You may have noticed that many highly successful people do not have a clear sense of how they manage to grab the brass ring time and again. Often, uber achievers do not have an awareness of what allows them to succeed or prevents them from failing. How do certain mere mortals repeatedly gain the favor of the gods?
It is true that we all have a repository of certain attributes, advantages, competencies and talents: the natural salesman, the math whiz, the influential family. Some may encounter a wise and powerful mentor along the way, who guides them onto the right path, keeps them out of harm's way, or gives them the heads-up about opportunities on the horizon.
Motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson says in her book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (2011) that research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not only because of the cards they hold, but also because of what they do. Halvorson has spilled the beans on key behaviors that make the rich different from you and me (with apologies to those who do not equate success with wealth):
I. BE SPECIFIC: When setting goals, be as specific as possible. Knowing precisely what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Furthermore, identify and commit to specific actions that must be taken to reach your goal, actions that leave no room for doubt about what must be done.
II. CARPE DIEM: Achieving goals means recognizing and acting upon opportunities before they slip through your fingers. Make sure that you don't fail to ride a good wave because you didn't bother to anticipate its possible arrival, or because you were distracted by competing pursuits and dramas. Open the door to success by planning to take real steps toward your goals. Studies show that the process of planning trains the brain to recognize and seize opportunities when they arise, in that way increasing our chance of success by about 300%. In other words, plan to succeed.
III. MONITOR AND MEASURE: Achieving goals requires regular monitoring of one's progress. Know your timeline and milestones and adjust your strategies and actions according to progress made. Rewarding yourself for interim successes is a good idea.
IV. REALISTIC OPTIMISM: Thinking positively about the likelihood of achieving your goal is enormously helpful in creating the conditions for success and sustaining motivation. Nevertheless, guard against underestimating how difficult it may be to get where you want to go. Anything worth having is likely to require significant time, planning, sacrifice and persistence. Daughter-in-law of the Prince of Wales and mother of a future king of England, Catherine Middleton used to be called "Waity Katy." Now she's known as the Duchess of Cambridge!
V. GETTING BETTER: Believing that you are able to reach your goal is imperative. Equally important is believing that you can acquire the ability to reach your goal. In other words, focus on obtaining whatever the building blocks of success may be, whether that means learning new skills or developing relationships with those who can help move you forward.