Seven Steps To Success
Author: Dean L Sleigh
Do we really understand why we succeed or fail? What do successful people have in common and what are the key things they do that others do not? Research shows that in order to be successful some simple strategies can be followed dramatically influencing performance and, consequently,giving a greater chance of achieving success. Here is my list of seven things successful people do:
- Have a Plan. It is important to be as specific as possible – a clearly defined goal and a well-thought plan will result in the best chance of success. Motivation is less likely to fade part way through the journey when you have a clear plan. Recent academic work has identified Mental Contrasting as a technique that increases the likelihood that people will fulfill their goals. In essence, individuals are first instructed to imagine the benefits they would experience if they fulfilled the desired goal, such as eating healthy food, as vividly as possible. Next, they are instructed to reflect upon the obstacles that could impede this goal, such as limited motivation, also as vividly as possible. Provided they form these images in this order, this exercise has been shown to increase the likelihood that people will achieve their goals. However, mental contrasting is successful only if people are confident they can indeed achieve the identified goal;
- Get started & be productive. How many goals are not reached because we simply do not get started. The distractions of the day push aside the opportunity to make a start and over time we drift further and further from the path to achieving the goal. Eventually we abandon the goal and establish a new one with which the cycle starts over again. And again.And Again. Even if we do get started we are often highly unproductive dealing with the noise of the day: phone calls, emails, meetings and largely irrelevant forms and policies. In his landmark book ,The 80/20 Principal, Richard Koch explores the evidence proving only a small portion of our effort delivers a huge proportion of the results we want. By concentrating on those things that deliver the biggest results we can transform our effectiveness dramatically;
- Track Progress & Regular monitoring of progress is essential. Keeping track and seeking feedback on progress on a regular basis is important to understand exactly what has been achieved and what remains. Recent research citied by the Harvard Business Review suggests “to-go” thinking— or focusing on what you have left to accomplish—is better than “to-date” thinking—focusing on the progress you’ve already made. Thinking of how far you’ve come can give you a premature sense of accomplishment and cause you to slack off or perhaps switch to starting another goal.If you display the classic weakness of being great at starting things but not finishing them, perhaps forcing yourself to stay focused on the goal and not celebrating the early milestones will help you stay motivated and check off more projects as truly completed. Think of a long road trip in the car, the distance already covered is of little value compared with the distance, time and conditions you still need to travel to get to the destination.
- Be the realistic optimist. Realistic optimists believe they will succeed, but also believe they have to make success happen — through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies. They recognize the need for giving serious thought to how they will deal with obstacles. This preparation only increases their confidence in their own ability to get things done. Unrealistic optimists, on the other hand, believe that success will happen to them — that the universe will reward them for all their positive thinking, or that somehow they will be transformed overnight into the kind of person for whom obstacles cease to exist. One of the clearest illustrations of the dangers of unrealistic optimism comes from a study of weight loss. Psychologist Gabriele Oettingen asked a group of obese women in a weight-loss program how likely they felt they were to reach their goals. She found that those women who were confident that they would succeed lost almost 12kg more than self-doubters, as expected. But Oettingen also asked the women to tell her what they imagined their road to success would be like — if they thought they would have a hard time resisting temptation, or if they’d have no problem staying committed. The results were astounding: women who believed they would succeed easily lost 11kg less than those who thought their weight-loss journey would be difficult.
- Continue to Learn.To reach your goal you will need skill and ability. Your skills and abilities can be improved. Instead of focusing only on the goal, you should also focus on acquiring new skills and getting better at the things you need to do to reach the goal. Appreciate the journey it takes to get to the goal. Furthermore, allow yourself to make small mistakes along the way that can be quickly adjusted; that way you are less likely to make large mistakes requiring greater effort to correct, keeping you further from your goal. The Blue Angles of the US Navy are the most famous aerial aerobic team in the world, having performed stunts for over 60 years. Their pilots are highly trained, but after every single performance they return to their barracks and review every move they made to learn from the small mistakes made. They do not wait for a crash to seek to improve their skill.
- Grit. Commitment to long-term goals and persistence despite difficulties and setbacks are properties of having grit. Demonstrating grit is essential in achieving important goals. Testing for grit proves time and time gain its positive correlation with success. Consider the National Spelling Bee in the United States for kids aged 15 and under, where participants with higher grit scores typically work harder and longer than less gritty peers, ultimately resulting in better performance, notwithstanding cognitive ability
- Focus on your strengths.Gallup’s pioneering work in this area, looking at research going back over 50 years, proves how a focus on strengths rather than weakness leads to success. Gallup has discovered some amazing stuff. They found that if you focus on your strengths every day, you are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life. If your boss focuses on your weakness your chance of feeling engage at work is just 1%. All in, Gallup’s evidence is clear; anyone who doesn’t create a life centred on their strengths will experience far less success and a lower quality of life. The message is clear, have goals that are consistent with your strengths wherever possible.
It’s appealing to simplify the attributes of success. The game is rigged; some people have all the luck and advantage. Others have the entire disadvantage and are doomed to fail. Every day people the world over fall short of their goals and loose confidence in their ability to achieve the success they want. By following the simple strategies outlined above your chance of achieving success can be dramatically increased. And never forget; not trying is the ultimate failure, for it means you can never make progress to your goal.