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This Is Why Hard Work Is Not Essential to Achieving Success

This Is Why Hard Work Is Not Essential to Achieving Success

Everyone thinks that hard work is the secret to success. But is it? What does it mean to work hard anyway? People really struggle with ways to define it. Plus there seem to be more compelling factors at play. And if you neglect those fundamental factors that contribute to your overall success, you’ll end up sabotaging it. Sometimes we forget the things that shape our journey the most are largely overlooked.

Consider the following factors, which demonstrate why hard work alone is not essential to success:

1. Because working smarter is more useful than working harder

Working hard may be a waste of time, especially if you’re not getting results. In fact, real estate mogul, Chris Leavitt, says that working smarter is a proactive strategy that sets pros apart. Very early in his career, he realized that time is a non-negotiable, non-renewable resource and people waste a lot of it. By working smarter, he discovered creative ways to achieve greater results without wasting time, compromising his integrity, or sacrificing the bottom-line.

“Work smarter; not harder.”
Chris Leavitt, Star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing Miami”

2. Because you need support

Cultivating strong relationships is vital. No man is an island to himself, even when he wants to be. Serial entrepreneur, Richard Branson, says that success in business is all about making connections. And he would know. He’s made a lot of great ones. Without the support of others who can help you to successfully pull projects forward, it can be very difficult to reach deadlines, relieve stress and expand your reach.

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“To be successful in business, you need to connect and collaborate and delegate.”
Richard Branson

3. Because you have to overcome fear

Fear can be a serious blockage to your success. How do you get around it? Learn to manage and overcome it. Real estate mogul and business expert, Barbara Corcoran, was not always the confident public speaker that she is today. When she was younger, she was terrified to speak publicly—she stuttered—and suffered extreme embarrassment. But she knew that the best way to overcome her fear was to confront it. She forced herself to accept numerous speaking engagements so that she could become better. And guess what? She did.

“Embrace your fears by confronting them.”
Barbara Corcoran

4. Because your appearance matters

“Despite the established acceptance of casual attire at many companies, there has never been a business casual dress code, dress-down days, or casual Friday option at Black Enterprise,” says Earl G. Graves, Sr., American entrepreneur, publisher, philanthropist, and founder of the Black Enterprise Magazine. While people don’t like to admit it, your physical appearance is a reflection of your commitment to excellence and definitely influences the way that others perceive you and thus impacts your trajectory for success.

“Your appearance is still the first and most impactful way that you communicate who you are and determine how you are treated.”
Earl G. Graves, Sr.

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5. Because you need a compelling vision

American life coach and self-help author, Tony Robbins, famously teaches that creating and executing the ultimate vision for your life matters: These concepts are critical to how you navigate the path to success. And he would know. Despite humble beginnings and from a young age, Tony was very clear on how he wanted to live his life and created a compelling vision for how he could achieve it. It got him up early and kept him up late. His vision has translated into enormous career and financial success, as Tony has helped individuals all around the world to achieve peak performance and realize their wildest dreams. He was also named in Forbes magazine’s 2007 “Celebrity 100” list, among other enviable accolades.

“To create an extraordinary quality of life, you must create a vision that’s not only obtainable, but that is sustainable.”
Anthony Robbins

6. Because happiness matters

Without happiness, it’s pretty difficult to develop the desire to achieve anything. Success, then, rests on your capacity to embrace happiness on a visceral level. Jim Rohn, considered America’s foremost business philosopher, taught strategies for improving our lives based on the principles of gratitude and happiness. He drew on guiding principles from the reality of his own life, which inspired others to embrace his insight on actuating personal development. He will always be remembered for his larger than life contributions to the industry.

“Happiness and success in life are not the result of what we have, but rather of how we live. What we do with the things we have makes the biggest difference in the quality of life.”
Jim Rohn
1930-2009

7. Because you need to be consistent

Doing something once or twice—even when putting forth enormous effort—is usually not enough to yield results. But when you’re consistent, more often than not, you’ll see the fruits of your labor come to fruition. The Rock has mastered this principle. He knows that eating one healthy meal or doing one killer workout won’t lead to the physique of your dreams. No matter what your goals may be, being consistent is the key to achieving them. There’s simply no way around it.

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“Succccess isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.”
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

8. Because you have to ignore the cynics

It’s unfortunate, but the road to success is filled with cynics and cynicism. If you want to maintain focus and achieve a higher purpose, you cannot afford to be distracted by the muck and mire of other people’s belief systems. Most important is what you believe to be true for yourself. Barack Obama, the first Black President of the United States of America, demonstrated through winning two controversial elections that ignoring the cynics was quite a powerful vehicle for success. If he hadn’t, it would have been difficult to inspire the country to believe in his leadership and cast their beliefs at the ballot.

“Cynicism is a sorry kind of wisdom.”
President Barack Obama

9. Because failure is part of success

No matter how committed you are to achieving success, there will setbacks, roadblocks, and challenges of varying proportion. But failures, however they show up, are not indicators of your inability to achieve. They are, however, par for the course when achievement is on the horizon. Better to embrace and learn from them than be crushed by their inescapable existence. Author, economist, and Financial Times columnist, Tim Hartford, teaches that by acknowledging and confronting our failures, we get the chance to overcome our egos and create opportunities for learning and greater success. He’s lived by these principles and his success bears witness to the credibility of his journey.

“Few of our own failures are fatal.”
Tim Hartford

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10. Because success requires sacrifice

Everyone wants to achieve success, but few are willing to sacrifice what it takes to get it. American Olympian, Gabrielle Douglas, knows a lot about sacrifice. After all, she’s spent most of her life preparing for competitive gymnastics, a feat difficult for even the best of athletes. To be at her best, she needed to follow rigorous training regimens and an equally strict diet. She also spent a significant amount of time away from her family to train before participating in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Of course she’s had plenty of good days, but she’s also sacrificed a lot. Are you willing to sacrifice to get to the top?

“I had to face a lot coming through this journey, a lot of sacrifices, difficulties, challenges, and injuries.”
Gabrielle Douglas

While hard work may be the default measurement for achieving success, there are clearly more compelling factors at play. And they shouldn’t be overlooked. What other factors have you found relevant along the path to your success?

Featured photo credit: A team of construction workers working hard to recover the economy. via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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