Our latest article on how to ensure we become a success story. Discover how to become the person you want to become.
Even when we’re trying our hardest to succeed, many of us don’t know the keys to developing a success mindset. There are actually critical do’s and don’ts—advice based on success psychology—that go along with courting victory.
If you’ve had difficulty achieving success, you may be surprised to discover that the recommended strategies are just the opposite of what you’ve been doing all along.
Learning about what works—and what doesn’t—will help you do a 180 and become a success story. Here are some simple things you can do to start living the life you’ve always dreamed of. (And here are the best business mindset books you can read next.)
How to ensure we become a success story.
1. Focus on what you’re doing well
Some people can’t seem to help themselves from obsessing almost exclusively about what they’ve done wrong. Trying to be modest, they minimize their successes, if they acknowledge them at all, and often over-reference their mistakes or failures.
That’s because many people were raised to think that it’s a sin to boast or brag, and were groomed to be humble and self-effacing about their achievements.
Maybe they had a braggart parent and vowed early on not to be like him or her. Or perhaps they were taught that “pride cometh before the fall” and never learned that feeling pride in a job well done is a great motivator.
I once had a therapy client who refused to say she was proud. It made sense knowing her history. When she was a child in a highly religious family, she was whipped with a Palmetto branch whenever she expressed pride in herself. It took her three years with me to even say the word and, until then, in our sessions she would refer to it as “the P word.”
Successful people know the difference between boasting and feeling or expressing pride. They feel pleasure (not shame) thinking about what they’re doing well, focus on it, and enjoy the glow they experience from their achievements.
They may feel enormous pride in their accomplishments, but appear humble about them with others. There’s nothing wrong with that. The point is that deep inside, where it matters, they’re thrilled with what has gone well for them, especially when they made it happen.
2. Learn from, then stop focusing on, what you didn’t do well
For most of us, the list of what we’ve failed at or lost out on goes on and on. Such is life: we won’t always succeed and sometimes we’ll be a flat out flop. The antithesis of the success mindset is being pre-occupied with these unhappy and unfortunate moments.
They include what you’ve done wrong or poorly and fixating on your failures, such as losing out on a job, flubbing a presentation, not scoring that hoped-for second date, low marks on an exam, not qualifying for the team, or that dinner party you hosted where no one seemed to enjoy the guests or the food.
Some people dwell on what they did wrong, recalling and analyzing every battle they’ve ever lost. In therapy, they tell me about these events in excruciating detail, although it makes them feel ineffectual and despairing.
Instead of looking objectively at behaviors that disappoint them, learning from them and filing them away for future use, they beat themselves up mercilessly over their perceived failures and dwell on them ad nauseum.
We’re hard-wired to think about our mistakes and close calls or how would we ever correct and learn from them in order to survive and thrive? So, the trick is to note and accept them, to consider them without judgment but with an abundance of curiosity.
To view them not as blots on our identity, limits on our abilities, or indicators of our declining potential. When you think of them as nothing more than learning experiences, you’re getting the gist of what mistakes and failures are all about.
3. Focus on what you’ve done, not on what you have left to do
Even when people are somewhat successful, they may over-focus on problems yet to be solved or the seemingly insurmountable tasks ahead.
Anxiety about the future too often overshadows feelings of pride in what they already have achieved and may make them feel overwhelmed and hopeless about all the work that’s left to be done. Let’s face it, there is almost always more to learn and do when striving to become a success story.
Successful people know this and don’t obsess about what they haven’t done or have yet to do. It’s a waste of time and brings them down. Instead, they concentrate on what they’ve accomplished, which makes them feel gratified and empowered, spurring them on.
For example, in my field of treating binge and emotional eaters, recovery is generally a long, bumpy road. Knowing this, I encourage clients to feel proud of the times they avoid engaging in mindless eating and discourage dwelling on the binges they have because they currently lack the skills to manage upset without turning to food.
They have a choice: they can feel proud that they hit the gym twice during the week or bummed that they didn’t make it the three times they’d vowed they would go.
They can enjoy the fact that they’re regularly shopping for healthier foods and preparing nutritious meals, or fixate on their disappointment of having a high-fat, high-calorie McDonalds’ meal because they didn’t know what to do with themselves on a lonely Saturday night.
4. Choose goals that give you a real chance of succeeding
I recently had to hire a freelance social media assistant when mine moved on, so I posted a job description on an employment website and waited for what turned out to be four dozen resumes to pour in.
The problem is that about half of these applicants had absolutely no professional experience in the field of social media. I’m guessing they had a Facebook or a Pinterest account or the like, but many of them were coming from totally unrelated fields (such as cook, home health aide, or truck driver).
I understand that it’s a tough economy and people will take a shot at almost any job that comes along, but I couldn’t help but think how these people were setting themselves up to fail, that is, to not even get an interview for the job I posted.
And this is why I advise you to put efforts only towards endeavors that give you a substantial chance of becoming a success story. Maybe that chance is a long shot, but you’re more likely to hit a home run when you’re at least in the right ball park.
Another problem is that some people simply are out to prove to the world and themselves that they’re successes, which can easily boomerang and produce failure.
Actually, it’s not so much success they’re striving for as trying to convince themselves and others that they’re not failures. A bit of this attitude can be a boost to motivation if you know what you’re doing.
However, you don’t want to be throwing yourself into an endeavor just to prove your worth, then end up disproving it. This is a pattern that some folks have from childhood and they wind up failing at many things because their motivation was an unhealthy one and their goals were inappropriate in the first place.
Here are some scenarios to illustrate this dynamic. Sometimes others see this tendency in you and subtly (or not so subtly) mention that a job seems out of your league, but you apply for it anyway and never hear back about it.
Or you insist on struggling with do-it-yourself fix-ups in your house when what’s needed is more expertise than you have or can quickly acquire.
When you end up calling in a plumber, electrician, etc., you feel sorely disappointed in yourself and use the event as one more example that proves you’re an incompetent failure who can’t do anything right.
5. Do what you need to do when it needs to be done rather than put it off
One of the biggest barriers to becoming a success story is putting off tasks you must do to succeed. This is especially true when you’re trying to win, get ahead, complete a project, or show yourself in the best light.
My view of procrastination (a word I don’t use because of its pejorative connotation) is simple: It involves both wanting to do something while also not wanting to do it.
Whenever we’re in that kind of internal conflict, we want to avoid self-judgments and, instead, be curious about what our ambivalence is really about, the point being that we need to understand what’s preventing us from doing what we say we desperately wish to do.
I’ve known talented, motivated people who are so conflicted (consciously or unconsciously) about doing what’s necessary to succeed that they stay stuck in place. Some of my clients want a job (yet also don’t), so they avoid job-hunting except in the most casual way.
Many of my dysregulated eating clients year to end comfort eating, yet fail to follow my suggestions to help them stop this behavior—find hobbies or passions, work on developing frustration tolerance and delaying gratification, improve their emotional intelligence, learn to depend on others, change their self-talk, read books for self-help on emotional and mindless eating, join an eating support group, etc.
I understand that they have mixed feelings, mostly about relying on food for pleasure and solace, but calling this behavior “procrastination” only makes them feel worse about themselves and more likely to seek food to feel better.
If you often procrastinate yet want to succeed, you’re not going to get far.
There are enough people out there with your talents and drive who do what’s needed in a timely fashion that you’re setting yourself up for failure. Recognize why you put off tasks and get help from a therapist, coach, trainer or self-help books in learning how to get things done. You need this skill for three reasons.
The first is practical because doing what’s necessary will help you succeed in reaching your goals. The second is that people appreciate when they can count on you to do what you said you would.
The third is that procrastination leads to self-doubt and disappointment, while getting things done leads to pride and self-empowerment.
6. Be accountable and don’t take what people say or do personally
It may seem obvious that we need to be accountable in order to succeed, but not to some folks. There are people who take the exact opposite approach and only want to be held responsible when things go well, not when they go poorly.
They think that becoming a success story means always saying and doing the right thing, always coming out on top, always being the golden child, and never making mistakes.
This puts them in the position of avoiding accountability when things don’t work or work out. For example, when their joint presentation falls flat or fails to impress, they blame the rest of their team, never themselves.
When sales numbers dip, it’s always due to the other guy or gal. When their children grow up to be ne’er do wells and problems in society, they blame their progeny’s current and past peers, not their own poor parenting skills.
Successful people know that the buck often stops with them and embrace this process. They feel confident enough to weather mistakes and failures and empowered enough to try to turn around fiascos. They would never wish to be anything but accountable and that comes across in what they say and do.
These folks also don’t take everything said or done to them personally. While holding others accountable, they recognize that people have bad days and cut them slack. They are savvy enough to understand that others’ negative remarks say something about the speakers themselves, not those being addressed.
They avoid taking things personally because they don’t doubt their self-worth and likeability and recognize their innate and learned limitations and weaknesses as well as their considerable strengths.
Ready to become a success story
Ask yourself these questions: Do I focus on my successes and achievements or dwell on times I’ve failed and made mistakes? Does my mind often wander back to missed opportunities and second (or last) place finishes or do I intentionally seek out and feel proud of memories of success?
Do I obsess about what I haven’t accomplished or what’s still left to do? Do I fixate more on the past and future than the present? Am I thin-skinned and take offense too easily? Do I own am my mistakes and failures? Do I regularly put off what I want to do rather than get right to it?
Whether you’re preparing your taxes or seeking a new job, climbing Mount Everest or cleaning out the garage, the above advice will help you become a success story and feel great about how and why you did.
What are you doing to achieve success in your life? Do you have any other ideas to share with us? Feel free to share with us in the comment section below.