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Tips & Tactics for Personal Development

Tag Archives: Defining success

The future is never what we expect it to be

When I was growing up, I knew what I wanted to do for a living. I knew what I was good at doing. I went to school for years to become better at it. So why have I spent the last 25 years working in a completely different field where I had no training, limited experience and where I never expected to work? What happened?

What happened was the future. What happened was that I had to make choices that I never anticipated. I had to choose between making a career in a field that was highly political (and didn’t pay well), and getting into a field that would support my family and bring me some satisfaction. Then I had to choose between moving up the corporate ladder and giving my family some stability. Now I’m looking at choosing what to do next as my options are becoming more limited in the field where I work.

No one ever told me that the future would turn out this way. I’ve learned the hard way. Circumstances that I could not control forced me to make choices I never anticipated. I don’t like this. But I’ve learned that I can’t change it.

Despite the fact that I didn’t ask for the life I have and that sometimes I feel very dissatisfied with it, I have learned some useful lessons. Here are a few:

  • If we knew what would happen to us in the future we would not be happy, since we would have no choice about it.
  • Uncertainty is built into our lives, and while this may make us uncomfortable, it also gives us opportunities to grow and develop.
  • Some things we can control; others we cannot. Knowing the difference between these is crucial.
  • Other people’s choices impact our lives, often in ways we don’t like.
  • It’s better to have a plan and try to follow it – even if it fails – than to leave things to chance.
  • Your attitude toward your life is independent of your circumstances.

Yes, the future is never what we expect it to be. And we can become better people than we ever dreamed possible by accepting this fact and choosing to respond to our circumstances in a positive manner.

Here’s an example of what that life might look like:

“There are those whose faces are so alight with life that they serve as a blinding reminder, amid the darkness of our time, that joy and charisma and hope still exist. These are the energizers, the cheerful individuals who inspire and enliven those around them even though their own backgrounds, genetics, and environments would give cause for them to be apathetic and detached. They, too, might have come from a broken home or poverty. But instead of choosing bitterness, they seem blissfully aware of, and deeply thankful for, their blessings, even when those blessings are fewer and more meager than others. These few, the energized and happy and thankful among us, are not “lucky,” nor are they to be envied. For their treasures are available to all of us. Their treasure is freely chosen attitude.”

(From The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard)

Your choice.




You don’t need permission to be successful

Are you waiting for someone to give you permission to be successful? Do you need specific circumstances or factors to be in place before you can succeed? Are there “conditions” that have to be met before you can move ahead toward your goals?

I have found that many people limit their potential by saying (mostly to themselves), “I’ll be successful when….” They then wait for the circumstances, people or other factors that they imagine are necessary for their success to magically appear in their lives. And they often wait a long time, and frequently become discouraged.

They have made their success depend on someone else giving them permission, or for the”right” circumstances to materialize. They have surrendered control of their lives to someone or something outside themselves.

I’ve done this to myself. My list includes such things as, “I’ll be successful when:

1. I have $200k in my retirement fund. (Only $180k to go.)

2. I can retire at 60. (Five years from now?!)

3. I’ve won the Mega Millions lottery – minimum $150M please. (Haven’t bought my ticket yet…)

4. I’ve traveled to all 25 of the foreign countries on my wish list. (Only 12 to go.)

Not likely I’m going to feel very successful anytime soon. I’ve set myself up to fail.

It would be better if I looked at success another way. Using the right yardstick makes all the difference. Here are some of the high points so far:

1. Happily married for nearly 26 years.

2. Raised 2 smart and successful daughters, both now with careers of their own.

3. Encouraged my wife to get back into her chosen profession and supported her while she grew her small business into a full-time job.

4. Remodeled my own kitchen for $4500 instead of spending $17,000 to have someone else do it.

In other words, if I define my life in a balanced yet realistic way, I can find success. Now all I need to do is build on my past successes.

So don’t wait for the right time, circumstances or resources to be in place before you say you are successful. Look honestly at what you have already achieved, and the skills that you used to accomplish these things. Take these skills and put them to work for you in other areas of your life. They are your key to becoming even more successful. And you already possess them.

Find out what doesn’t work; then don’t do it.

The goal of all learning is to improve your ability to do something. So it’s not surprising that many success strategies claim that by learning something new, you can change your life. And in some cases this is true. For example, learning how to drive does change your life and give you the freedom to take advantage of opportunities that were not previously available to you. Learning to speak a foreign language opens your mind up to new ways of thinking. So there is something to this strategy.

However there is another strategy that I believe is equally effective. It is summarized in the title above: Find out what doesn’t work, and then don’t do it. When we are trying to change our lives, it is often hard to begin and then maintain the new habits that are required to make the change permanent in our lives. I believe this is because we have not first removed the thoughts and habits that stand in the way of our making these changes.

So let’s say you want to change how you deal with a difficult person. You can try new tactics, but I believe that until you stop doing the things that aggravate the relationship and distort your perspective, these new tactics will be only minimally effective. Before you can strengthen the relationship, you have to first stop doing the things that make the relationship unpleasant. If you want to listen more, you have to first stop speaking and focus on the other person and their needs. If you want to understand the other person’s perspective, you have to first stop planning your responses to them while you are listening and actively listen to the other person.

In other words, you have to first identify and acknowledge the actions or habits that stand in the way of improving the relationship. Then you have to actually stop doing them.

This may not sound as glamorous as trying out some new and trendy tactic. But I believe this is actually easier and more effective than simply changing your behavior. In fact, I think that unless you first get rid of the habits of thought and action that are undermining your attempts to change, these ingrained habits will ultimately trip you up, no matter how determined you are to use the new tactics. The challenge is often identifying one’s own habits that so often subtly undermine efforts to change.

So don’t give up trying new strategies. They do add value. But make sure you also weed out the old habits that are holding you back, so that the new strategies can take root and become your own.

10 areas of your life where you must define success for yourself

I find it easier to define success for myself if I break my life into 10 areas where my goals are easier to define. These areas are



Physical environment/possessions



Personal development/education



Significant other/romance

Spiritual growth

You may want to compile your own list. This is a good start.

As you work through these remember to define your goal clearly, both in terms of what you will be doing, and where, as well as how you will be feeling. We need to know that reaching our goal will be personally satisfying – this will help motivate us when the inevitable roadblocks show up.

If you don’t define success for yourself, someone else will

If you want to reach a goal, you need to know where the goal is located, how to recognize it, what route you need to take to get there, and what obstacles you might encounter. It’s similar to planning a trip. In fact, it is a trip of sorts – a trip from where you are right now to where you want to be.

It always amazes me how little time and effort people are willing to put into planning. I know, it’s not sexy and certainly not fun to plan how to reach your goal, even if that goal is a romantic hideaway in Bali. It takes work. But guess what? Everything in your life has its value based on how hard you or someone else had to work to get it. What we get for nothing has very little value.

So the first step in becoming successful is defining success. What will it look like? How will you feel when you reach your goal? Where will you be? What will you be doing?

For me, the easiest way to put all the pieces together is to write a story that describes your success and the steps you took to reach your goal. Write this from the perspective of having already reached your goal. Here’s an example:

Sitting at the breakfast table, I look out the picture window of my house overlooking the Ocala National Forest. It seems hard to believe that only 10 years ago I was toiling away in the corporate world. It was a safe and comfortable life – or so I thought. With the recession of 2009-2012 everything changed. I had to reinvent myself. I started a small business helping people manage their time and soon the business started growing. After several years the business grew so much that I couldn’t manage it any longer, so I sold it to another company. Now I work from my beautiful house, writing reviews and blogging on whatever interests me.

I have found that if you write a story about what you want to happen, it’s much easier to define what your success will look like. And it’s important to have a very clear picture in your mind, as you will need that picture to inspire you when life gets hard.

So try this for yourself. Pick an area of your life, grab a latte and write out how your life will look after your reach your success goal.

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