How to be successful

• 3 min read

Everybody wants to be successful. But what does success mean?

Everybody wants to be successful. That’s natural, and pretty obvious.

There are also many books, guides, and courses on how to become successful.

What does success mean? Well it’s pretty easy to find a definition of success. We can look at other peoples’ lives, on television, on instagram, or at those in our personal network. We can observe those who appear happy, those who have nice things, and draw conclusions about what it means to be successful.

But there’s a pretty huge flaw in this. At no point are we looking inwards, asking ourselves what would make us happy. What would make us feel satisfied that we’ve lived a good life?

Many people miss a critical step on the journey to becoming successful: defining what success means. More importantly, defining what success means to them.

As we push ourselves toward a falsified image of success--the one we’ve borrowed from those around us--we are actually unknowingly moving ever closer to a feeling of emptiness and sadness. Toward an ironic feeling of failure, and confusion. eg. “I have many houses and cars, lots of money, but for some reason I’m not happy!”

Let’s back-track, and make certain that we have not missed any steps.

The first step on the journey to success may sound obvious, when you say it out loud: You need to define what success means for you. It’s a personal definition.

We’re going to get to the how in a moment, but before we do, I’d like to make a couple of observations:

  1. Once you’ve come up with a definition of your success, you may be surprised at how much more achievable it feels.
  2. Other people may not accept or understand your success. People like to judge each other, comparing their friends or associates to the social definition of success. Expect it, and try not to be offended by it.

Now, how do we create our personal definition of success?

This is an exercise in self reflection, which can come in many forms, but I’d like to share my favourite. My favourite approach to this is a simple act of visualisation, which only takes a few minutes.

I’ll walk you through it here, but it will make most sense to actually do it later, so don’t worry about coming up with answers yet.

If you’ve never used visualisation before, it’s pretty simple, and not dissimilar to some forms of meditation.

Find a place that’s quiet and comfortable, like the couch. Sit down, get comfortable, and slow your heart-rate with some deep breathing for half a minute.

Close your eyes, and spend a moment to clear your thoughts.

Now, imagine that with a burst of light, you’ve teleported to your life when you’re 80 years old. You’re occupying the body of your future self.

You feel satisfied and content. You’re happy with your life, and you’re surrounded by love. You’re safe. Your heart is warm. You notice a distinct feeling of content.

Spend a few moments in this place, and observe what’s around you. Where are you? Who’s there? What is bringing you happiness?

After a few moments of exploring, slowly come back to your reality, and take a moment to write down any observations. What you learn here will form the definition of your success. Keep it safe.

Once you have a definition, you have a tool to help you with your success. When you’re working on your own journey, don’t look at instagram or television, look back only to your definition of success. That’s the only measurement that counts.

When you’re making a big decision, question it. Is this supporting or blocking the path to my success?

Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out in the first try. This exercise is something that can take some time, but don’t worry, there’s no rush.

Your homework is to find 5 quiet minutes some day this week, close your eyes, and complete this exercise in visualisation. Write down the results in a journal, and keep it safe. Feel free to come back and do this exercise again any time you need.

This is your success. Now what are you going to do to make it real?

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