Success.

It might be incorrect to assume that everyone wants it, but it is a common gauge that we use grade how well we’re doing at the game of life.

From a young age our progress is measured by parents and teachers; we are given praise, feedback and guidance on how to improve.

As adults we are assessed, monitored, interviewed and appraised.

We go to training courses, read books – hopefully – and work at improving our skill sets, experience and knowledge.

And all, in order to do what?

What’s the point?

Well, one of the main reasons is so we can become more successful in whatever we have chosen to do.

Success is often the barometer we use to gauge how we are progressing: the score that we give ourselves when we assess our performance in relation to our goals.

And it can be wildely different from person to person.

For some, “success” is just enjoying their day-to-day lives, whereas others only think they are successful if they manage to create a multi-million pound business and significantly change the world.

There can also be a difference between “being” successful and “feeling” successful.

Some people are clearly successful in the eyes of others but don’t “feel” particularly successful on the inside; they are driven by an empty feeling that they haven’t accomplished much and should be doing more.

So what’s the secret to becoming – and feeling – successful?

Surely it’s easy, especially in the year 2019 where we have access to a rich array of choice, information and opportunity.

Well, the truth is, it’s not always easy, and there is no single “secret”.

But there are some tips and ideas that can make a big difference.

Here are 7 tips that can help you become, and feel, more successful in 2019.

Tip 1: Be value driven:

It can be tempting to chase an idea of success that isn’t your own: to choose a career path or vocation based on what other people tell you is important.

It’s okay to do this to a certain extent – and it’s good to hear other people’s views – but it’s a mistake to make it a central part of your decision making.

Instead, you want to be value driven.

To be value driven is to recognise what’s important to you and then act on it. And to do this predominantly from the inside-out.

Consider the following question:

  • What resonates so deeply within you that you feel you have to take action to honour it?

When we pursue goals and activities in life that fit with our inner values we feel successful, even if we aren’t perhaps producing much in terms of material wealth or possessions.

It’s okay to look to the outside for inspiration of course, but it’s essential that you check internally with your feelings to make sure that what you are doing is a good fit.

When we stop being value driven, we can end up creating a life that might “appear” to be successful to others but doesn’t quite “feel” like success to us.

This isn’t uncommon. There are many people who appear successful in the eyes of other yet feel miserable and stuck in a rat-race.

And there are other people who have very little yet feel like they are living an enriched, successful existence.

The difference is that the later group are driven by their values.

So be value driven. Look to the inside and explore what resonates with you.

What aspects of life, whether it be work or personal, feel like a good fit for you?

What things in life are so important to you that they compel you to take action?

Tip 2: Realise that Success is Subjective:

Success is subjective.

It will be different to you than it is to me. And it will most likely be different for other people. One person’s description may share similarities to someone else’s but each person will have their own unique definition.

Sometimes people think that the definition of success is fixed and absolute. It’s not. It’s subjective, fluid and change-able.

Sometimes people can also make the mistake of deciding that success has to be linked to material gain – they write down in their success journal that they want to have a lamborghini, a 5 bedroom house and a bank balance to rival Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s okay to crave wealth and financial security but it becomes an issue when it’s exclusively linked to what you believe success to be. It’s more useful to see material wealth as a by-product of success rather than a prerequisite.

There is also the tendency to be a little bit “sizeist” when it comes to a definition of success: that success only occurs when we achieve something “significant” and “big” in our life.

Success doesn’t have to be all about colossal, life-changing achievements. It can – and should – also include the small stuff. If it’s meaningful to you then that’s the most important thing.

So what’s your definition?

Mine is fairly simple: to spend as much time involved in activities and goals that contain pleasure and meaning.

It can be useful to explore what definition you currently have and then tweak it slightly if it’s not quite working for you Because success is subjective. We can change the way we think about it choose to define it in a healthier way.

Tip 3: Success is a journey, a milestone, and a destination:

 

 

 

 

Success is multi-layered; it has many different facets to it.

Some people see it as a destination: a utopian place we eventually end up at after consistent hard work.

For others though, it’s all about the journey: who cares what eventually happens, it’s all, about enjoying the process of working towards meaningful and important goals.

I’d like to suggest that success is not mutually exclusive to either of these and it can actually be both, and potentially more.

It’s important to appreciate that we can enjoy the process of becoming successful as well as basking in the glory of the final victory.

Take the time to look around you while you work towards your goals, enjoy the ride, absorb every bit of pleasure and meaning you can get. And also take the time to recognise your eventual achievements. Don’t rush off to the next big thing on your list without fully acknowledging what you’ve achieved.

Another important distinction you can make is to appreciate that your destinations can also be milestones. As strange as it may sound, destinations needn’t be end points: they can be stepping stones towards greater and more ambitious levels of success.

If you successfully get chosen for a promotion it could well be merely a stepping stone to something greater; if you successfully lose weight and fit into that cool dress or pair of jeans is it just about losing weight and feeling good about it, or could it lead to something more fulfilling?

Most likely.

Where might that renewed body confidence take you? A new relationship? More social confidence? And what greater purpose might all of those things serve?

When you pan the camera back it’s often the case that your destinations are merely just milestones within a greater, larger, and more meaningful journey.

So, plot out your destinations, enjoy the journey towards them, bask in the glory when you successfully achieve them, and also appreciate that the destinations are most likely stepping stones in a greater journey.

Success has many layers: enjoy them all.

Tip 4: Regulate social media use:

It’s easy to get hooked into a toxic social media loop.

You look at your friends from school posting about their successes.

They look happy, fulfilled, and seem to be doing so much better than you.

Perhaps that means you’re not successful?

Well, perhaps not…

Spending too much time on social media can lead to us creating a rather warped version of reality; it can also distort our opinion of what it means to be successful.

It can lead to toxic comparisons that are most likely not even close to being an accurate reflection of what is going on for people; and it can make us believe that success is dependent on social validation through the amount of likes we get.

Social media can also be a colossal time leech. You can spend hours going round and round in unproductive circles.

Remember, some of the greatest cyber geek minds on the planet organise social media platforms in a way that makes you an addict.

Social media can be fun that’s for sure, but it’s important to regulate your use of it: to make sure that you’re not getting pulled into toxic comparisons, buying into a version of success that’s dependant on cyber approval, or wasting time that could be spend doing more meaningful work.

Tip 5: Organise your time obsessively:

 

 

 

Time management isn’t just about figuring out how to fit everything in; it’s about carefully assessing and deciding the most important actions you can take that will give you the most pleasure, joy and meaning; it’s about understanding which actions are most crucial to the successful achievement of your goals, and then making them a priority.

When we are young time feels endless. We look to the future and see it as a sprawling infinity tunnel with no end. As we get older though, we start to appreciate time as the finite quantity it is.

I remember when I started my working life, some of my older co-workers used to talk about how time flies past when you get older, and how important it is to make the most of the short time we have.

As a teenager it meant nothing to me. But as someone now in his 40s I totally get it.

Prioritising your most important actions is not just something we do at work to be more productive: it’s a life skill that affects everything.

The more we can drill down and gain clarity as to the most relevant and important actions we need to take, in order to achieve our goals, the more successful we will be.

It’s okay to mess about during down-time, but don’t disrespect time: manage it wisely, and sometimes even a little obsessively.

Tip 6: Don’t forget to think long term:

We live in the “on-demand” age: where we have a plethora of choice available at the touch of a button. We are tempted into believing that we no longer have to wait to get what we want.

Log onto Netflix and you get access to thousands of TV shows and movies instantly; order something from Amazon Prime and it’s delivered that evening; employees are being fast-tracked; teachers are pressured into getting students through exams rather than focus on deeper learning; and online learning is more popular than ever because it allows people to learn “on-the-go”.

The modern world we live in is getting faster and faster. People expect quick results and have become remarkably impatient if they don’t get them.

Because of this, it’s all to easy to become fixated on speed of acquisition and to forget that most significant achievements are created over a long period of time.

There’s a reason why we still tell the story of the tortoise and hare to our kids: success is rarely something that happens in a flash of glory, it’s created through consistent effort and hard work applied over time.

Sure, we have to still have to focus on the immediate needs of the present, but when it comes to creating sustained success it’s vital that we think long term. Find something that fits your values, then commit to doing it a LOT over a significant period of time.

It’s not always the most sexy advice to give someone, but it’s gold. It’ll give you way more success than constantly seeking short-cuts and quick wins all the time.

Tip 7: Do more with less.

In his book Deep work: rules for focused success in a distracted word, Cal Newport says that we live in world that forces us to split our attention over multiple different things yet the same world also rewards deep, meaningful work – the like of which requires us to concentrate and focus in.

It seems modern society has a sick sense of humour. We are continually bombarded with a variety of stimuli: phones & tablets pinging, emails to reply to, demands for our attention, and the constant need to multi-task. Yet in order to do valuable work that matters we have to learn to concentrate on a single activity for a decent length of time.

Concentration allows us to get meaningful work done that can make a real difference – what Newport calls “Deep Work”.

We all need to multi-task to a certain extent, and it’s important to diversify our interests, however, if we want to create high quality work that matters, and become a person of value that people simply can’t ignore, we have to learn to ignore the many distractions we’re faced with and focus on what matters: we need to do more with less.

Living in the choice-rich world we do, it’s also easy to spread ourselves too thin: accepting every opportunity that lands on our lap because we think it will add to our success.

The reality is though, this can often leave us stretched to the point where we do an under-par job in many areas, rather than an excellent job in one or two.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that saying “no” can be just powerful as saying “yes”. It makes it possible for us to do a better job and create a higher quality of work.

Apple CEO Tim Cook once said that one of the priorities of his job was learning to say “no to a bunch of great ideas”, in order to keep Apple focused.

Hey, if it’s good enough for Apple…

Summary

So that’s 7 tips for becoming – and feeling – successful in 2019. Would you agree, or disagree?

Are there any more that you would include? Feel free to share.

Wishing you all the success in the world.

Steven Burns