Success means something different to everyone. For students, success might mean earning good grades and eventually graduating. For those in the workforce, success might mean working up the career ladder and making more money. Still, for others, success might mean maintaining a household and raising children. There is not one definition of success, so it would be impossible to outline only one way of achieving success. Before you can be a success, you first need to discover what brings you the most joy and satisfaction. In other words, you need to find your calling.
Where Do You Begin?
Perhaps you should begin with a simple question, “Where do I go from here?” You need to decide if you want to continue on your current path, or if you want to change directions. If you are unhappy with your life, you should not think your life is hopeless. If you desire change, change can happen.
If you think the question is unanswerable, you might consider a few exercises. If you are the type of person who likes to weigh decisions out, you could list the expected benefits and consequences of your possible decisions. You might not even need to write the list out on paper. Try having a conversation with yourself in your head. You might be surprised by the value of your own insight and reason.
Of course, the answer to the question might be more nuanced. For example, a working mother might feel compelled to both further her career and also to stay at home with her children. But perhaps the decision does not have to be exclusive. Perhaps she can continue to work while also raising and caring for her children. Your situation might be similar to the example. You might think you are at a crossroad, but maybe you can manage both sides and follow multiple passions. You just need to follow your gut. More often than not, your intuition will lead you in the right direction.
You should not worry about making the wrong decision. Certainly, all life decisions are important, but in many cases, decisions are not permanent. Unless you decide to quite your job, you can probably reverse your decision if you realize later that you made a mistake. Do not worry about the future. If you realize later you made a grave error and wish to change course, then you can do so when the time arises. All you can do is focus on what you want to do right now. Worry about the future when the time comes.
Most importantly, you should never underestimate your ability to succeed. If you can dream it, you can find a way to achieve it. If you work hard, and refuse to ever give up, then you give yourself the best chance of succeeding. Your intuition probably has a good idea of what makes you happy, and happiness is the key to success. If you follow what makes you happy, success will follow.
To further this point, you should be fearless. Only you can decide how you can be successful. For example, you might be tempted to aspire to be a lawyer or a corporate executive simply because lawyers and corporate executives tend to make a lot of money. But you need to remember that not all lawyers or corporate executives are created equal. Those who make the most money are those who do their job the best, and those who do the best tend to be the same people who actually enjoy their careers. If you hate law, you will never succeed as a lawyer. If you hate business, you will never succeed as a corporate executive. If you want to write, then aspire to be a writer. If you follow your passion, you will work harder and longer to fulfill your dreams. You can only succeed if you live a happy life. Keep this in mind when you think about where you want your life to go.
The Key to Success: Setting the Right Goals
Once you decide, you need to think about how you can get there. Fulfilling your life’s dream can be difficult, particularly if you want to make drastic changes. You should not always expect such change to happen overnight. It might be better to establish how long you think it might take you to accomplish your goals. If you expect your life to change overnight, you might just be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, expect gradual change. It might be better take small baby steps instead of enacting immediate change. To do this, take a calendar and mark periodic checkpoints. It might be a good idea to mark a checkpoint ever two weeks or so, but this is different for everyone. At each checkpoint, you can expect yourself to have come closer to satisfying your dreams. If you go this route, it is important you hold yourself accountable to following your calendar. Do not assume just because you are giving yourself time that you can simply put off the changes for later. If you do this, you risk putting them off forever.
Essentially, incremental change is probably the best way to go. You are more likely to give up if you set your goals too high. It is better to think small, at least when you start out. If you ask any CEO how long they worked before they became an executive, you might be surprised by the answer. For most, it was probably a long, tumultuous journey full of highs and lows. Just as they did not become CEOs overnight, you probably cannot fulfill your goals overnight either. A good starting point might be an education. Research what you need to learn first. For example, if you want to be a singer, you would probably begin with singing lessons. Completing a certain achievable level of singing mastery in two weeks time would be a good incremental goal if your dream is be a Grammy-award winning singer. Of course, your goals will probably be very different depending on your life’s dream.
It is important to always remember to keep your individual goals small. It is easy to overwhelm yourself with far-fetched goals. And even more importantly, it is important to keep your goals focused. If your life’s dream is to be the best father you can be, then maybe you should put off becoming bilingual or brushing up your golf skills. It is not to say you can focus on only one thing, but for our purposes, your goals should focus on advancing yourself closer to achieving your dreams. After all, achieving your dreams should be your top priority.
At the same time, however, you should not set your goals too small. Some people are tempted to set their goals too low because they fear failure. But if your dream is to be a writer, and you have already proven yourself capable of writing twenty pages a day, why would you set a goal of only ten pages? You need to set your goals between what you are capable of and what you want to achieve. For example, the aforementioned writer might set his first goal to write 21 pages, then 22 pages and so forth. The writer needs realize what he is capable of, while also remembering that he wants to become even better. Eventually, he might want to be able to pump out 40 pages a day. Slow and steady incremental goal increases will help him fulfill his goals. Your goals should do the same.
When you begin to set your goals, how to get where you want to be might not be obvious. If you are having trouble figuring out how to begin, a good idea might be to do a little research about the “greats” that came before you. For example, if you dream of writing the next great American novel, you should read biographies about great American writers, like Hemingway. This might seem like a futile exercise, but you should remember that biographies usually go into detail about the early lives of accomplished individuals. If you want to follow in their footsteps, then maybe you should try to emulate them. If you want to write like Hemingway, then you need to live like Hemingway. If Hemingway spent most of his young adulthood studying English and relentlessly perfecting his grammar, draft after draft, then it would certainly be a good idea to do the same. Of course, in an ideal world, you could just ask Hemingway himself how he became such a successful writer. Unfortunately, the world is sometimes less than ideal. Nonetheless, biographies are rich resources you should take advantage of. Even the smallest tidbit might prove to be the difference for you.
Most Important: Do Not Give Up On Yourself
It is likely that you will encounter numerous setbacks along your journey. Indeed, you will read about them in the biographies of the many “greats” in history. Yes, even the most successful and most acclaimed individuals failed, perhaps even numerous times, along the way. In fact, even J.K. Rowling was once a meager single mother on welfare before becoming a billionaire with the publication of the Harry Potter series. Rowling procured a loan from a friend to help sustain her and her daughter while she wrote the first book, and she thought she might never make the money to pay the loan back. But Rowling persevered and became one of the richest and most acclaimed writers of our time. Everyone encounters problems along the way. What makes the difference is how you respond to those problems. You need to always try to learn from your mistakes. Even if you make similar mistakes again in the future, at least your prior experience might tell you something about how you could better approach or solve the problem. Remember that even the most successful of people confront problems every day, and what makes these people so successful is that they handle their problems well and rebound from them seamlessly.
Not every successful person is also materially rich. While many people strike financial success when they fulfill their dreams, it is not guaranteed. There are many possible careers and life paths one could pursue that might not reap financial gain. If you take issue with this, you might need to reevaluate how you define success and what you are looking for in life. Some people have trouble combining their passions with profitable careers. You might find it an impossible goal. If that is the case, you need to ask yourself which do you value more, money or happiness? If you could only pick one, which would it be? This is something only you can decide
If I could leave you with only one final piece of advice, it would be to take risks and be persistent. Those who succeed rarely stay within their comfort zone. After all, if they played it safe, what would set them apart? What would distinguish them from everyone else? To be successful, you need to be gutsy. You might feel apprehensive sometimes, but just let your intuition serve as your faithful guide. I am not recommending you be reckless, but I am recommending you be bold. Remember that you will probably fail many times along the path to success. Do not let your failures stop you from following your dreams. Remember that failure is a necessary ingredient for success, for every time you fail, you are really narrowing down the list of possible ways to succeed at whatever you set out to do. When you fail, you are actually getting a little bit closer to figuring it all out. You learned yet another way not to do it.
Once you reach the end of the journey (that is, you finally succeeded), you should find yourself in a better place than you were when you started. Of course, that is assuming you truly followed your dreams and did not let any external factors come into play. It might be enticing, but it would be unwise to let other people or factors influence your decision. Success is subjective, and only you can decide how you can live a successful and fulfilling life.