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8 Ways to Achieve Success in 2008

8 Ways to Achieve Success in 2008
8 Ways to Achieve Success in 2008

I don’t believe in resolutions. The idea that a trick of the calendar should be the driving force for real change in my life seems silly. And yet, there’s no denying that a year is a good block of time to think with — long enough to carry out big projects and short enough to keep the end-goal in sight. Plus, a year is a good block of time to look at to get a “big picture” view of your life — what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right, what you’d like to change.

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So while I won’t be sitting down to make a list of resolutions this January 1, I will spend some time over the next couple weeks thinking about what I want to achieve in the next year: new projects I want to start, old ones I want to wrap up, personal faults I want to conquer, and personal strengths I want to build on.

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However you define it, we’re all working towards some sort of success. Whether that’s achieving wealth, happiness, fame, greater family togetherness, a stronger commitment to one’s faith or one’s vocation, or whatever else, we all want to succeed at everything we set out to do. Here’s 8 tips to help make that happen in the coming year:

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  1. Set SMART goals. Don’t just make goals, make SMART goals. The idea of SMART goals is credited to George Doran, and stands for:
    • Specific: Goals should be as particular as possible. So, for example, not “lose weight” or “make more money” but “lose 10 pounds” or “increase my salary by $10,000 a year”.
    • Measurable: It should be possible to keep track of your progress. You can track weight loss on a chart, or check your salary to know if you’re moving towards your new salary goal, but you can’t measure progress towards, say, “be happier”.
    • Achievable: Unfulfilled goals make us feel terrible about ourselves, so make realistic goals. So “lose 10 pounds” is better than “lose 150 pounds”; if you’ve never run before, “run a 5k” is more achievable than “do an Iron Man triathlon”
    • Relevant: Is this a goal that a) will have an impact on your life, and b) that you are prepared to pursue? If not, maybe your goals should be to attain the skills and resources you need to tackle the bigger, more distant goal.
    • Time-bound: Give yourself a clearly defined end date to achieve your goals by. This gives you a sense of urgency, and also helps keep you focused — you want to lose 10 pounds by June, not at some point in the course of your life, right?
  2. Make a plan. How are you going to achieve success this year without a plan? Planning is the big “gotcha” for lots of people — we might have a big general plan, but when it comes time to sit down and actually do something, we have no idea what to do. Write a plan for achieving your goals in specific, discrete, and doable actions, one after the other. If some steps are contingent on actions or conditions you don’t know right now, sketch them out as well as you can. Make a contingency plan, too, in case things don’t go as you thought they would.
  3. Commit to a due date. Go through your list of projects and assign each one a due date. Do the same for any vague “I’d like to do this” things you have floating around in your head. I use a formula that goes “By March 31st, I will have [insert goal here]” and list everything I want to have finished by then, with matching lists for June 30, September 30, and December 31. Maybe quarters don’t work for you; if not, pick another way to do this, but do it.
  4. Make it public. Share your goals and commitments with other people — your partner, your parents, your friends and co-workers, your blog audience, anyone — to make the commitment more real. If you’ve told everyone you’re going to finish your novel by June 30, then you’ll have a powerful incentive to get it done. And they’ll help, too, if by nothing else than nagging you about it.
  5. Find a support group. A group of like-minded people with similar goals can be a great motivation. Not only will they understand what’s holding you back, they may have tips that can help you overcome your blocks. And if not, chances are they’re struggling with the same things you are, and you can work through them together with the knowledge that it’s not because there’s something wrong with you.
  6. Accept failure graciously — and move on. There’s a chance with any undertaking that you’ll fail. Accept that, and do it anyway. If you do fail, examine the reasons why, and move on. The only real failure is the failure to learn from your mistakes.
  7. Change yourself, not the things around you. Too many people fall into the trap of believing that they can buy their way to happiness — a new product will make them super-organized, a new car will make them feel better about themselves, etc. Change your attitude, not your things– if you’re unorganized, figure out why you have a hard time putting things into a memorable system and change that; if you don’t feel good about yourself, look at your life and what’s not going well, rather than seeking out a remedy that has nothing to do with what’s making you unhappy.
  8. Silence you inner critic. There’s a difference between knowing yourself and undermining yourself. Learn to ignore the nagging voice in your head that says you’re not good enough, smart enough, or good-looking enough to succeed. Set goals, make plans, and move forward in spite of that voice, and soon enough it will start losing its power over you. It might not ever go away, but you don’t have to let it run your life.

Too many of us go through life without reaching success not because there’s something wrong with us but because we’ve failed to define what success even means to us. Instead, we sleepwalk through our days, doing the things that we’ve learned we’re supposed to do, and wondering why none of it feels quite right. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering whether you’re going to have to keep doing the things you do today for the rest of your life, it’s time to sit down and figure out what you’d rather be doing and how to start doing them.

And this year is as good as any to do that. Good luck, and Happy New Year!

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

1. Always Have a Book

It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

3. Get More Intellectual Friends

Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

4. Guided Thinking

Albert Einstein once said,

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

5. Put it Into Practice

Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

6. Teach Others

You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

7. Clean Your Input

Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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8. Learn in Groups

Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

9. Unlearn Assumptions

You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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11. Start a Project

Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

12. Follow Your Intuition

Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

13. The Morning Fifteen

Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

14. Reap the Rewards

Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

15. Make Learning a Priority

Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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