Most of us make the mistake of pursuing external signs of success without doing the hard internal work first. We also mistakenly believe that external success is the path to internal success (happiness, fulfillment, etc). The truth is that it often works the other way around.

Here are some principles to help you prepare internally for external success:

1. Love what you do

Don’t wait to find the thing you are passionate about. Bring your passion to what you are doing today.

2. Always be learning

Do not subscribe to the belief that you are done with learning when you graduate high school or college. See every situation as an opportunity to learn a valuable life lesson or skill.

3. Be a decision maker

Be decisive. Be at peace with the decisions you make. Be courageous in accepting responsibility for your decisions.

4. Become self-reflective

Observe yourself. Take time to reflect on your inner motivations for what you do.

5. Don’t hold grudges

The longer you hold on to a grudge, the more you empower the person who hurt you. Reclaim your power by letting go of anger and bitterness.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Learn perspective. Don’t waste an ounce of energy on anything that is petty or insignificant.

7. Be a person of your word

Do what you say you will do. See your tasks and projects through to completion. If you can’t, don’t make up excuses.

8. Don’t be afraid to play to an empty house

Do your work with joy and enthusiasm, even when you think no one is noticing or watching.

9. Work three times as hard

If you’re not giving it all you’ve got, it’s probably not worth doing.

10. Pray or meditate

Find a higher purpose. Success without a higher calling will be unsatisfying at best.

11. Wake up early

Want your day to be more productive? Wake up early.

12. Focus on the why

Clearly define your “why.” Your “what” and your “how” will follow.

13. Stop comparing yourself to others

Live your life rather than yearning for someone else’s.

14. Stop self-sabotaging behavior

Are you telling yourself and others that you are not worthy of success by your actions? Change your behavior and start telling a different story.

15. Watch who you hang around with

Stay away from negativity. It will suck the life energy out of you.

16. Start a mastermind group

Find a group of like-minded individuals so you can encourage each other on your paths to success.

17. Practice mindfulness

Always be mindful of the present moment. Take a few minutes out of your day to sit in silence.

18. Express gratitude

Never tire of being grateful. Take a deep breath and smile.

19. Grow a thick skin

Learn to graciously accept criticism. Learn to positively deflect mean-spiritedness.

20. Practice empathy

Learn to identify with people on a deeper level. Spend an afternoon talking to people at a homeless shelter. Take a friend going through a difficult time out for a cup of coffee and give them your undivided attention (i.e. turning off your smartphone).

21. Trust in the process, not your feelings

You’ve plotted a long-term path to success but you don’t feel like doing it today. Don’t be tempted to quit or take short cuts. Trust the path. Get up and get to work.

22. Spend less than your earn

Learn to manage your money. Create a budget before the month begins and stick to it.

23. Learn deferred gratification

Do you really need to upgrade your smartphone today? Do you just have to have that new car? Probably not. Wait until you can afford it.

24. Decide what you want your success to look like

Visualize your success. Do you like what you see? How can you tweak your vision to something you will be happy with? The visuals we usually associate with success is money falling from the sky, flashy sports cars, nice clothing and accessories, and a gorgeous woman or man at your side. Is that what you want?

What if success was more about having the freedom to pursue and strengthen the relationships that matter the most to you? To have the resources to help the less fortunate?

Don’t simply assume success is what you see in popular culture. You get to decide.

25. Decide ahead of time what you will do if you fall short

Will you quit? Will you do a course correction? Will you double down? Will you seek help? Decide ahead of time.

26. Read great books

Read educational books. Read non-fiction books. Read fiction books. Read inspiring autobiographies. Read spiritual books. Read children’s books (to your kids and to yourself). Find the great stories that will inspire your own story.

27. Practice affirmations

This will help you overcome self-sabotaging behavior. Speak them aloud.

28. Exercise your body and your mind

Along with physical exercise, play strategy games and do mental exercises that will challenge your brain.

29. Develop you ability to observe and read other people

Learn to observe people. Become interested in their interests, likes, and dislikes. Listen to them. You will eventually learn to anticipate their needs.

30. Be other-centered

Always think about ways you can add value to others. Banish the question “What will I get out of this?” from your thinking.

31. Be givers

Give joyfully of your time and resources. Take the time to mentor a person in your field, to volunteer, and to financially support a worthy cause.

32. Stop complaining

Don’t complain about how terrible your life is, even when times are tough. You life is not terrible, you are simply going through a terrible time. It will pass.

33. Find a mentor

Identify a person who has achieved external and internal success. Ask them questions. Learn their story. If you do not have personal access to this achiever, follow his blog or podcast. Read her books. Watch his YouTube videos.

34. Hold on to relationships that keep you grounded

Never lose sight of the relationships that matter most. No matter how successful you get, you will always need the love and support of family, friends, and people you respect. Besides, success will be no fun unless you can share it with them.

Featured photo credit: Freedom via flic.kr

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