In our Western society, we often talk about success as an individual effort. We make movies about How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, talk about famous entrepreneurs who are considered successes, and question whether celebrities who have money and fame, but seem deeply unhappy, are successful. It doesn't make much sense, then, that we talk about success as a monolith. While many successful people share certain traits, success means something different to everyone, and that's okay.
The first and most important step towards success is deciding what success means to you, and how you want to succeed. Your goals may be modest—get through this day at work, or handle this one stressful situation—or more long term—running a marathon, or creating a fundraiser to work with a particular population in your area. Any of these examples are perfectly valid ways for a person to be driven to succeed. Once your goal is chosen, put it in writing. This helps to make the goal more concrete.
Identifying your goal is a huge part of your success, and you shouldn't downplay that. Many people struggle to even see their way to making their lives, or the world, a better place than they currently are. But at the same time, finding your goal is just the first step in your path towards success. Don't get complacent.
Once you know your goal, start to identify ways to make it reality. Do you need more education? A connection within a community? And once you're working towards success, how do you maintain your self? Marc And Angel Hack Life has a great blog post talking about the things that people do to maintain success and happiness, offering suggestions like listening to what other people have to say, but not letting their judgments diminish you, and not letting old mistakes from the past take over what's happening in the present.
Many experts on success recommend a gratitude practice. Once a week is enough for most people; practiced daily, some experts have seen a decrease in happiness. But those who take time every week to acknowledge and be thankful for progress made are more likely to see their incremental successes and keep moving forward.
Once you've achieved your goal, whether it's a big one or a small one, how do you handle that experience? Over and over again, experts all over, from Tiny Buddha to Frank Sonnenberg, say that humility is key.
Humility is a word that gets a bad rap in our culture. Too often, people think that being humble means that you don't think good things about yourself, or that you always put other people before you. A better way to think of humility, however, is that humility doesn't mean thinking less of yourself, but it does mean thinking of yourself less. If you are humble, you don't assume that you are right, and everyone else is wrong, and you continue to talk to other people who are honest with you, instead of surrounding yourself with sycophants who never disagree with you.
To be successful over the long term, you also need to be able to manage stress. Especially for those who find success in business or their careers, it can be difficult to balance all the ins and outs of work life and home life. There are many ways to reduce stress, but it is important to know that the idea that what many of us consider to be leisure, stretching out and doing nothing, is not always the most restful activity. While something low pressure is good, to really help you relax, the activity should also hold your interest.
Being successful is a strong, positive goal, and one that many people should strive for, even if their definition of success seems unimportant to other people. Compete against yourself, instead of everyone else, and find your own success and happiness.
Wilma Derksen, C.E.C., O.M.