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Published on September 17, 2018

10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams

10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams

What are the steps to success? Many people will answer, “Depends on your definition of success.” Yet a definition is not what you’re after.

You know what you want and you’re interested in hearing exactly how you can bring your dreams to fruition.

Your primary problem is time and the demands of everyday life. For every person who delays their journey to success, there are bills to pay. Your invention goes uninvented, your book remains unwritten, because you have to pay the bills right here and now. Once you’re done working, it’s hard finding motivation to work more on your dream; you’re tired and you just don’t feel like it.

Now’s your time to change. There is no key to success — there are multiple keys to multiple doors, multiple steps, each one leading to the next:

1. Don’t make it a matter of motivation

Wait, isn’t accomplishing goals all about personal motivation? How will you succeed if you’re not motivated?

Here’s the problem with motivation:

It’s subject to whims and feelings. If the only thing motivating you is an internal desire to achieve results, you won’t achieve results when desire is not there. Then, there will be times when your desire is strong, but you’re caught up in some other task. You can’t drop that task because if you do, you don’t get paid.

Aytekin Tank, founder of JotForm, recommends relying on “systems” instead of intrinsic motivation.[1] Intrinsic motivation is self-motivation to take action, and Tank points out that “there are probably moments when you don’t want to take action.”

Instead of merely relying on desire, set up a system and follow it no matter how you feel. Here’s a quick synopsis of how Tank runs his system:

  • Identify two or three things you want to focus on. These things should all have something to do with your primary goal in life.
  • Establish a time each day for productive focus.
  • Say no to any activity that doesn’t fit into your focus areas.
  • Give yourself a certain amount of flexibility. If you have absolutely no motivation to sit down and start writing, read a book to help inform your writing, or spend time cataloging your surroundings.

For many of us, the hard part is saying “no” to those inevitable and attractive distractions. Tank recommends concentrating on what you love about your dream. Why are you doing this to begin with? Practice concentrating on what makes your goals great.

2. Emulate others

Not learning from successful people is the same as ignoring directions from locals in a city you’re visiting for the first time. It makes no sense.

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Regardless of how adventurous you are and how much of a rebel you want to be, you must have mentors. Learn how they did it, start basic, and then find ways to differentiate yourself.

According to Ohio University, some of the most successful self-made business people share common traits including:[2]

  • Simple purposes and plans.
  • Tendency to work with and rely on people who will help achieve goals, and to dismiss those who won’t.
  • Grit and determination.
  • Tendency to prioritize and streamline important, transparent communications.
  • Tendency to save money when possible.
  • Decision-making ability that incorporates a mix of facts and people’s stories and emotions.

If you’re having trouble deciding who to emulate, the above traits are good ones to cultivate.

Eventually, the more you observe and talk to successful people, the more likely you are to find a mentor or role model.

Look for the traits that make them great, and work on cultivating these in yourself.

3. Network the right way

There’s no doubt you need other people to help you succeed. No one — and no one’s great idea — exists in a vacuum. That said, there’s a right way to build your network.

If you approach networking the wrong way, you’ll walk away frustrated, even hurt. Never underestimate the emotional gamble you’re undertaking when building a network.

Sounds daunting, but effective networking is easier when you have a set of guidelines. Rutgers University has a number of networking tips to consider:[3]

  • Be helpful: Follow the Golden Rule of networking — help others, be kind and do favors. Then keep in touch with those you help.
  • Be steady: Dependability, consistency, grit — show people you can be steady and cultivate an image that reflects your implacable commitment to your passion.
  • Be authentic: Don’t connect because the person will benefit you. Make connections based on your honest interest in who that person is and what they’re doing.
  • Be candid: Sugarcoating your words doesn’t work. Honesty, sincerity and forthright communication are the hallmarks of a great communicator.
  • Be attentive: Pay careful and close attention to what others say, and don’t waste words. The more you talk about yourself, the less perspective you gain from the other person. Find out about others’ interests and passions.

Networking is its own journey and each step is just as important as the destination.

Be mindful of the moments, pay attention to what people say and do, and build relationships with the people who are passionate and full of purpose.

4. Practice perfection

You know you need to practice to excel at anything — your teachers, parents, and coaches drove this into you while you were growing up. But chances are they didn’t give you an accurate picture of right practice.

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After all, this is a discussion on how to actually achieve your dreams. Your dream isn’t to be mediocre or proficient, your dream is to really nail something to the wall with excellence, finality and precision.

Don’t just practice. Practice doing it the right way and practice it that way again and again.

In Doug Lemov’s book Practice Perfect (co-authored with Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi), the author points out it’s not just about practicing a lot — it’s about how you practice. He provides some valuable tips on training yourself to succeed:[4]

  • Determine the correct way and practice it repeatedly. Practicing how to do something the wrong way encodes the wrong method on your brain.
  • Practice the most important, effective things most. The 80/20 rule says 20 percent of right practice yields 80 percent of results.
  • Through repetition, engrain the activity so deep that you barely have to think about it later.
  • Repeat until you are able to think creatively while performing rote tasks.
  • Each time you practice, set an objective first — Lemov says to make it “manageable and measurable.”
  • Concentrate on what you’re already good at and keep practicing it.
  • If you do something wrong, correct it by going back and doing the right way repeatedly.

To practice perfection, it helps a great deal to have someone providing feedback. If you don’t have a mentor or coach, consult the information readily available in libraries and online.

5. Treat failure as a part of the process

If you expect to do nothing but succeed, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Anything worth doing is difficult, and failure is a part of the process — an important part. Failure grants you valuable insight on what not to do.

Even if you can’t figure out what you did wrong, there are probably external/environmental factors that contributed to your failure.

Now’s your chance to analyze what those factors might be. Once you fail, you’ll analyze these things:

  • What, if any, were the external/environmental/societal factors that tripped me up?
  • How can I respond differently the next time a problem comes up?
  • Were there any problems I created regardless of external factors? Why did I create them?
  • Who can I and should I ask for help this time around?

Analysis and learning aren’t necessarily easy, which is why you should be prepared to fail multiple times.

As step 4 says, optimize your practice. Failure will become less frequent the more you practice each part of your process with the correct method in mind.

6. Set realistic goals

Realistic goals and objectives are the checkpoints you can meet on your way to success. If your goal is to be a rock star or a celebrity, that’s not something you can immediately realize. It’s a dream.

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Without realistic goals that bring you ever closer to your dream, it won’t become reality.

A study published in ScienceDirect found that people experience higher levels of depression and anxiety due to goal conflicts and ambivalence about goals.[5]

In other words, you might have a dream of success, but your immediate goals may conflict with each other, and when that happens, your mental health suffers.

Additionally, you may be ambivalent about your current goals because they don’t align with what you truly value. Evaluate your goals and ask yourself what you truly want out of life. Are your goals in line with what you truly want?

7. Figure out what’s causing conflicts in your life

You could be facing an issue that blurs your vision, in which case your dreams and the steps to success fade into the background as you continually confront your immediate issue.

About 18 percent of people suffer from anxiety disorders at some point in their life, yet only 37 percent of sufferers seek help.[6]

Anxiety and other common disorders, such as depression, can affect your ability to perform at work, and can hurt your home-life. In turn, your focus fails as your disorder looms in the foreground.

Oftentimes, those who suffer from anxiety are thinking about the future too much. The path to achieving your dreams will not open until you focus on your immediate goals and objectives. Set out immediate steps — e.g. I will write 500 hundred words a day from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. — and concentrate on the action in front of you.

Additionally, consider mindfulness meditation to help alleviate anxiety.

8. Eliminate distractions

Distractions are a big part of goal conflict. Strangely enough, you find yourself scrolling your Facebook news feed when you’re at work. You decide to go drinking when there’s an important conference the next morning.

Sadly, Facebook and drinking have nothing to do with advancing your career — but improving your work has everything to do with your dream.

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Eliminating distractions can be as simple as loading a productivity app on your phone or tablet. Or, you may need to physically remove distractions from your workspace — whatever it takes to concentrate.

9. Give yourself downtime

You need to eliminate distractions while you’re focusing on objectives, but you also need to give yourself time to refresh.

The best type of downtime helps rejuvenate your brain. Take walks in nature, play a game with friends, exercise, read a book — anything you enjoy doing that’s not unhealthy for you.

10. Compartmentalize your activities

When you’re working on objectives, that’s all you’re doing. When you’re networking, that’s all you’re doing. When you’re taking time to relax, you’re not responding to work emails.

Compartmentalization enables you achieve maximum focus and heightens your passion.

Final thoughts

The binding thread of these steps to success — the single factor that brings your dreams to fruition — is focus.

Determine simple objectives that will bring you closer and closer to what seems like a fantastic dream. As you work on each objective, practice complete focus.

You’re practicing for those moments that pop up, seemingly by chance, the moments that bring you to the doorstep of your dream.

Repetition is the key to focus. Practice building your skills the right way, listen to advice from others, build in mechanisms to make yourself work, and build your network. Each small step will eventually add up to something huge.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Aytekin Tank: “There’s No Such Thing As Motivation
[2] Ohio University: “Self-Made Business People — How They Did It
[3] Rutgers University: “5 Networking Tips for Business Professionals
[4] Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, Katie Yezzi: Practice Perfect
[5] Personality and Individual Differences: “Goal conflict, ambivalence and psychological distress: Concurrent and longitudinal relationships
[6] Fiscal Tiger: “Dealing With Anxiety at Work: Tips, Resources, and Coping Strategies

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on April 24, 2019

The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

If I ask you “what is happiness?”, then what would your answer be? It’s probably difficult to come up with a simple answer. Yet, here you are, looking for a key to happiness and how to lead a fulfilling life.

The truth is that a universal key to happiness is a myth.

That doesn’t mean that you should stop looking for yours right now, it only means that you need to be careful when reading articles about “a key to happiness”. The universal key to happiness is non-existent because happiness is one of the most difficult things in life to define.

How Do You Define Happiness?

Now, let’s go back to that difficult question: “what is happiness?”

Have you thought about it already? Let me give you an example of how hard it is to define happiness.

Right now, I’m drinking a cup of coffee while writing the outline of this article about how to define happiness. Am I happy right now? Yes, I’m feeling pretty happy:

  • I’ve got nothing to worry about.
  • All my basic needs are met.
  • My family, friends, and girlfriend are all happy as well.
  • The weather is nice.
  • I’m going outside in a couple of minutes to go for a walk.

These things are all making me feel pretty happy right now.

By that logic, let’s define my happiness as follows:

“Happiness is when I’m in a worry-free state, the weather is nice, everybody I know is alright and I can enjoy a hot cup of coffee.”

Voila. There it is. My definition of happiness.

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The keys to my happiness are obvious now, and I know enough in order to lead the happiest life I can. I just need to focus on the things I listed above.

Your Definition of Happiness Changes over Time

Wait a second… If it were this simple, then why have I ever been unhappy?

You might have guessed it already, but I made a very simple error. I assumed that what makes me happy today will make me happy for the rest of my life. And that’s just wrong.

Happiness is something that not only changes from person to person, but it’s also constantly evolving from day to day. This is why happiness is such a difficult concept, and why there’s not a single “key to happiness”.

Whoever tells you otherwise is likely not aware that people change, and that people don’t always share the same values, goals, and purposes.

How to Find the Key to Happiness

1. Define What Happiness Means to You!

For a minute, I want you to do consider your own happiness. I want you to think back of last week, and consider what things you did that had a positive effect on your happiness.

What things had a significant influence on your mood? What comes to your mind?

Was it spending time with your friends? Was it a great movie you watched? Did you attend an exciting sports event? Or did you enjoy sipping hot coffee on a sunny Wednesday morning? It could obviously be just about anything!

It’s important to realize that all these things were part of your “key to happiness”. Your happiness was defined by these things, and you just measured a small part of that.

Does that mean you now know all the answers? Do you now know how to live the rest of your life? No. But you do know what things made you happy last week, and that’s very useful information when determining your own definition of happiness to build on.

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If you consciously keep track of what factors determine your happiness, then you are more likely to find out just how much your definition of happiness can vary from time to time. This knowledge can help you find your key to happiness.

A Personal Example

You see, even though happiness is claimed to be the factor of life that’s the most difficult to measure, you can still measure how you define your own happiness each day. It’s simple.

For me personally, when I think back of last weekend, I remember that I really enjoyed spending time with my girlfriend, walking through the woods on a sunny day and just relaxing (a.k.a. doing nothing!)

These are happiness factors that were a vital part of my happiness definition this weekend. I had just survived a long and busy week at work, so I was really trying to find some easy enjoyment. The things that I did this weekend were perfect for the occasion, as it was a very happy day for me.

If you were to ask me what the key to my happiness was that weekend, I’d give you the following answer:

To spend quality time with my girlfriend, being able to enjoy the good weather while being carefree and relaxed.

While this is unlikely to be the key to your happiness for the rest of your life, it is a pretty good start.

You can do exactly the same. All you need to do is to define your own happiness from day to day.

2. Find Your Purpose in Life

The next step to determining your key to happiness is to determine the things that give you purpose. You will live a fulfilling life when you’re happily tracking towards a purpose. Something that you’re passionate about.

Let’s use the previous example of my key to happiness. Will I be happy for the rest of my life when I focus exclusively on a relaxed and carefree feeling? Probably not, because it will not lead to a very fulfilling life. Not for me, at least.

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There are some things that drive my actions in a much bigger sense than only my daily, short-term happiness. For some people, that purpose could be:

  • To take care of a loving family
  • To build a successful company
  • To climb the highest mountains
  • To be rich and famous

You have to find out what your purpose in life is in order to truly determine your key to happiness. Only then will you be able to define a sustainable plan that will make you both happy and fulfilled.

It’s important to know that you can find your purpose only when trying out new things. This is a crucial part of finding your key to happiness. You can’t read an article online (like this one) and suddenly learn about what your key to happiness is!

The same thing goes for finding your purpose. You can’t expect to find your purpose without trying new things. People stumble upon their purpose in life in lots of different ways.[1]

Combine Your Purpose in Life with the Keys to Your Happiness in Order to Lead a Fulfilling Life

Now, this might sound like a mouthful.

A purpose in life x keys to your happiness = fulfilling life?

It’s actually really simple. Let’s take the following example:

I’ve found that my purpose in life is to become the CEO of a great and powerful charity (I know, I know…)

I feel a purpose and sense of accomplishment when working towards these goals. However, should I therefore sacrifice everything in my life in order to reach that purpose? Should I work 100 hours a week, disregard any relationships and use sleep medication just to fall asleep under the stress?

Nope. If I do that, I might reach my purpose, but I won’t still be happy.

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However, if I spend the rest of my life similar to how I spent my last weekend (enjoying the sun and walking through the forest) I will also miss long-term happiness. That’s because I won’t feel like my life has a purpose.

Your key to happiness and the purpose of your life need to compliment each other. They need to be in balance.

3. Destination = Happiness = Journey

You’ve probably heard the saying:

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination”.

Think of the destination as your purpose, and think of the journey as the things you do that make you happy (the keys to your happiness).

You can’t spend your life running (or sprinting) towards your destination, because you’ll forget to enjoy the journey.

At the same time, you can’t head out on your journey without having a destination in mind.

That’s why I believe your happiness is a product of both the journey and the destination.

Or in other words, you need to combine your purpose in life with the keys to your happiness in order to lead a fulfilling life. This will allow you to create a road map – a specific and concise plan – that will help you determine how to best lead your life. If you’ve done that, you’re ready to steer your life in the best direction possible!

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember when trying to define your keys to a happy and fulfilling life is simple:

There is no universal key that leads to your happiness. That’s because your happiness is unique in each and every single way. What you can do is:

  • Realize that you can define the factors that make you happy.
  • Know that your happiness – and the factors that influence it – change over time, and so will your “key to happiness”.
  • Find out what your purpose in life is. You can only do this by trying out many things. You can’t learn this from simple reading an article!
  • Combine your purpose and the things that make you happy in order to get the best idea of how to steer your life in the best direction possible!

Featured photo credit: Sam Manns via unsplash.com

Reference

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