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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

What the Road to Success Actually Looks Like in Reality

What the Road to Success Actually Looks Like in Reality

I’ve been chewing on this question in my mind for a while as I analyze my journey through life thus far as a 28 year old man. “What does the road to success really look like?”

It is a tough question to answer because evaluating your own trajectory in life is difficult to do and there is no “one size fits all” sort of method that can conclusively tell you when you’ve made it in life. I’d venture to guess that most of us if not all of us, want to experience success in life.

The dictionary definition for success is:[1]

“a degree or measure of succeeding” as well as a “favorable or desired outcome.” Seems simple enough, right?

However, I think the majority of folks who contemplate this question often are not prepared for the challenge that they will face in seeking to find a proper answer.

Perhaps you have achieved some success in your own life this far in your career, or some of your personal goals and dreams. For me, I think my biggest success so far has been to graduate college and earn my Bachelor’s degree.

Where Is the Ceiling on Success?

The interesting thing about a “road to success” is that, there is always another bend up ahead for you to travel on. Consider someone like Bill Gates.

Bill Gates founded Microsoft and is one of the most-wealthy individuals on the planet. By all means and measure, Bill Gates is the idea of success fully realized and more. He has conquered every mountain that he has wanted to climb in his life.

Bill Gates had a vision that few are able to realize back when he founded Microsoft Corp in 1975:[2]

“Ultimately, the PC will be a window to everything people are interested in- and everything we need to know.” – Bill Gates

His work in computing has shifted the entire dynamic of our culture and is reflected in the rise to prominence that we’ve seen in the tech industry at large. Microsoft and Bill Gates paved the way for Apple, Google, Amazon, and more!

Has he stopped working now that he has reached what anyone could point to as success? No, if anything now he works even harder to achieve meaningful change in the world!

Failure Is Part of the Recipe to Success

In considering the road to success, one has to first come to understand that failure is a part of the equation. It is through our failures and miscues that we learn lessons about life and the pursuit of betterment within that life.

Each time we are knocked down by the circumstances of life, we have an important decision to make. You can choose to get up and keep trying, or to give up and stay down and out.

I believe it is monumentally important that you become comfortable with failure if you ever decide that you want to seek out “real” success. Why?

Because not even professional MLB players have a perfect record when it comes to taking big swings. You can’t hit a home-run each time you go to bat. But if you keep swinging, then the home-runs will materialize over time!

Each failure then becomes something valuable for the individual who is looking to walk down the road towards success. It isn’t a setback, but an effective lesson. Each time you miss the target, you’ve learned something important that will contribute towards your next success.

Appreciate the Grind

The next important aspect to consider when contemplating the road to success, is to not just focus on your end goal throughout that process of pursuit. You also must take the time and energy to enjoy the journey.

The “getting there” is more than half the battle and if you are miserable or unwilling to appreciate the pursuit, then you will find a hollow joy in finally reaching your destination.

Take the time to soak in the moments in your life as they happen; there are no guarantees in this world. Achieving success isn’t so much about a singular point in your life, but the grand, collective whole of your pursuit as you accumulate victories and your success begets future success.

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Whether you want to work until your 45 or 75, you can’t take this life for granted as it is happening. I think the biggest mistake people make is to either live too beyond their means early on in their life which disallows them from having a healthy and enjoyable retirement, or vice versa in that they spend too much time looking ahead and not enough time enjoying the moments in life as they pass them by.

Success Is a Moving Target

It’s important to understand that your idea of what success is will shift as time passes. When I got out of college, just getting any sort of salaried position with decent benefits was my idea of success. Now that I’ve been on a career path for 4 or 5 years, my idea of success has changed with time.

Now I dream to become a more senior contributor within my role so that I can increase my cash flow, decrease my expenses, and continue to grow my net worth over time.

As you move forward in life, your dreams and ideas of success are bound to shift, ebb, and flow with the motions of your momentum through life.

Balancing Your Approach to Success

There is a great balance to have where you can save and plan for the future, while also enjoying the time you have in the present and utilizing it effectively to live a more full life.

Success isn’t simply a dollar sign with a lot of zeros behind it. It can be defined in a multitude of ways and as an individual, you’ve got to decide what that definition looks like to you and then attack life in a positive way to generate your ideal reality.

My personal goal for life and how I define success will look unique and totally different from the other person. For me, I’d like to become “FIRE” at a relatively young age, perhaps in my early 50’s, so that I stop working in my career path and start working towards something that I truly enjoy.

For the uninitiated, FIRE means “Financially Independent, Retire Early.” It is a growing movement where individuals prioritize controlling costs, lifestyle inflation, and increasing savings rate in order to have the financial flexibility to do what they want in life.

Some people emphasize the “retire early” portion of the plan whilst other care more about the financial independence and flexibility that it provides to them.

According to the /r/FIRE sub-reddit:[3]

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“FIRE is a place for people who are or want to become Financially Independent.”

I don’t necessarily want to retire, but I want the flexibility to be able to choose to do so if at that point in time, I feel so inclined.

However, many would think this an extreme plan and wouldn’t consider this their path towards success. That is one of the best aspects about the definition of success is that, it is unique to the individual and the context of their life.

If you want more perspectives about how to balance your life, take a look at these articles:

Stay in Motion

One of the biggest issues that many have as they walk down the road in pursuit of success, is that they burn out over time. It can be so easy to start towards a goal with immense passion and energy, but life often steps in and leads to demotivation and distraction.

As someone in the pursuit of succeeding at a specific goal, you’ve got to keep that goal in mind and understand that as long as you are taking steps towards that success, even if they are baby steps, you are still making progress.

If you stop and allow yourself to stagnate, then you will quickly lose sight of that pursuit of success and may fall into patterns of behavior that don’t line up with your dream of achieving success.

This means that it is key that you always stay in motion in pursuit of those goals. If you aren’t moving forward, then you are surely moving backwards; and that is antithetical to accomplishing the success that you are seeking to achieve!

Find out here How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life.

Give Yourself Your Due

As you continue to strive and generate your own individual road to success in life, please take the time to also take stock of what you’ve done up until this point.

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Your accomplishments matter as the process unfolds and they are to be celebrated! If you don’t give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made during this journey, then you may lose heart to continue and pursue success.

It can be satisfying and validating to look back on where you’ve come from while also balancing that against what you still have left to accomplish. It is necessary to remember your wins and use that as fuel for your fire as you continue to move forward in your life.

The road to success is long and tiresome but by remembering the journey and what all you’ve overcome, you will continue to build up confidence and strength to go further than you ever dreamed possible!

Success is For You

At the end of the day, success and what it looks like is entirely unique to the individual who is contemplating such a topic. You define internally what success looks like for you and behave accordingly within that structure that you’ve decided on.

If you never consider what success looks like, then chances are that you will not fall into a place of success. Achieving success takes pre-mediation and thought. It takes risk, boldness, and at times the urgency to act in a moment to secure a more long term return on your work or energy expended.

It never comes easy and it never comes without sacrifice. With diligence, pride, hard work and a strong work ethic, it can be achieved by anyone and that is one of the most exciting elements of the idea of success! It is truly attainable for those who are willing to pour themselves into their desire to achieve it.

Draw Your Map

The best part about the pursuit of success? You get to draw your own map. The beautiful thing about success is that each and every day, someone builds a new road and reaches the same destination of success without ever walking in the footsteps of someone else.

Given the fact that there are near infinite ways to achieve success, it is on you to create your own personal roadmap for getting to that place in life.

This can be a freeing thing as it signifies that you don’t have to be raised in a certain class of society, or go to a specific school or get a specific job in order to achieve success. Your path can be entirely new and have never been tread on before, and still lead you to your final destination.

Success is on the horizon. Will you chase after it?

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More on Success

Featured photo credit: Matt Duncan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam Master: Success
[2] Entrepreneur: Bill Gates
[3] Reddit: Fire

More by this author

Colton Black

Motivational Coach, Self-Help Blogger, Recording Engineer, Professional Dad

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

10 Willpower Hacks to Help Achieve Your Goals

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Willpower is essential to the accomplishment of anything worthwhile.” – Brian Tracy

“Just do it.” – Nike

The most important and satisfying things in life usually aren’t the easiest ones.

The good news: In today’s hyper-connected world, we have access to all the information we could want to help us achieve our future goals. We know what foods will make us healthier (would kale or quinoa be as popular without the internet and Dr. Oz? I think not). We can also estimate for ourselves the benefits of starting retirement savings early – and the implications for the lifestyles of our future selves (that boat at 65 means fewer vacations in your 20’s).

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We almost always know what we should do thanks to endless knowledge at our fingertips. But actually doing it is an entirely different kind of challenge. Most of us can relate to that feeling of inertia at the start of a big project, or the struggle to consistently make good, long-term choices for our health, or saving for the future. This mental tug-of-war we experience has evolutionary roots. While knowing this might bring comfort, it doesn’t help solve the problem at hand:

How can we flex our willpower to become better, faster, smarter, and stronger?

The bad news: you can’t Google your way out of this one.

Or can you? A fascinating body of research (much of which you can turn up online through popular press and academic articles) sheds light on how to hack your willpower for better, easier results in all areas of your life. The Willpower Instinct, a great book by Stanford prof Kelly McGonigal, provides a deep dive into these and more topics for anyone keenly interested.

Here’s the short version: we can make the most of our willpower through two types of hacks. First, there are ways to turbo boost your willpower. Second, there are ways to hack the system so you make the best use of whatever (sometimes infinitely modest) willpower you have.

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The following 10 tips draw on both of these toolkits.

1. Slow the heck down.

Most regrettable decisions (the splurge at the mall, the procrastination on the project, the snacks in the break room) happen when one part of our brain effectively hijacks the other. We go into automatic pilot (and unfortunately the pilot in question has a penchant for shoes, Facebook and cookies!). Researchers suggest that we can override this system by charging up the other. That is, slow down and focus on the moment at hand. Think about your breathing. Bring yourself back to this moment in time, feel the compulsion but don’t act on it yet. Try telling yourself, “If this feeling is still just as uncomfortable in 10 minutes, I’ll act on it.” Take a little time to be mindful – then make your decision.

2. Dream of ‘done.’

Imagine yourself handing in the big project, soaking up the appreciation from your colleagues or boss. Or crossing the finish line for the half-marathon you’ve always wanted to run. The rush, the aliveness, the wind on your face, the medal …

That’s a lot more fun and motivating to think about than how much work it is to get out of bed for your long, Sunday morning run!

Re-orient your brain by summoning more motivating feelings than just “not running this morning is more enjoyable than running this morning.” If your goals are meaningful, this will help.

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3. Make your toughest choices first.

Scientists have found that willpower is like a full bathtub that’s drained throughout the day. So, why not start your toughest challenges when you have a full reserve? Get that project started or fit that workout in before you even check your email or have breakfast. Bonus: the high you’ll get from crossing off your hardest ‘to-do’ will help you sail through the rest of your day.

4. Progress = commitment, not a license to backslide.

A lot of times people will ‘cheat’ right after taking positive steps towards their goals. (A common version of this trap is, “I worked out three days in a row, so I deserve this cookie.”) Most of us can relate to this thinking – but it’s totally irrational! We’ll often trick ourselves into setbacks because we think we deserve them, even if we don’t really want them and deep down we know they’ll work against us in the long-run.

How can you counteract this effect? Research finds that if you use your positive streak to recommit (“If I worked out three days this week, I must be really committed to my health and fitness goal!”) rather than an excuse for wiggle room, we don’t take the same cheat options. Cool, right?

5. Meditate.

Meditation is an expressway to better willpower. Bringing your attention to your breathing for 15 minutes, or even five, flexes your willpower muscles by applying discipline to your thinking. It does this by working two mental ‘muscle groups’: first, the set of muscles that notice when your attention is drifting, and second, the set of muscles that bring you back to your task at hand. Over time, even small amounts of meditation will help you build the discipline to easily do what was once hard – like pushing through a long stretch at work.

6. Set mini-goals.

Which seems more doable: committing to three 20 minute runs this week or a half-marathon? Mini-goals are brilliant because they’re easier to achieve and boost your commitment to continuing. When we size them up, we see them as achievable rather than daunting. Each time you succeed at one, it boosts your sense of efficacy and personal integrity: not only are you capable of doing what you set out to do, but you followed through on it. Nice.

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The beauty of mini-goals is that over time, mini-goals – and the momentum you’ve built by doing them – can quickly turn into super-goals. So that half marathon might be more likely to happen, and sooner and more easily than you think!

7. Eat.

Low blood sugar decreases your ability to make tough decisions. If you’re running on empty physically, you’ll also be running on empty mentally. (Yes, this one’s somewhat ironic if your goal involves changing food patterns – but even so, letting your blood sugar drop too far will only sabotage you over time.)

8. Sleep.

Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep have a tough time exercising their willpower. Sleep is critical for a healthy brain – along with just about everything else. So to optimize your willpower muscle, make sure you’re catching your zzz’s.

9. Nix the self-sabotage.

Making yourself feel bad hurts, rather than helps, your willpower efforts. Researchers have found that compassion is a far better strategy than tough love – telling yourself “It’s OK, everyone has setbacks sometimes,” will help you bounce back more quickly than negative self-talk.

10. Take the first hard step.

As a new behavior becomes a habit, it is more natural. You have to use less and less willpower to ‘make it so.’ When you’re starting a new pattern that feels hard, remind yourself that the first steps are truly the hardest. It will probably never feel harder than it does in those first few choices. In the case of repeated behaviors, like exercise or saving money, it takes weeks for new habits to take hold. By that point, the habit will be so ingrained, you’d have to try hard not to do it.

Featured photo credit: Kym Ellis via unsplash.com

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