseverance that leads you to try again.
- Learn from your failures. Failure is an element of learning -- the experimentation, the attempts. As we try various methods, we learn which ones don't work, and we gain understanding of the nature of our subject -- what it is and what it is not. (This is also an opportunity to learn more about ourselves.) Only when we see our errors can we improve and make things right. And when the small failures and successes have led us eventually to mastery, only our new proficiency remains, while the memories of the trials fade away.
- Remember that Winston Churchill said, "Success is going from one failure to the next without a loss of enthusiasm."