Stop wishing and start doing

Much has been written about success but it often all comes down to the simple fact that success is not about who you are but about what you do.

Research from one of the most well-read articles in the Harvard Business Review, entitled ‘Nine Things Successful People Do Differently’ by Heidi Grant Halvorson, shows that persistence is at the very top of the list.

While many people may marvel at others who have shown incredible perseverance, few have ever thought to blame their own failures on ‘not hanging in there long enough’.  Instead, we assume we lack the ability to succeed and decide that we don’t have what it takes – whatever ‘it’ is – to meet the challenge. And we really could not be more wrong. Grit is not an innate gift; persisting is something we learn to do when (and if) we realise how well it pays off.

Start how you intend to finish

For a long time, I’ve known that the key to getting started down the path of being remarkable in anything is to simply act with the intention of being remarkable. If you want a better-than-average career, you can’t simply ‘go with the flow’ and get it.

However, what’s surprising is that most people do just that. They wish for an outcome but make no intention-driven actions towards that outcome. If they would just do something most people would find that they get some version of the outcome they are looking for. We have a lot of ideas in SA and like consulting widely. However, we often fail at implementation and do not appreciate the urgency with which we need to act.

It is so important to have a clear idea of your objective

You must then religiously monitor your progress along the way. Even someone with absolute clarity about what they need to achieve may at times find their motivation flagging if they do not have a clear sense of where they are in the process and how long it will take to achieve their desired result. Monitoring your own performance is absolutely vital but often forgotten.   

Another key attribute in the Harvard article focuses on ‘getting better, rather than being good’. While this may sound odd to high achievers, this is in fact one of the key attributes that ensures success because if you do a lot of ‘be good’ thinking, you are less likely to be gritty or have willpower, and you are more likely to tempt fate. You are also, not surprisingly, less likely to reach your goals.

9 Tactics for success

1.    Have grit: Persistence over the long haul is key.
2.    Know exactly how far you have left to go: Monitor your progress.
3.    Get specific: Have a crystal-clear idea of exactly what success will look like.
4.    Seize the moment to act on your goals: Know in advance what you will do, when and where you will do it.
5.    Focus on what you will do, not what you won’t do: Instead of focusing on bad habits, replace these with better ones as this is more effective.
6.    Build your willpower muscle: If you don’t have enough willpower, don’t worry! You can always build more by exercising this skill.
7.    Focus on getting better, rather than being good: Think about your goals as opportunities to improve, rather than as a chance to prove yourself.
8.    Be a realistic optimist: Visualise how you will make success happen by overcoming obstacles.
9.    Don’t tempt fate: No one has willpower all the time, so don’t push your luck.

According to Halvorson’s article:

  • Even though people are aware of the tactics, about 40% is not being realistically optimistic or focusing on what they will do, rather than what they will not do.
  • In addition, 50% is not being specific, seizing the moment, monitoring progress, having grit and willpower.
  • An astonishing 70% do not bother avoiding tempting fate.
  • An incredible 90% reports pursuing at least some of their goals with ‘get better’ mindsets.
  • Unfortunately, 80% is also pursuing goals with ‘be good’ mindsets.

There is still way too much ‘I-have-to-prove-myself’ thinking going on out there, and it is sabotaging success.

At the end of the day, it is so important for people to feel comfortable with the knowledge that they are indeed good enough. They then need to be very clear on the why. If they can get these two right, no matter how difficult the how actually turns out to be, they will get there regardless. It is a simple lesson but one worth following.

by Natalie Maroun

This article first appeared on HR Pulse.

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