So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed). -Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go”
We all want to succeed at what we do, whether in school, at work, or in our relationships. But sometimes, we get so caught up in wanting to succeed or fearing we won’t do so that reaching the moment of achievement seems impossible. Are successful people just luckier? Did they get a head start in life? Maybe, but more likely they simply step carefully, as Dr. Seuss advises, and learn from the lessons life offers. Here are 10 life lessons successful people always keep in mind.
1. Slow and steady wins the race
According to author Travis Bradberry, we can easily think we’re winning at life when we’re busy, but busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. In fact, the more balls we try to juggle, the more we wind up dropping. Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? The hare assumed, incorrectly, that the key to getting ahead was to be quick like a bunny, but the tortoise—and the hare’s own cockiness—caught up with him in the end, and he lost. Slow down, take your time, and remember that a job worth doing is done well, not quickly.Advertising
2. Conquer your fears
FDR probably said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” All too often, the fear of failure rather than any lack of ability keeps us from succeeding. We worry about what others will think of us or how they’ll judge us if we don’t get a promotion or go to graduate school. Remember when you were learning to ride a bike? No matter how many times you fell and scraped your knees, you got back on. This rule applies to almost everything we do.
3. Learn from your mistakes
Let’s extend the bike-riding metaphor a bit here; not only did you get back on your bike because you conquered your fear, but also because you had to figure out what you did wrong in order to correct it. Maybe you turned too quickly or tilted too far to the right when trying to balance. Without the persistence of trial and error, you’d never have gotten it right.
Mistakes aren’t failures. They’re opportunities to learn. When you make a mistake, pause, reflect on what you did, and try things differently each time until you finally succeed.Advertising
4. Always exude confidence
You’ve probably heard it said that it’s better to strike the wrong note confidently than to strike the right one without confidence. I learned this from the twelve years I spent studying music. As a pianist, my greatest fear was striking that jarring note that would ruin the entire piece and send my audience fleeing the recital hall wishing for Beethoven’s deafness. As a result, when I practiced in front of my teacher, my family, or my friends, I’d always press more softly on the keys when I got to the point in the piece I felt least confident about, and this always made it sound worse—like I was playing dead air, which I basically was. I had to remind myself (or be reminded by others, more often) that playing well didn’t mean playing perfectly. If I played with feeling and with confidence, no one would notice one out-of-place sharp amidst the flats. When you make even your mistakes confidently, you show others that you don’t measure your entire self-worth by one single mistake.
5. Learn from others
Some of the most successful people get to the top not by climbing over others, but by cooperating with them. Part of cooperation involves listening to and learning from others; this includes admitting when you’re wrong or when you don’t know the answer to a question.
Formal authority doesn’t magically grant you superior mental acuity.Advertising
While I’m flattered when my students assume I know everything about the subject I teach because I’m standing at the front of the room, occasionally I won’t know the answer to a question. When this happens, I usually promise to find the answer before next class, and when I do, the result is mutually beneficial. I’ve learned something while teaching my students, and they respect me more for acknowledging that we never truly finish our education; there’s always something more to learn.
6. Surround yourself with positive people
According to Travis Bradberry, “anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious, or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them.” Surround yourself with people who energize you, who make you smile, and who support you in all of your endeavors. We feed off of the emotions of others, so if you want to absorb positive energy, spend your time in an environment that exudes it.
7. Stop comparing yourself to others
Each of us has a unique set of talents and abilities. Some of us are writers, some are teachers, some can fix cars, and others can take a computer apart and reassemble it in ten minutes. If you find yourself saying things like “She’s married; he got a promotion; they have four kids and a summer home in the south of Italy,” stop and realize that these are the benchmarks of their success, not yours. Focus on the things you have and what you can do, and then cultivate your own talents.Advertising
8. Be a trail-blazer
In his oft-quoted poem The Road not Taken, Robert Frost writes, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Succeeding in life often means blazing a trail for others, boldly going where no man has gone before, as the mission of the Starship Enterprise reminds us. It can be scary to be the first to try something; think of how Neil Armstrong must have felt when he first stepped onto the surface of the moon. But without that one small step, we’d never have made the leaps and bounds we have made in space exploration.
9. Take time for yourself
Since successful people know that being busy doesn’t always equal productivity, they recognize the importance of taking time to recharge their batteries. When you overwork yourself, you perform poorly because your mind is less sharp, so you’re more likely to make mistakes and wind up taking twice as long to complete whatever task you need to accomplish.
10. Do what you love
There’s nothing more fulfilling than taking pride in a job well-done, especially when it’s a job you love. While money is a basic necessity without which we can’t pay bills and sustain ourselves, money, as the Beatles remind us, can’t buy love or happiness. In order to truly succeed in life, you need passion: passion in your work, passion in your relationships, passion in your hobbies. You won’t ever become the next Julia Child if you hate cooking because you won’t put your whole heart into it, so find something you love to do, and do it!Advertising
How do you succeed in life? Have any other tips? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Featured photo credit: High Five via pixabay.com
Last Updated on July 21, 2021
The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.
Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”
A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.
Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.
In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.
Table of Contents
From Creating Reminders to Building Habits
A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.
For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.
This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.
The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.
That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.
Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!
The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.
Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.
But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?
The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.
The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders
A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.
For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.
But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)
If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.
For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself) can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.
These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.
For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.
How to Make a Reminder Works for You
Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.
Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.
Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.
My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.
Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.
I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.
More on Building Habits
- 16 Everyday Habits of Highly Productive People
- How Long Does It Take to Break a Habit? Science Will Tell You
- How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months
- How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com
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