Consistently doing what you need to do to succeed, with total focus and resolve, is incredibly difficult.
And that’s why the ability to work hard and respond positively to failure and adversity is so crucial. Resolve, willpower, and determination help successful people work hard and stick to their long-term goals.
- Most successful people are great at delaying gratification.
- Most successful people are great at withstanding temptation.
- Most successful people are great at overcoming fear in order to do what they need to do.
- Most successful people don’t set priorities; they do the things they decide are most important.
It’s no coincidence that the above are some of the qualities of remarkably successful people.
Here are ways you can develop those qualities too–and as a result be even more successful:
1. Let your past inform your future–and nothing more.
The past is valuable. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the mistakes of others.
Then let it go.
Easier said than done? It depends on your perspective. When something bad happens to you, see it as an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know. When another person makes a mistake, don’t just learn from it–see it as an opportunity to be kind, forgiving, and understanding.
The past is just training; it doesn’t define you. Think about what went wrong but only in terms of how you will make sure that next time, you and the people around you will know how to make sure it goes right.
2. See your life–and future–as totally within your control.
There’s a quote often credited to Ignatius: “Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.” (Cool quote.)
The same premise applies to luck. Many people feel luck has a lot to do with success or failure. If they succeed, luck favored them, and if they fail, luck was against them.
Most successful people do feel good luck played some role in their success. But they don’t wait for good luck or worry about bad luck. They act as if success or failure is totally within their control. If they succeed, they caused it. If they fail, they caused it.
By not wasting mental energy worrying about what might happen to you, you can put all your effort into making things happen. (And then, if you get lucky, hey, you’re even better off.)
You can’t control luck, but you can definitely control you.
3. Learn to ignore the things you can have no control over.
Mental strength is like muscle strength–no one has an unlimited supply. So why waste your power on things you can’t control?
For some people, it’s politics. For others, it’s family. For others, it’s global warming. Whatever it is, you care, and you want others to care.
Fine. Do what you can do: Vote. Lend a listening ear. Recycle, and reduce your carbon footprint. Do what you can do. Be your own change–but don’t try to make everyone else change.
4. Don’t resent but instead celebrate the success of others.
Many people–I guarantee you know at least a few–see success as a zero-sum game: There’s only so much to go around. When someone else shines, they think that diminishes the light from their stars.
Resentment sucks up a massive amount of mental energy–energy better applied elsewhere.
When a friend does something awesome, that doesn’t preclude you from doing something awesome. In fact, where success is concerned, birds of a feather tend to flock together–so draw your successful friends even closer.
Don’t resent awesomeness. Create and celebrate awesomeness, wherever you find it, and in time you’ll find even more of it in yourself.
5. Never stoop to complaining, criticizing, or whining.
Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better.
So if something is wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put that mental energy into making the situation better. (Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you’ll have to make it better.)
So why waste time? Fix it now. Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.
And do the same with your friends or colleagues. Don’t just serve as a shoulder they can cry on. Friends don’t let friends whine; friends help friends make their lives better.
6. Don’t focus on others; only try to impress yourself.
No one likes you for your clothes, your car, your possessions, your title, or your accomplishments. Those are all things. People may like your things–but that doesn’t mean they like you.
(Sure, superficially they might seem to like you, but what’s superficial is also insubstantial, and a relationship not based on substance is not a real relationship.)
Genuine relationships make you happier, and you’ll only form genuine relationships when you stop trying to impress and start trying to just be yourself.
And you’ll have a lot more mental energy to spend on the people who really do matter in your life.
7. Constantly revisit your long-term goals.
Say you want to build a bigger company; when you’re mentally tired, it’s easy to rationalize doing less than your best. Say you want to lose weight; when you’re mentally tired, it’s easy to rationalize that you’ll start changing your eating and exercise habits tomorrow. Say you want to better engage with your employees; when you’re mentally tired, it’s easy to rationalize that you really need to work on that report instead.
Mental fatigue makes us take the easy way out — even though the easy way takes us the wrong way.
The key is to create tangible reminders that pull you back from the impulse brink. A friend has a copy of his bank note taped to his computer monitor as a constant reminder of an obligation he must meet. Another keeps a photo of himself on his refrigerator taken when he weighed 50 pounds more to serve as a constant reminder of the person he never wants to be again. Another fills his desk with family photos, both because he loves looking at them and to remind himself of the people he is ultimately working for.
Think of moments when you are most likely to give in to impulses that take you farther away from your long-term goals. Then use tangible reminders of those long-term goals to interrupt the impulse and keep you on track.
Or better yet, rework your environment so you eliminate your ability to be impulsive. Then you don’t have to exercise any willpower at all. If you can’t say no to checking your social media accounts every few minutes, turn them off and put them away for a couple of hours at a time so you don’t have to be strong enough to say no.
8. Count your blessings.
Before you turn out the light every night, take a moment to quit worrying about what you don’t have. Quit worrying about what others have that you don’t.
Think about what you do have. You have a lot to be thankful for. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?
Feeling better about yourself is the best way of all to recharge your mental batteries.