Success is a matter of our commitment to achieving it. Many people don’t know where to start. Many others don’t know where it takes them. Both of these are fairly simple to overcome. You cannot start a journey toward success without a destination. If you truly want to reach your fullest potential your going to need a map. That map has to be incredibly personal and definitive. Here are five steps to help plot your course and navigate it.
1. Get Clear
Here are three good techniques to help you clarify your desired outcome. You can write it, visualize it, or draw it. At the end you should have a product with a specific interpretation of what that looks like. When you get clear on what you want you’ll make far better decisions on how your going to get there.
Many great authors begin their work with the end in mind. This lets them move their characters through the stories twists and turns in a way that is natural. This lets us (the reader) relate to the characters, their actions, and their words. Write out your desired outcome in a detailed and comprehensive way. Make yourself your own character in your own story and the right path will open up. Write until you reach a deep narrative of how your outcome looks and how your outcome feels.
Visualizing means creating a mental image that depicts exactly what you want. This technique used by pro athletes and Olympians is a proven method to success. Your goal is to picture everything. To be effective it has to be precise.
Think vivid detail. Imagine your setting and looking out through your own eyes. Include all the things that come with your end state. The clothes you wear, the car you drive, the house, your partner . . . anything you can imagine that would be in that moment at your best possible outcome. Find specific references like the make, model, and color of the car you want. Don’t leave anything vague.
Here’s a great article on the amount of detail Olympic Athletes use in their Imagery. New York Times, “Olympians Use Imagery as Mental training.”
How about drawing the life you want. Take out a sheet of paper and draw yourself into a picture that shows your desired outcome. Detail matters, exceptional artistic ability does not. It’s ok if you don’t get everything exactly right. Just focus on using visual representations that hold meaning for you. It’s important that you recognize the image (images) as a significant representation of you want to create. Use a lot of color and energy. Mix media if you feel like it, marker, pencil, crayon, anything goes. Just be thorough. Commit some quality time to thinking and producing a depiction of what it is you want to achieve.
2. Outline the Steps
Once you have clarity this part will be easier than you expect. Most of us know what we should do. A lot of us don’t do it. When you write out your steps your saying I know what to do. When you keep them small you see it as simple.
Here’s the key. Keep them small. You may end up with well over 50 little steps that lead to greatness. That’s a good thing. When you break it down this way one thing will lead you to another. Keeping them small helps you prevent feeling overwhelmed. When we become overwhelmed our thoughts are everywhere. Success is often a product of focusing on one thing. Focus on one small step and master it.
3. Focus on Your Process
Once you know what you should do focus on doing it the best you can. Schedule your time and apply yourself fully. Try to avoid goal setting and really hone in on your process. This will eventually become your system and a viable system is success. Here are some quick truths about systems. Systems work when you aren’t. Systems are replicable and leveragable. Systems almost always win against will power.
Let’s use an example. Say your ultimate outcome is to be a published, successful writer. You create a goal of writing your first book, you establish your final word count and topic, you give yourself a deadline and set your goals. Time passes and you’re not working on your book, nothing is being put on paper and your deadline is creeping up. Success has most likely eluded you.
Now let’s say you focused on your process. Your system involves a set schedule. This schedule tells you when you will write, how long you will commit to your session, and what days of the week. You focus only on committing to your schedule and getting your work out and recorded. Soon you’ve written a few thousand words and in a few months a few tens of thousands of words. Suddenly your system delivered your outcome.
I’m also willing to bet you’ll learn to enjoy the time you spend working in your system. Once you get comfortable with your routine you’ll want to spend the time engaged with your work. When you do skip a session you’ll also miss it. This is where real practice happens and where performance improves.
4. Get Feedback
Maybe our least favorite activity that ranks among the most important. Asking for feedback can be like opening the flood gates to the things we want to hear the least.
Look for honest criticism of the work and positive responses even when the message isn’t. The point isn’t to subject ourselves to unrelative comments from disinterested people. The point is to find a supportive audience. Supportive doesn’t mean agreeing. We need to hear “you can do better” when it really does need to be better.
Don’t take feedback personal. If it’s personal it’s probably not feedback, it’s more likely an argument. Being willing to accept that our work isn’t always the best we can do is huge in getting better. Finding the chinks in our armor helps us make better armor.
5. Test and Try Again
Test everything. Often the difference between the uber successful and the not so successful comes down to testing. Testing is a process that allows us to view what we’ve created for what it is. Often we see these things for the work we put in or the time and money we’ve invested.
We’ve all heard the expression about assumptions. We have all also failed to recognize every time we make one. Testing challenges assumptions and forces us to realize flaws we didn’t see. It is the road to the promised land of honest assessment and value.
Sometimes testing is straight-forward and sometimes it isn’t. Here are a few rules to help flesh it out:
1. Be clear and define your purpose. (what do you want to know from the test)
2. Analyze your inputs and expected outputs. (what did you do and what did you get, or hope to get)
3. Use a control (something that stays the same for comparison)
4. Test one thing at a time.
5. Believe the results and act on what you see. (not what you expected to see)
Once you complete your testing it’s time to try it again. Now you have real information to use in what you want to achieve. You can weigh your actions against your outcomes and know without assumption what works. You can go back to your process with new confidence and energy equipped with knowledge. This will smooth out your road to success and keep you in a state of always improving.
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