Keys to Success

I have always enjoyed the New Year. It is a special time for me. New Year represents the start of something new – a new journey and a new adventure. I usually spend this time reflecting on what I want to accomplish and what I truly want. I have observed that I start the new year with great intentions and it almost never translates into effective action! I bet most of you are already familiar with this story! ;->

A year is also just the right size as I tend to forget my previous failures when the next year rolls around. This selective memory loss ensures that the cycle keeps repeating again and again! This time I decided to shake things up a bit. I took a step back and reflect on what it takes to be successful. I wanted to reflect on my successes and failures before I began the task of selecting goals. I wanted to determine what would truly help me be accomplish something meaningful. The following list came about as a result of this reflection.

  • Know Yourself

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves” – Sir Edmund Hillary

I came across this wonderful quote while I was at NC State for leading campus interviews.  The quote resonated with me and helped me look at goal setting and accomplishment in an entirely new perspective. The real purpose of goal setting is not about achievement. The true purpose is to know yourself and become a better version of yourself.  I was also reminded of Penelope Trunk’s quote around goal setting.

“The goal of taking care of one’s body, or sitting down to write is really the goal of being more of your true, best self. It’s about finding your best self — always changing, always elusive.”

In another blog post, Penelope points out that selecting the right goal is the hardest part of the goal setting process. This was a great insight for me. I could definitely see based on experience that the goal you set has to be aligned with who you are as a person. This requires a lot of self-knowledge and awareness. If you pick the wrong goal, you have already started on the wrong foot! The journey does not get easier after that!

Knowing yourself to me means the ability to see our selves with clarity. I view it as the fine balance of not exaggerating the reality about yourself while maintaining a positive self-image that is crucial to achieving your goals. As Penelope mentions, adult life is full of distortions. It is hard to weave through our emotions, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and attitudes to figure out who we are. It takes time and reflection to understand our strengths and weaknesses. It takes a great deal of self-awareness, concentration and attention to understand truly what motivates us, what frustrates us, what prompts us to take action, what makes us queasy. I have found it easier to slip into un-conscious modes where I chose to ignore or acknowledge certain aspects about myself that I don’t feel comfortable with.

As a Professional, knowing oneself is crucial to understand how we learn, how we respond to challenges and how we take action.

  • Self-Discipline

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Based on what I have read and researched, Self-discipline is the key to success. Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University summarizes the importance of self-discipline very well:

The practical significance is enormous. Most of the problems that plague modern individuals in our society — addiction, overeating, crime, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases, prejudice, debt, unwanted pregnancy, educational failure, underperformance at school and work, lack of savings, failure to exercise — have some degree of selfcontrol failure as a central aspect.

Psychology has identified two main traits that seem to produce an immensely broad range of benefits: intelligence and self-control. Despite many decades of trying, psychology has not found much one can do to produce lasting increases in intelligence. But self-control can be strengthened. Therefore, self-control is a rare and powerful opportunity for psychology to make a palpable and highly beneficial difference in the lives of ordinary people.

Another great insight from Roy’s interview was that self-discipline is like a muscle. We can strengthen it by exercising it more. Consciously practicing Self-discipline in one area of your life improves self-discipline in other areas of your life.

  • Support System

I have found that the pursuit of any worthwhile goal involves facing challenges and obstacles along the journey. This is a given! We may not have the right resources to overcome these obstacles, we may not have the right skills or talent and we may fail. The key to effectively deal with these challenges is to rely on a solid support system that allows us to keep trying in spite of failures and roadblocks. One of the insights I received after listening to the Maverick Mindset by Dr. John Eliot was that the support system can be an individual, a book, audio tapes or even a symbol. It can be anything that keeps reminding us to try and not quit.

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