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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

More by this author

Daniel 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 December 13, 2018

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

It’s Monday morning. The alarm rings. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you open your eyes?

“I really don’t want to go to work today”, “I have such a long day ahead, what a dread”, or “Yes! It’s a brand new week ahead! Looking forward to getting lots done.”

Whatever your response may be, ask yourself this question:

“What is it that made you feel unmotivated?” What was driving you to feel negative or positive about your Monday ahead? How to get motivated?

Meet Nancy

I used to have a colleague by the name of Nancy. She came to work at the same time every morning, and would leave at 6.30 sharp every evening. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later. She was known to be the office grinch as she was often grumpy towards everyone, so much so people would avoid her whenever possible. She complained about everything under the sun.

I had a brief conversation with her one morning in the office lounge where we were both getting coffee. She told me she had been working with the company for over 20 years! When she told me that, I asked her what motivated her to stay on for so long, and her reply was simply “I don’t know. It’s a job that pays the bills, and is close to where I live.” With that, she walked away and I was left standing alone in the lounge with my hot coffee, at a loss for words.

How could someone be doing the exact same thing for over 20 years? And she clearly doesn’t enjoy her work, what with all that complaints and grouchy attitude. So why hasn’t she done anything about it?

The 2 Types of People

This might be an extreme case, but I’m sure you must know of people who have been doing the same thing for years and seem to not have any problem staying stagnant. Whether it be in their marriage, job, or personal endeavors, they seem to be getting along just fine without progressing towards anything ‘better’.

On the other hand, I’m sure you would also know of individuals who focus on the positive, set goals and are constantly pushing themselves to greater heights. Be it promotions at work, building a family, celebrating milestones in their marriage or relationships, upgrading houses and cars, setting up new businesses, or going to school again, these individuals seem to constantly progress towards something that improves or enhances their life.

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So what’s the difference between these 2 category of individuals?

What you feel like or don’t feel like doing, boils down to one thing. And that is motivation. It is the force, or lack of, that keeps driving you forward to overcome challenges and obstacles to achieve your goals.

Without motivation, you’ll give up after a few failed attempts or even on the first tough challenge that comes your way. Or, in the case of Nancy, just remain where you are: unhappy yet not doing anything to progress ahead.

What is Motivation, Really?

Whether you realize it or not, motivation is a huge force in your life; and it needs to be harnessed in order to excel and actually enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, many overgeneralize the word motivation. We think of being either motivated or demotivated as a simple “yes” or “no” state of being.

But motivation is not a switch. Motivation is a flow. To feel motivated, you need to dive beyond the surface. Just reading a motivational quote, being encouraged by your friends or even mentor won’t help you build sustainable motivation in the long run.

You can think of the motivation that we want to achieve like the Sun (self-sustaining and long lasting), which supplies a constant influx of energy to all life on Earth. Just like the Sun, your “motivation engine” has different layers, starting from the core and spreading out to the surface. The surface is what you see, but the real process is driven from the core; and that’s the most important part… I’ll explain why in a moment.

If you can create a self sustaining motivation engine, you’ll not only be able to find more meaning and purpose in your life, but you’ll be able to enjoy every minute of what you’re doing, which will make your roles and responsibilities less of a chore. Now wouldn’t that be a game changer?

Let me help you understand this motivation flow better, by breaking down the Motivation Engine into 3 parts:

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  1. Core – Purpose
  2. Support – Enablers
  3. Surface – Acknowledgement

I’d say we’re most familiar with layers 2 and 3, as we come into direct contact with both of them frequently.

The Second Layer: Support – Enablers

In essence, the second layer of the Motivation Engine (also known as Enablers) is what supports your goals. They can magnify the motivation core you have, or speed up the momentum that you build. Basically, they create favorable circumstances for things to go smoothly.  

The Third Layer: Surface – Acknowledgement

The third layer, also known as Acknowledgement, encompasses any type of external recognition that might give you motivation. It may come in the form of respect or recognition, such as compliments and praise.

Or it could be emotional support through encouragement, feedback and constructive criticism. It could also be affiliation, where you have mutual companions or buddies sharing the same goal or burden with you.

This is generally what you see on the surface when you look at other people. You see the external acknowledgement, respect, and recognition they’re getting.

The Innermost Layer: Core – Purpose

But what’s most important, and the true driving force behind your Motivation flow, is the innermost core – your Purpose. Your purpose is what differentiates the motivated from the demotivated, the achievers from the underachievers, the happy from the unhappy.

Your motivational core is your Purpose, and is sustained by two things: Having Meaning, and Forward Movement. With these two as a foundation, you’ll have a power source that will feed you motivational energy indefinitely.

So, how do you do these two things?

How to Sustain Your Purpose

Having Meaning is simple. Just ask yourself a question: Why?

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Why are you pursuing a certain goal? If the reason is vague or unclear, then your motivational energy will be the same. While motivation provides you energy to do something, that energy needs to be focused somewhere. So without meaning, there is no direction for your energy to be focused on.

Yet, having a meaningful objective doesn’t mean you have to change the world or create A huge impact on society. The secret to meaningful work is simple: it should contribute value to something or someone that matters to you.

Next up is gaining Forward Movement. In short, this means to just keep moving. Like a snowball, motivation from having progress creates momentum. So to keep this up, you have to keep moving.

And the good news is, your progress doesn’t have to be huge for you to recognize it. Small amounts of progress can be just as motivating, as long as they keep coming. Like driving a car, you may be really impatient if you’re at a complete halt. But, it lessens if you’re moving forward–even if you’re moving slowly.

Creating a simple progress indicator like checklists or milestones, are a great way to visualize your small (and big) wins. They trigger your brain to recognize and acknowledge them, giving you small boosts of motivational energy.

This is why video games are so addictive! They’re full of progress indicators everywhere. Even though the progress is completely virtual, they’re still able to trigger the motivation centers in your brain.

Find Out What Drives You Today

So why not take some time today and do a quick reflection of where you’re at now? Take one aspect of your life that you’d like to be more motivated.

For example, it may be your current job. First, start with why. Write down your reasons for why you’re in the job that you’re in. Then think about your Motivation Core: Your Purpose. Write down what it is within your job that gives you meaning, and what are some things that will help push you forward in life.

Once you have those points, it’s time to do a comparison. Does your current job help you make progress towards that Purpose that you’ve written?  

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If it does, then wonderful! You’re on the right track. But if it doesn’t entirely, or you now realize you’re way off target, don’t panic. It’s definitely not too late to align your actions back to your true purpose.

Here at Lifehack, we’ve condensed over 15 years of life improvement coaching into 7 distinct Cornerstone Skills. And finding motivation is just 1 of 7 Cornerstone Skills that you can master to dramatically turn your life around!

Wouldn’t We All Like to Be Happy?

Happiness need not be a vague term or illusion that you’re constantly chasing after–with no end in sight. By finding your true motivation, you’ll be one step closer to realizing your happiness and finding meaning in all things you do.

And for those of you who feel like you’re already working towards your purpose or goals, learning these 7 Cornerstone Skills will only help you to push progress even further, and at a much faster rate. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be 10 times more productive?

You may have read hundreds of books, articles, and watched videos, maybe even tried some solutions too to help you stay motivated. But, none of them really have any impact. They bring only incremental changes, and that’s not what you’re really looking for. This is because permanent change requires a holistic approach, and is more than just focusing on one area of your life, or working on changing a part of your routine or actions.

You want to make a fundamental change; but it feels like big, unknown territory that you can’t afford to venture into at this point in your life.

The truth is, taking your life to the next stage doesn’t have to be this complicated. With our course, it’s actually quite simple. It’s an all in approach, and the 7 Cornerstone Skills is just what you need to make that holistic change. So if you’d like to take the first step to achieving your life purpose, the time is now!

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

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