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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

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 say that it depends on your definition of success. However, 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, or 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.

There is no one key to success—there are multiple keys to multiple doors, and multiple steps, each one leading to the next. Use the following steps to success to get started on your own success journey. 

1. Don’t Make It a Matter of Motivation

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

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. 

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.

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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.

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 with the basics, 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.

You can learn more on how to cultivate grit and passion in this TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth:

3. Network the Right Way

There’s no doubt you need other people to help you succeed. That said, there’s a right way to build your network through the steps to success.

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[3].

It sounds daunting, but effective networking is easier when you have a set of guidelines. Keep the following in mind when you begin your networking journey:

  • 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. 

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 Right

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.

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.

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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 that how you practice is more important than how much you practice. He provides some valuable tips on training yourself to succeed[4]:

  • Determine the correct way and practice it repeatedly
  • 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 — 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 to 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.

Try deliberate practice too, it will help you pick up something quickly: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

5. Treat Failure as a Part of the Process

If you expect to do nothing but succeed, you’ll be sorely disappointed. In fact, people who avoid failure are often among the most unsuccessful people.

Anything worth doing is difficult, and failure is a part of the process. Failure grants you valuable insight on what not to do as you make your way through the steps to success.

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. When people fail, they need to analyze the following:

  • What were the external/environmental/societal factors that tripped me up?
  • How can I respond differently next time?
  • Were there any problems I created regardless of external factors? Why did I create them?
  • Who can I go to for help this time around?

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

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. 

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

One study 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, small 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. 

7. Figure out What’s Causing Conflicts in Your Life

You could be facing issues in certain areas of your life, which may cause your dreams and the steps to success to fade into the background.

About 18 percent of people suffer from anxiety disorders at some point in their life, but only 37 percent 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[7].

Anxiety can hurt your steps towards success. Learn to identify it!

    Often, 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. Start goal setting with immediate steps to make things faster and easier—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 as you’re going through the steps towards success.

    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[8].

    Practice self-care to improve your steps to success.

      10. Compartmentalize Your Activities

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

      Compartmentalization enables you to achieve maximum focus and heightens your passion.

      Final Thoughts

      The binding thread of these steps to success is focus.

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

      Repetition is the key to focus. Each small step will eventually add up to something huge.

      More Tips for Achieving Success

      Featured photo credit: Ruffa Jane Reyes via unsplash.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Dan Matthews, CPRP

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

      10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life 10 Secrets to Living a Happy Life No Matter How Old You Are 15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included) 11 Simple and Effective Ways to Manage Stress

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      Last Updated on September 30, 2020

      Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

      Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

      Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

      The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

      And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money[1].

      And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

      Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

      So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

      Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

      “To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”[2]

      Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

      An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

      Why? It’s simple.

      There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

      If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

      Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

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      The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation[3]. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

      When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

      Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it[4]:

      “Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

      If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

      Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

      If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

      Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation[5].

      One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

      Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point[6].

      By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

      Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”[7]

      In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

      Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

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      6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

      So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

      There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

      1. Self-Efficacy

      The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982[8]. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do[9].

      Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

        It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills[10].

        Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

        You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

        2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

        Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you? 

        And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

        Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

        “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

        Inspirational, isn’t it?

        Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

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        3. Volunteer

        Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism[11].

        When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

        4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

        A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it[12]. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

        But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

        Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

        For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

        Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

        5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

        The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci[13]. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation[14]. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

        There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

        If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

        All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

        6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

        Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically[15].

        The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

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        A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

        The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.

        And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

        Final Thoughts

        Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:[16]

        “If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

        Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

        Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

        In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

        And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

        Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

        More Tips to Boost Motivation

        Featured photo credit: Juan Ramos via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Harvard Business Review: Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research
        [2] Contemporary Educational Psychology: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
        [3] Scientific American: The Science of Lasting Happiness
        [4] The Guardian: Is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?
        [5] European Journal of Business and Management: Impact of Employee Motivation on Employee Performance
        [6] Adam Grant : Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance: The Effects of Contact With Beneficiaries on Persistence Behavior
        [7] Grand Valley State University: The Effect of Rewards and Motivation on Student Achievement
        [8] Encyclopedia Britannica: Albert Bandura
        [9] Pinterest: Self-Efficacy Theory
        [10] Educational Psychologist: Goal Setting and Self-Efficacy During Self-Regulated Learning
        [11] University of Minnesota: The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations
        [12] Harvard Business Review: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To
        [13] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
        [14] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being
        [15] Nick Tasler: How some people stay motivated and energized at work—even when they don’t love their jobs
        [16] Harvard Business Review: One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?

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