Success is something you create. People don’t become and remain successful by accident or through good luck.
Do you know a happy couple who has been married for a long time? If you ask them what has made their marriage successful, I’ll bet they give you a laundry list of strategies and skills they’ve developed over the years. You might hear them say it’s been really hard work, or that they’ve learned to compromise. You’ll probably hear about mutual respect and determination. I don’t think you’ll hear words like easy and lucky.
The same thing is true about anyone who has been successful in business, politics, or the martial arts. Success is a combination of knowledge, skill, and attitude. A study conducted by Stanford University revealed that knowledge and skill account for 12 percent of success while attitude accounts for 88 percent! I think those figures are staggering. What that study tells me is that 88 percent of our lives are completely within our control – because we can shape, define, and control our attitude.
Desire and Attitude: Getting what you want
No matter what age you are or where you come from, whether you were born wealthy or poor, short, or tall, skinny, or fat, you have desires. Desire is a driving force behind success and happiness, and it shapes your decision making and your attitude. Over the course of your life, those desires have changed based upon your experiences and your environment, but they are still powerful.
Desire causes each of us to make virtually every move. Desire makes you act a certain way when you want someone’s love and affection. Have you ever worked extra hours because you wanted a promotion? Do you work out or watch what you eat because you want to stay healthy?
Take a moment to think back over your life. Can you remember starting school? The first day was exciting; everyone and everything was new. Soon you began to make choices within that little environment based upon your desires. Maybe you wanted to be Teacher’s Pet or best friends with the little redhead two rows over. Perhaps you wanted to see everyone’s reaction when the Bully sat on a tack!
As time went on, desire for a place in life found you doing lots of things. Sometimes it meant being the life of the party; other times it meant passing up social events to study for an exam. Did you ever plan to be with one person so that you could avoid being with someone else? Did you join the Scouts to be outdoors and away from the chores at home? Your desires have always led you toward the things you really wanted in your life and away from things that seemed less important.
For the most part, you’ve followed your desires. But it’s important to note that you’ve mostly done the things that made you feel comfortable – you’ve followed the path of least resistance. Even if you didn’t know it, you developed a plan for life largely shaped by your desires and fears.
But doesn’t it seem that there is always something between you and what you want? Maybe you’re $1,500 dollars away from the down payment on a new car when the roof on the house starts leaking. And you can count on an ice cream parlor opening between your house and the gym. But if you have the right attitude, nothing can prevent you from getting what you want.
Think about Abraham Lincoln. He had a persistent desire to hold political office. Look at his list of failures:
- Failed in business in 1831
- Ran for the legislature and lost in 1832
- Failed in business again in 1834
- Lost his sweetheart when she died in 1835
- Suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836
- Lost another political race in 1838
- Was defeated for Congress in 1843, 1846 and 1848
- Was defeated for the Senate in 1855
- Was defeated for the Vice president in 1856
- Was defeated for the Senate a second time in 1858.
Two years later he was elected President of the United States.
Did you know that Thomas Edison had more than 1,000 failures in his quest to develop an electric light bulb Jonas Salk had years of failed experiments before he finally developed a vaccine for polio?
What do you genuinely want in life Take a moment now to think about it and write down your desires? Be honest. If you want a new boat, write it down. If you want a better relationship with God, write that down, too.? Let me give you a word of caution, though.? If you focus on things rather than events that lead to personal fulfillment, you will end up feeling empty.? Remember what happened to the tycoons in 1923?
Now, look back over the list.? What’s standing between you and your desires?
Next to each one of your desires, write down the obstacle that is preventing you from getting what you want.?Try to be clear and focused on your answers.? For example, if you really want a new boat, don’t write down that you don’t make enough money if the true answer is that you lack the self-discipline to stick to a savings plan.
Finally, plan to overcome your obstacles for success. Make sure the plan is reasonable.
Building Your Personal Reference Points
I happen to think that we all need people, places, and points of time that allow us to get and keep our bearings.? Without these reference points, we would be lost.? Right now, I’d like to walk you through a self-evaluation process designed to help you focus on what’s good and bad about you.
It’s a three-step process.
- Personal assessment
- Outside assessment
Think of it this way.? Let’s say you’ve got a bad cough. In the first few days, you don’t think much about it. But you’re still coughing three weeks later. The first thing you do is evaluate your general health and decide that you’ve got a problem.
What do you do once you’ve decided that you may have a problem You look for someone to either confirm or deny your suspicions? You call a doctor.
Finally, once the doctor has reviewed your symptoms, he or she will order diagnostic tests looking for evidence. You’ll need to follow the kind of process as you build your own personal reference points.
How to measure your strengths
- Make mental notes. Slow things down a little. Every day spend a little private time with yourself. Really think about what you do well and what is good about you. Remember, we’re all changing all the time. So, reflect on your strengths periodically, not just this one time.
- Ask other people what they think you do well. Do your ideas and their concur?
- Test. Find a measurement tool that will tell you what you want to know. There are several tests available that measure your assets and liabilities. You can download a test on my website: chuckcoker.com.
How to measure your weaknesses
- Make mental notes. Again, schedule some time for reflection. Don’t be too harsh on yourself but be honest.
- Ask other people what they think are your weaknesses. Be prepared. You’re asking for information you may not want to hear, but other people’s observations can be instructive.
- Find a measurement tool that will tell you what you want to know. There are several tests available that measure your assets and liabilities.
How to develop a foundation for growth
Follow the same steps with the lists of your weaknesses.
- Take the information from the previous two steps. Now compare the lists. On one list make a column of the things you believe are your strengths. Make another column of the strengths others have pointed out to you. How do the lists compare? Spend some time evaluating everything in both columns. Did you put something on your list that you just wish you could count as a strength or was your friend overly generous in her assessment? Once you are satisfied, make one list of your strengths.
- Take ownership. You’re responsible for your own feelings, attitudes, and decisions. You are free to become whatever you want. You can do whatever you believe is possible. The key in every situation is whether you have the self-discipline to prioritize, plan, and develop projects that lead you toward success. Write your personal prescription for success.
- Become accountable. This step is critical to your personal success. Following is a three-way partnership to help me plan for life and stick to it. Here’s how it works. I have three partners in my success: a mentor, a peer, and a student. If you will adopt a similar plan, I promise you it will change your life forever.
When you were a kid wasn’t there someone you admired Didn’t you want to grow up to be just like Mom or Dad or your basketball coach? Of course, you did, so why should things be different now that you are older. We all need role models all through life. Choose your mentor carefully. It should probably be someone older because you are looking for someone who’s experienced more than you have. Your mentor needs to be a person who shares the same values and has the same perspective as you.
Your mentor’s role needs to be clearly defined. Don’t just decide to try to imitate someone you idolize. Approach the person; talk about your goals; decide if you’re a good match.
Finally, make a commitment to the relationship. Schedule regular meetings with your mentor to evaluate your goals and your progress. Keep the lines of communication open.
Any time you try to take a critical look at yourself, it can leave you feeling vulnerable. That’s why the peer relationship is so important. Acceptance is important to everybody and sharing your struggles with an equal will help buoy your spirits.
Your peer partner should be someone you trust and who knows you well. This person will have to brutally honest with you and must be able to tell you things that you may not want to hear. Do you have a special friend at work, or maybe a friend you spent some time within the military that knows you better than most other people Can you count on them to tell you when you’re out of line or on a bad track?
That’s the kind of person you need in this role.? Find someone who wants to see you succeed and grow – count on that person to help you.
Just as in the mentor relationship, it is the commitment to the relationship that is critical to success.? Schedule time with your peer partner to talk about how you’re doing.
Why do you need a student? Because becoming a teacher completes the cycle. When you are sharing what you have learned with a student, you continue to reassess what you have learned. It simply makes you a better student. Part of the success of any of the 12 step programs is that the student eventually becomes the teacher.
Have you ever recognized yourself in somebody else? Maybe it’s someone at the office, or a niece or nephew or the kid next door. When you see someone with less experience than you do, but the potential and talent to succeed, you may have an opportunity to enter a mentoring relationship with that person. You can offer someone the benefit of your knowledge and practical experience.
Adopting a student also helps you in your continued growth. A teacher needs to accumulate eight to ten times more information than he or she will disseminate. As a teacher, you’ll continue your own learning process.