It takes a lot of hard work and strength of character to become successful, but there are things that you can do to improve your chances. Read on to discover how you can follow a strategy of 10 steps for success and look forward to starting your journey with optimism.
One point to note before we get into the 10 steps is that we are not going to share any magic formulas or specific types of businesses, products or services you need to create to be successful. We are confident that our article can add value to you, but if you are looking to cut corners and get rich or famous instantly, then this post is not for you and we would advise a strong word of caution against relying on any information that contains these types of promises.
As cliche as it sounds, whether you are successful or not will ultimately be up to you. If you study enough successful people, you will notice that there are indeed some geniuses and pioneers among them, but on the whole successful people are just normal people who were willing to go the extra mile and refused to accept defeat. And so with your expectations (hopefully) managed, on to our recommended 10 steps:
The 10 Steps For Success
1. Start With Self-Awareness
The journey to success is likely to be long and demanding, so you will need to have full awareness of the natural abilities you have at your disposal. Often, one of the most challenging parts of self-awareness is being able to be honest with yourself, it really is easier said than done.
Do you genuinely understand and more importantly accept your current strengths and weaknesses? Do you know how to leverage your abilities to maximize their advantages, and what limitations you are going to need to work on to feel confident of achieving your goals? If you are hesitant to say ‘yes’ to these questions, then you are in the majority and the good news is that it seems you can be honest with yourself.
There are very low percentage of people who really have complete self-awareness, and this has likely taken them many years of conscious, proactive and dedicated training to learn. So unless you happen to be a Grand Master Buddhist Monk, let’s assume this is still an area you can improve and take a little time to understand how we can increase self-awareness.
How To Increase Self-Awareness
Given the importance of self-awareness as a topic, there are lots of tools available to help you with self-discovery. Whilst there are enough free tools to give you a reasonable insight, some of the paid tools really do have their benefits and you should try to view spending money on self-growth and understanding as an important investment.
In fact, investing in yourself is surely one of the best investments you can make. At the Unknown, these are our preferred methods of increasing self-awareness:
- Test your preferences for free. Start practicing being honest about your preferences with this free self-awareness test and understand if you are driven more by your heart, guts, smarts or luck by completing this free test
- Use more advanced psychometric testing. Our recommended options to consider are Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Predictive Index and Insights. Ideally you should take all three as they give you a different perspective on your personal preferences. You can then cross-reference the different sets of results for more clarity, confirmation and general added value.
- Constantly ask for feedback and be open to hearing it. Ask your friends, your family, your boss, work colleagues, co-founder and anyone else who can give you valuable information for self-development. Not all the feedback you receive will be honest or useful, but this is to be expected. In time you will learn to separate out the genuine, valuable feedback from the unproductive.
- Meditate. If you are trying meditation for the first time then make sure you manage any cynicism and keep an open mind. It can also help to research its benefits before you begin – if you understand the potential positive impacts it can have on you, then you are more likely to stay committed long enough for it to add value. Increased self-awareness is a key benefit of effective meditation, but to see a bigger list of benefits take a look at point ‘4’ in our post on the best morning routine
- Keep a journal. Documenting the key moments and experiences in your life can be therapeutic and help you to reflect and understand you values more effectively. It doesn’t need to be a minute by minute account of your day, the highlights often provide the most value, but if writing makes you feel good then keep going until you feel content.
2. Accept Responsibility and Accountability in Advance
The practices of self-acceptance and self-responsibility are actually 2 of the 6 pillars of self-esteem. By accepting accountability for your actions in advance, you are taking a step towards acknowledging that your success is in your own hands. This is important.
We are often guilty of blaming external factors or other people for the bad decisions we make or the outcomes that went against us, but the truth is you are the one that will decide whether to make these decisions and only you are responsible for your own life. It’s ok to make mistakes, it will help you understand what not to do moving forward, but it’s crucial that you take ownership of your journey.
3. Take Action
Believe it or not, taking action is the simple step that often separates the dreamers from those that turn their dreams into a reality. Dreaming about a successful future is healthy, it provides hope and comfort, but unless you do something about it then it will always remain a dream.
Taking action requires courage; you are likely to need to step outside of your comfort zone, open yourself up to failure and rejection, and perhaps give up more of your leisure time. You didn't expect success to be easy did you?
There are many of us who like to feel prepared before we commit to something. Research, analysis and timing are important, but again their importance is nullified without action. If lack of 'readiness' is holding you back, accept that you may never feel fully prepared to take the next step, and that action may be exactly what you need to figure everything else out.
Whether you are an aspiring athlete, artist, entrepreneur, businessman, inventor or whatever else your focus in life is, don’t wait to long to get going. You can always adapt your approach, learn from your mistakes and grow with experience. Not taking action is the only guaranteed way not to fulfill your ambitions.
4. Don’t Focus on the Money
Whatever you are striving to achieve, try to focus on the passion and the difference you can make as opposed to the wealth it can bring. There is nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit of wealth, fame or power, but what is truly important are your underlying reasons for seeking these things. Why is it that you want them? What would you do with them?
If you study the motivations of enough successful people you will see that money is not usually the most crucial factor in fueling the motivation and determination. It is often a by-product of exercising a talent or passion, solving a problem, or a healthy obsession with making a difference.
Walt Disney once famously said “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies”. Look for the true motivation behind your desire for success. Let this guide you and the other benefits will come.
5. Dream Big, but Set Yourself Small, Manageable Goals
The ability to dream big is great gift, but it does need to be managed with patience and a continuous sense check against reality. Don’t lose sight of your vision and everything that inspired you to start your journey to success in the first place, but break your vision and ambitions down in to smaller and more manageable goals.
Some of the most motivating moments whilst chasing your ultimate goals will be discovering evidence of real progress and being able to appreciate them. It's easy to lose track of all the little steps of progress we make, lost in our obsession with our ultimate aspirations. Try your best to balance this out and make sure to monitor your progress relentlessly.
6. Celebrate the Small Wins
Now that you have (hopefully) committed to set yourself small goals towards the bigger picture, learn to celebrate the small wins when they come around. The most ambitious of us are often also the most self-critical, and whilst this has its advantages, by focusing too much on the negatives or areas for development, you can also find yourself missing out on the benefits of enjoying the small steps of progress.
By celebrating the small yet significant wins, you will be encouraging feelings of happiness and giving your confidence and motivation a welcome boost. It can also help you build trust with yourself and your vision by constantly acknowledging progress, even with a minor celebration or reward.
Want to see some research-based evidence of celebrating small wins? Check out this study on the Harvard Business Review website. Learn to enjoy your journey, the ups and downs are part of the ride.
7. Build Positive Habits and Routines
There is a popular quote by Zig Ziglar who said that “repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”
As a matter of fact, there are numerous studies that show how repetition can help your brain to identify what is important (the action that is being repeated) and boost your memory in the process. An example is this study which shows that a repetitive action can increase myelin around the brain network and in doing so help to optimize performance.
Looking at it another way, a physical example of repetition at work is when you exercise regularly in order to increase muscle mass. Your body will pick up on the repetitive physical activity and use it as a signal (given the correct amount of nutritional intake) to increase muscle size to cope more easily with the excess strain.
It’s a similar concept for improving a physical skill – take learning tennis for instance. When you are first learning you are unlikely to be much good and poor shots and technique are to be expected. However, over time your body will learn to adapt via repetition. Muscle memory will kick in and you will start to notice improvement in your ability.
The scale and limitations of the improvement will be influenced by multiple factors, and whilst we don’t all have the potential to win a Grand Slam, we are all capable of significant advancement from where we started off. A word of caution – repetition is only positive if it is on the right action. If you are repeating the wrong action then you are effectively telling your brain or body that the wrong action is what it needs to master.
So how can you evolve positive repetition into positive routines and habits? Well it’s going to take some self-discipline, persistence and patience. Change is rarely easy, but it also doesn’t need to be painstakingly difficult, so begin by reinforcing the benefits of the routine or habit you are trying to create and the consequences of not being able to make it stick.
Try to keep yourself in a positive environment, surrounded by people who can offer you support, and allow yourself adequate time to be able to accept the changes to what you previously considered normal.
Consistency is also necessary; try repeating the key activities that reinforce the routine or habit you are trying to create at a similar time and/or in a similar way each day. If you can keep at it long enough then you have a great chance of forming new positive habits and helpful routines to help you on your way.
8. Don’t Try to Please Everyone
In point 2 we talked about the importance of accepting responsibility and accountability in advance; well this commitment is likely to be tested as you get going. It’s natural to seek the opinions of others; we all have insecurities, the need for reassurance is inbuilt in most of us, and no-one is an expert at everything.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with reaching out for advice and opinions, particularly from experts in their field, trying to please everyone is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Unless you are handing out free money, it’s highly unlikely that you will ever be able to please everyone, no matter what it is that you are doing.
Marketeers may face this problem if ever looking for an ambassador to attract new customers for a brand or business – how do you choose an ambassador that will appeal to a great enough proportion of your potential customers and cause negative connotations with the fewest? It’s not easy. If you ask 100 people their opinion on any celebrity you are likely to get a range of answers.
So assuming an ambassador is absolutely necessary and the perfect ambassador doesn't exist, what should they do? Well this may depend on risk tolerance and the specific objectives of the marketing exercise, but if we assume that the objective is to bring in the most additional profit, then the sensible option (ignoring financial variables of securing the ambassador) may be to go with someone who appeals to enough of the right type of potential customers so as to give the company a high probability of a solid return on investment. In other words, they are not trying to please everyone, just enough of the right people to give them the benefit they need.
Let’s consider a hypothetical example away from the business world. Imagine if you were responsible for organizing a group vacation for 30 people in your life; a mixture of friends, family and acquaintances. In this scenario everyone is responsible for covering their own costs. How easy do you think it would be to organize something feasible that everyone would be truly happy with? The answer is probably not easy at all.
Sure you could assume that everyone would be happy with a luxury 5 star stay in the Maldives, but the reality is likely to be different with this number of people in the mix. Perhaps some of the group can't afford a holiday like that, some may feel uncomfortable at the thought of being stuck on a small, secluded island and some will feel disappointed with the lack of available activities.
Ok now forget the Maldives and try to think about somewhere else that will work. Would you opt for somewhere with a party scene or somewhere more serene and relaxing? Should the destination be basking in sunshine and beaches or somewhere where people can ski and cosy up to a log fire? The point is that human beings are all unique individuals, with a unique set of preferences, so trying to please everybody is usually a fruitless task.
So what should you do if you need some advice or prefer to make informed and research-backed decisions? Well a thorough answer to this would depend on circumstances and context, but it will help to manage your own expectations that not everyone is going to agree with everything you do or decide and there is not likely to be a clear path forward that will appease everyone. The key is to accept this and remember that your objective should not be to please everyone.
If the consequences of your decisions will affect you the most, then the most important opinion is your own. Use the resources at hand to make the best possible decision with the information you have available at the time and then stand by your decision. You can’t do any more than that.
Obviously don’t be naïve and stubborn so as to ignore key information at your disposal, but do learn to trust your instincts. See them as an internal barometer that almost can’t be quantified. If you still end up making the wrong decision, then accept it as a learning for the future - this is bound to happen on occasion.
Life is full of risks and would be far less interesting if they were all removed. You can do your best to mitigate the downside, but we will all be caught out by it from time to time, even if we make the right decisions – just ask any professional poker player.
9. See Mistakes and Failures as an Inevitable Part of Learning
At the Unknown, we are not aware of a single successful person that has never made any mistakes or never experienced any failures. In fact, most super successful people have done both many more times that there less successful counterparts. There would be no progress without mistakes and failure as how would we discover the right way to go before we have ruled out some of the wrong ways?
There are plenty of examples of high-profile individuals who had to fail repeatedly before achieving success. Imagine if Thomas Edison had given up on the light bulb after his 999th failed attempt (it took him over 1,000 attempts to get it right), if Colonel Sanders had quit on his dream after rejection 1009 (1009 restaurants rejected him before one accepted his offer for a KFC franchise), or if Henry Ford had decided entrepreneurship was no longer for him when his first company went bankrupt.
Hopefully your personal ambitions will be realized with the minimal number of hurdles along the way, but do yourself some favours:
- keep an optimistic approach through the thick and thin
- expect to make mistakes, try to limit the negative consequences of them and learn from them quickly
- accept failure as a possibility, one that is ok and that you can recover from to try again
- above all else, never ever, ever, ever, ever, give up on your dream
10. When Things Start Working, Accelerate
For all the energy and time you will put into your dream and vision, the sacrifices and risks you will take and the setbacks you will need to bounce back from, if you keep going a time will come when things start to work out and you notice that your progress is advancing more rapidly.
This can be a pivotal moment, be ready for it, as it may be the very moment you need to push down hard on the accelerator pedal. You are clearly doing something right so keep doing it, do it more often and do it faster and on a bigger scale if it is relevant and possible.
Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins, but understand that there is no time for complacency at key moments like this; big opportunities are usually time limited. Use opportunities like these to get yourself far enough ahead of the game that your peers and competitors will always be playing catch up. Be relentless, but not reckless, in your drive to keep pushing forward - the good times will not last forever and more challenges are always round the corner.
And so there you have it, 10 steps for success and suggestions to help you to prepare for the journey ahead. For the sake of our own self-awareness, we welcome your thoughts and feedback on this article - use our comments box below to share.