This article originally published on Forbes.com
We’ve all been told and conditioned to believe that success is whatever you define it to be. The great untold truth is that this is a misguided directive that has prevented a huge percentage of the population from achieving sustainable success.
In my coaching practice, I regularly ask my new clients what their definition of success is. The most common response is a big pause and then an impromptu answer. The second most common response is a nebulous, non-specific one. For example:
Coach: “Can you please tell me what your definition of success is?”
Coach: “What does happiness mean to you?”
Client: “Feeling fulfilled”
Coach: “What fulfills you?”
Client: “Having a lot of money?”
I think you get the unclear picture presented. There is one hardcore fact about achieving success that I’ve learned. If you can’t clearly and specifically define it, you’re either going to:
1. Not achieve it.
2. Take the long, slow road to get there.
3. Not be able to sustain it if you, by chance, achieve some.
I remember as a young entrepreneur starting out, I was determined to become “successful,” and I thought I’d better be clear on society’s definition of success. I consulted the go-to resource for the answer. I grabbed my Merriam-Webster dictionary, and this is what it said:
“a: degree or measure of succeeding
b: favorable or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence“
Upon reading the definition, I felt disheartened and confused. How could success be caught up in fame, respect or money? It just didn’t feel right. So, I kept researching. I then came across a famous success expert’s definition. In his book Born to Win!, Zig Ziglar says that success cannot be defined in one sentence, but instead it is comprised of many things.
Now I was really confused. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a clear, specific and universal definition of success that was one-size-fits-all. Why was there so much lack of clarity on the meaning of success?
In my personal journey of overcoming life-threatening health challenges, financial adversity and spiritual tests — and then becoming a self-made multimillionaire, medaled amateur athlete and coach to people from all walks of life, from main street to Wall Street, gang members, cons and ex-cons — I discovered the true and singular definition of success, the one that is indeed the one-size-fits-all definition. It’s the one definition that, if used collectively by society, would help us achieve success more rapidly and sustainably.
So, here it goes: Success is defined as a balanced achievement of wealth and well-being through consistently living the truth of ones’ grace-inspired values.
A broken definition of success is one that does not take a holistic approach. It leaves out some aspect of the whole person. The whole person is:
Does fame provide nourishment to the whole person? Does accomplishing one singular goal? Does wealth cover all aspects? No. Only a balanced achievement of wealth and well-being can do that. And, one can only accomplish that balance through consistently living the truth of their values. If not, the “success” is at risk of failing. I could go into a multitude of real-life stories of people who achieved some aspect of success and then lost it because they either compromised their values or, through not knowing their core values, failed to prioritize living them out in all their decision making.
How do you start to clearly and specifically define what wealth, well-being and your values are? First, ask yourself these two essential questions:
1. What is the most important thing in the world to you?
2. Why is it the most important thing to you?
Answering these two questions will start you on the path to clearly understand what innate forces drive you so that you can craft a picture of what a balanced achievement of wealth and well-being looks like — one that supports your core needs and provides you with fulfilling and sustainable success. After decades of success coaching and working with both individuals and corporations, I’ve discovered that every single goal anyone goes after is an attempt to fulfill only one of two things: security or recognition.
When defining success and goal-setting, take your whole person into account, know your core values, understand what’s important to you and understand that you’re always either seeking security or recognition. Make sure that all you seek is grounded in humility rather than ego to ensure you’ll achieve sustainable “success,” as defined as a balanced achievement of wealth and well-being.
Ever hear that Yiddish adage, “Man Plans, and God Laughs”? When I first heard that saying I thought it was written by a really, negative person who also had a punishing God concept. I quickly discarded the age old “wisdom” as not applicable to me and continued on being and doing my Type A workaholic behaviors (back in the day).
Hi, my name is Linda and I’m a recovering hardcore planner. LOL! No, seriously, this is a very important principle of success to pay attention to, especially if you’re an overachiever. Overachievers tend to plan, plan, plan and back-up plan. That was me! I would freak out if I lost my Franklin planner (I’m showing my age here—grimace) or left it at home, or god forbid, Franklin Covey ran out of stock and I had to wing it.
I clearly remember the turning point when I realized I was not helping, but rather, hurting myself with this unrelenting habit of having to stick to the plan and achieve the desired outcome or call myself a loser for not being able to make it happen. I had this blinding moment of clarity that my unwillingness to accept the reality of the facts in front of me was a rigidity and inability to let go and trust in the organic flow of where I was meant to go, grow and succeed.
Here’s How to Let-Go and Let God, the Universe or Life Help Guide You to Succeed Beyond the Plans You’ve Made:
1. Accept the reality that you won’t ever know in advance how it will go or turn out when you make plans.
2. Trust yourself that you do have the strength, courage and intelligence to make necessary adjustments to your plans on an as needed basis on your journey to success.
3. Give yourself the permission to cancel a plan if it reveals itself to be against your core beliefs, values or is harmful to your wealth or well-being.
4. Don’t make plans just because that’s what “you’re supposed to do” or to fulfill the need to have “to do” something.
5. Only make as many plans that your intuition, innate intelligence, rational analysis and spiritual practice reveal that is necessary to grow and nurture yourself in healthy constructive ways.
“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”
We can’t control life, but we can control our perspective, attitude, thoughts and actions. We can learn to accept the uncertainty of life and have faith that the journey is organically leading us to our highest and best destiny. We can make it an easier, softer, more exciting and rewarding journey by learning how and when to let go.
Be assured, you are not a failure and your future is not fatal should you decide to change your plans in order to embrace the flow of life.
What will you decide? To be flexible and go with the flow or remain inflexible and insist it’s your way or no way? I can tell you from personal experience, the latter makes life harsh and harms your ability to achieve the fulfilling life and destiny that is meant for you to have.
In Closing My Shocking Confession: I worked on this multi-million dollar high profile deal for years. All sides wanted it to work out. Everyone was putting in maximum effort. And yet, at every turn we were presented with a new obstacle. I was determined not to give up on the deal. It was life-changing money to me. I was representing both sides. Both sides were emphatic that they should have it their way on the deal breaker contract terms. Neither side could or would budge. I had the aha moment that it was time to let go. Or was I just tired of the arguing and failing to bring the deal to fruition? I dug deep within myself and realized it was time to walk away. The parties were too rigid, and I was wasting my valuable time and energy. I took my $10M in financing with me and moved on. And, to this day (years later) that seller still hasn’t closed a deal with anyone. And, through this letting-go, I was led to start an entirely new business which has been far more rewarding and giving me a life that I love.
Times have changed, but what hasn’t changed is the age-old practice of making goals, especially at the beginning of each new year.
We’ve all heard the saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. And, it’s a very accurate truism.
You want more success than you have today. You have big dreams. You have a vision. You probably even made a vision board (another age-old practice that needs an update) …and you have BIG goals.
Time to stop the insanity of repeating behavior that isn’t giving you the results you want. Here’s the hard truth about goals and vision boards. They don’t work unless you do one thing first and foremost. If you don’t, there is a happenstance chance you’ll get some results from them, but they won’t provide you the real ever-lasting success that you want because they aren’t grounded in the reality that you must do this one thing first.
It’s not your fault! Nobody has taught you the real secret to success. Oh, and by the way, how’s the producer of THE SECRET doing with success in their own life today? See what I’m saying? You literally have not been taught what I’m about to tell you.
I’m not touting myself as some special person with secret knowledge or powers. I learned what I’m about to tell you the hard way. Through years of doing it the wrong way merely by creating vision boards and making goals and visualization.
So, here it is …I hope and pray that you will give it a go. Do and focus only on this one thing to create, attain and sustain ever-lasting wealth and well-being. That one single non-negotiable is relentlessly GROW YOURSELF.
Now, I know we’ve all heard the phrases: transform and heal yourself. That’s all very new agey and yes, they all have merit. It’s just that GROW yourself has a different focus. It focuses not on fixing your broken self, which connotes that you aren’t good enough in your present condition and you can’t progress until you’re fixed. Growing yourself means that you have within you right here and now all the tools and talents within you to achieve success. It means that through self-exploration you are able to mine the richness within you, and release them into physical reality.
The cold reality is that goals fail us most often because if you don’t first and foremost make an internal shift, the external shift will not occur or will fail over time.
Every year, people start diets, exercise programs, classes, etc. And then they stop. Why? Because they haven’t grown themselves first to ensure they are wholly conditioned to sustain the effort required to accomplish their goals.
Here are the Top Five Ways to Grow Yourself:
1. Know your most predominant positive character trait and expand the expression of it in all your endeavors.
2. Know what makes you most reactive and practice non-reactiveness daily.
3. Know the single behavior that is keeping you small. Do what it takes to create new habits that will get you out of that box.
4. Know what makes you feel the happiest and do more of it.
5. Develop a strong faith based practice which will lead you to having a healthy detachment from ego.
Success, is after all an inside job. Keep it upbeat, know your worth and just go ahead and grow yourself and watch how you’ll organically and intuitively be guided to attaining the sustainable health, wealth and well-being you long to achieve.
In Closing My Shocking Confession: I did what all the new age gurus told me to do. I created a vision board, each and every year, and tucked it away from prying eyes in a “sacred space.” I made the goal list every year: my 1st million, this deal or that deal go through, career advancement, mansion on the hill, “the guy”, etc. All the while, I was having a challenging time quitting an addiction. After reading endless amounts of self-help books, I figured maybe they were right. Maybe I was just too inherently flawed and broken to succeed. It all felt so heavy and pathetic. I just couldn’t connect to the victim, self-pity party, put my life on hold till I fix my broken self-route. I sought help from people who saw me not as flawed, but as an inherently healthy and talented person who needed to know herself to grow herself and succeed. They helped me to know myself, stay true to it and to succeed beyond my wildest dreams. Oh, on February 15th, 2018 I celebrate 29 yrs. addiction free.