How we view success today is deeply shaped by what Hollywood stars, influencers, political leaders, and business gurus tell us. However, their success stories do not match our own in most cases.mThe endless race to reach success in our current society seems to have thrown us into a never-ending spiral of wishes and desires in our very noisy and competitive world. The process entails studying, getting a job, and consuming the latest technological gadgets, cars, clothes, food, entertainment, etc.
However, something has gone wrong along the way. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 280 million people suffered from chronic depression in 2021, which has skyrocketed in 2022. Current negative world events play an important role in the collective zeitgeist, which has brought additional fear and uncertainty into our daily lives. Moreover, there is something about the way we think and see the success that has not helped us deal with difficult situations. This begs the question: what has been wrong in our mindset that does not allow us to thrive, and what can we do to overcome the fears of uncertainty and failure with steadfast resilience?
I propose that we take back the leadership of our minds and pay greater attention to how we design your meaning of success. The truly great leaders and creators of ancient and modern times transcended time due to their remarkable contributions. They found real meaning in their lives and designed their success around their visions. Additionally, they succeeded in their deeds despite terrible hardships, wars, and other catastrophes.
When I think about the word “resilience,” one of the first individuals who comes to my mind is Nelson Mandela. In his memoir “A Long Walk to Freedom,” he described how the realities of his country at the time during the Apartheid Era sparked a fire inside him that led him to dedicate his life to the fight for his country. During his fight for freedom, he confronted repressive governments, threats to his life, and even imprisonment; however, he never gave up on his vision to see South Africa become a truly democratic and free society where everyone could live in harmony. This was a cause he was willing to fight for and, if necessary, die for. His steadfast determination led him to finally reach a position of power where he could actualize his goals, ultimately becoming the first Black President in South Africa.
His story fascinates me because it demonstrates the power of having a strong personal vision and how this vision can help you overcome even the most terrible hardships. When you define your vision, and what success looks like based on external opinions, you have no control over the outcomes. You are basing the value of your life on material things or societal expectations that are most often unrealistic. Not everyone is born to comply with certain templates of life or being. All of us are born unique in our talents and capabilities, and it is our job to discover which ones they are.
Identify and Connect With Your Vision
Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple, once stated, “If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”
One of the first steps to defining success in your terms and building a vision around it is to identify the activities you love to do. It is worthwhile to reflect and consider everything you loved as a kid. Were you curious about being an astronaut? Did you love to paint or draw? Were you curious about other cultures and countries? Did you dream about becoming a basketball star? Those memories can offer you hints about what comes from your heart. They do not come from external influences and opinions from your family, schoolteachers, and the like; it comes from within.
After identifying the activities you love, the next step is to recognize the activities at which you excel. The intersection between what you love and what you are good at helps you connect with your passion. Passion is the intense desire or enthusiasm for something. You can spend hours and days doing the same activity without growing tired.
After identifying your passion, ask yourself, “How can I contribute to building a better world using my passion and talents?” and “How does a better world look as a result of my contributions?” You have discovered your life’s vision if you can answer those questions.
The consequences of not spending your life pursuing your vision and passion could result in disaster. Sadly, this is the reality for millions of people around the world. According to recent statistics from SeedScientific, more than half of all American workers are disengaged and dissatisfied with their jobs. This is an alarming statistic, considering that most of daily life happens at work. Although accepting a dreadful job to pay the bills might sound like a good idea, the cost will be steep concerning your life quality and health.
Create Powerful Habits That Align With Your Personal and Professional Goals
John C. Maxwell, the famous American best-selling author, and speaker, once noted, “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.”
Small actions have a compounding effect. This term has been widely used in the financial world to describe what happens to every dollar you invest, taking into account interest rates, when they are reinvested and accumulate earnings over time. The accumulation of small, daily actions targeted to achieve a focused goal has a similar effect.
Darren Hardy, the author of “The Compound Effect” agrees with this approach and defines the compound effect as an effective strategy to gain big rewards from small and insignificant yet consistent steps over time.
When we talk about small, daily actions, we are talking about building habits. However, creating habits does not begin with taking action by itself.
Neuroscientists agree that habits are first envisioned and formed in our subconscious minds. They are triggered by the brain’s limbic system, which is the same area that controls our emotions. This means that the way you feel dictates which activities you decide to carry out at certain moments during the day—without you even realizing it.
Here’s an example. Imagine that you want to lose weight. You set up a diet and exercise plan that feels right. You feel excited and are willing to start. On day one, however, you wake up in a bad mood. You have a headache. The first thing that crosses your mind is to open the fridge and eat a big piece of chocolate cake. The plan to jog for 30 minutes in the morning now feels like a distant idea, lost in a remote part of your brain. “I’ll start tomorrow when I feel better,” you say. Then, the next day, it rains, and you postpone it for the following day. The reinforcement of not doing what has been planned sets you in a negative emotional spiral when doing that particular activity. Ultimately, you fall into old habits once again.
To avoid this, you must develop a strong faith in your ability to fulfill your activities. It is important to start small via minuscule yet repetitive and consistent steps. You might start with a plan to walk twenty minutes per day instead of pushing yourself to sprint when you are just beginning. The confidence in repetitively reaching small, simple goals will give you the confidence to set the bar higher and higher.
You might not see the effect of implementing small changes every day right away, but after a certain period, you will start to reap its benefits. From my research about great leaders and successful people, I did not find a single person who achieved success from one day to the next by doing one big action. Success was consistently the result of constant, targeted actions completed over long periods, which enabled them to transcend their contributions.
That is why it is important to remain vigilant regarding your actions every day. You can easily get off track if you do not make a conscious effort to monitor even the smallest of your actions. The wrong set of habits will lead to the wrong results and, eventually, a destination that was not the one you were looking after.
Just as Joel A. Barker, an American self-development author, rightly said, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”
The Real Prosperity Is in the Present
It may sound cliché, but the present moment is all we have. This time is stolen away from us quickly due to the incredible amount of information we are exposed to every day from all fronts in life: mainstream and social media, news, magazines, podcasts, newspapers, expert opinions, and the like. This is particularly true following the rise of social media, after which we have fallen victim to the over-consumption of information.
When we are immersed in thoughts of the past or future, we live in a world that does not exist except in our minds. When we pay too much attention to the news—to a narrative of events that may or may not happen—we give away one of our biggest powers: the power of our attention. When you pay attention to erroneous things, you give your power to the wrong people or causes.
That is why it is so important to tune out from social media and tune in to what gives your life purpose. You are here in the now. What you observe around you is your current reality, which includes your emotions, your thoughts, your community, your beliefs, and the people physically around you. All of these elements belong to your reality and only yours. Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher and author of“The Power of Now,” exposed us to this powerful truth when he said, “When you travel, it is very useful to know where you are going, or at least, which direction you should go, but do not forget that the only thing that is true about your trip is this step you are doing right now, on this moment. This is everything and the only thing that can be right now.”
Make a conscious effort to avoid social media and dedicate more time to things that could bring a real difference into your life. For example, spend ten minutes daily writing about your dreams and goals. Keep a gratitude journal. Sit in silence and meditate.
In her book, “What I Know For Sure,”Oprah Winfrey mentions that she used to keep a gratitude journal. This simple act made her recognize that what matters in life is to focus on the blessings you experience every day instead of wasting precious energy on thinking about your have-nots. It is said that you attract more of what you feel grateful for, so it is worthwhile giving it a try.
Life is for living, not for imprisonment. Do not let your social media habits imprison your self-identity. Instead, use healthy habits such as journaling, meditating, or healthy self-introspection as a gateway to finding yourself and what makes your life meaningful and worth living.
On the Path to Excellence, Truth Is Your Best Ally
Being successful is synonymous with being excellent at what you do. There is a difference between perfectionism and striving to be excellent. The main difference lies in how you place your value as a person. Do you often feel under pressure to please others? Do you have a strong need to be praised and recognized? Do you feel anxious about how other people think about you? If you can relate, you can be certain that you are falling into the trap of perfectionism.
However, if you feel satisfied with who you are and work incessantly towards your goals despite what others think and the outcome you might get, you are operating from your source of truth—from your heart. Striving for excellence requires practice, dedication, devotion, and a true intention to learn about yourself and others. It is connected to acts of love.
We admire leaders who we consider successful people because we believe they are displaying the truth about themselves and their cause, and we identify with that truth. We believe that they are authentic in their intentions and actions. Therefore, being excellent means being authentic.
The path to a successful mindset—the one that will help you find your life’s true meaning—is to recognize that you have control over just about three things in life: your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions. How you use those three determines everything that you will become.