Success is probably one of the most sought-after and yet misunderstood pursuits there ever was. For one thing, we live in a society where overnight and accidental successes are becoming increasingly common. On top of that, there are now more billionaires than ever before, and they’ve collectively amassed as much wealth as 3.8 billion others combined (as reported by CNN.)
It’s no surprise, then, that so much advice has proliferated over the past decade about how to be successful. Given the abundance of contradictory and counterproductive information out there, though, the beliefs we hold about success sometimes hold us back from it more than we realise. Stop the self-sabotage; start questioning how you define success. Here’s where you can begin.
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You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t want to be happy in life. Most people agree that being happy is something they hope to achieve in life, and being successful ties into this.
The perception is that when you’ve attained certain things at work and in life, you’ll be successful. When you’re successful, you’ll be happy.
Therein lies the problem. So many of us define success as an event. The power of visualising yourself accomplishing your dreams cannot be understated, but it is counterproductive to keep focusing on this vision without paying enough attention to how you’re going to make it a reality.
Success is just as much a process as it is an event. The most successful people around you are the ones who have understood that success is not an isolated event, but a consequence of practicing good habits consistently.
To put things into perspective, according to Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author of “Outliers,” the best way to succeed in any field is to get in 10 000 hours of practice on a particular task or skill.
When you see success as a series of behaviours that lead up to and enable an eventual “big break,” you’re likelier to treat your less motivated moments with more discipline. Falling in love with the process of building success is just as important, if not more so, than the event of success itself.
Aristotle said it best: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Up until recently, success has traditionally had a consistent appearance. In Singapore, it was generally associated with the 5 C’s (cash, car, credit card, condominium, country club.) In the States, it was commonly tied to a vision of a white-picket-fenced suburban home and a thriving nucleic family.
Yet in recent years, there’s been a growing discussion on the changing nature of success. Younger Singaporeans, particularly millennials, are no longer chasing after the same 5Cs. Definitions of career success, specifically, have also changed; studies have shown that millennials place a higher emphasis on work-life balance than previous generations did.
Regardless of how society defines it, though, it’s vital that you have a vision of personal success that aligns with your values, outlooks, and goals in life. So many of us tend to get caught up chasing goals that don’t actually resonate with us, but that we desire just because it’s what everyone else does.
To be clear, this isn’t a blanket criticism of traditional notions of success. The point here is to know what you want from life and plan your goals around these aims, whether or not they conform or diverge from societal definitions of success.
One of the most romantic and yet simplistic ideas about success is that there’s a secret to it. The idea is that once you uncover this secret, you can open every closed door, and it’ll be smooth sailing from here to the finish line.
It’s a seductively simple proposition that can cause you to obsess over finding quick-fix solutions to get what you want. In other words, it takes your focus away from learning, honing your skills, and mastering your craft, and shifts it toward the search for a cure-all that guarantees success.
As much as it would be nice to have that, real life isn’t as straightforward. As the late 19th-century American writer, Elbert Hubbard eloquently put it, “the secret to success is this: there is no secret of success.”
Everyone from serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk to former U.S. Secretary of State echoes his sentiments; it’s all about relentless hard work, proper planning, and perseverance.