How to Be Successful, No Matter What Your Goal

I have always had two mottos in life.

It’s easier to beg forgiveness than to seek permission. 

I didn’t know this was an actual proverb until I was well out of high school but as a child, I always went with the idea that if you didn’t ask, you couldn’t be told no. As you can probably already tell, I was a bit of a troublemaker. My days of shenanigans are over but this still holds true for me. Sometimes, you have to just do something and deal with the consequences later. Obviously, I’m not advising you to do anything illegal (although, hey, you do you, man.) but this is going to be important later. When something is important enough to you, you have to stop worrying about what might happen or who might not like it and do the damn thing anyway. 

If you want something badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen.

This could not be truer. It is the advice that I give everyone who ever wants to give up. I firmly believe that if you really want it, you will find a way to get it; and if you don’t find a way or if you give up, then you didn’t want it as much as you thought you did. It is often said that the journey is more important than the destination. That is a load of crap. (Okay, not complete crap but follow me here.) Do not become defeated when your journey is not the same as someone else’s. Far too often, people focus entirely on their journey and lose sight of their goal. If you’re not getting to your goal the way that you want, then change your path. There is always more than one solution, you just have to be willing to find them AND utilize them. If you make excuses about why they can’t work or why you can’t try it or that you can only get to your goal this specific way, then you don’t really want your goal. …And that’s okay. It’s better to let go of the things that aren’t as important to you so that you can really work for the things that are.


Now that I’ve given you the mantras, let’s talk about practicing ‘successful habits.’

  • First things first, the three P’s. Positive attitude, problem solving, and persistence.

Positive Attitude: So you’ve decided your goal is worth it and now it your in it for the long haul. Awesome! You’re going to fail. Wait! Don’t go! Just hear me out. You’re doing something new, how could possibly do it perfectly the first time through? The odds of that are slim but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You will fail, repeatedly, and you will feel like you just can’t even anymore. When that happens, look back to the final goal to remind yourself why you’re doing this. Now, put your positive attitude pants on because that will make this next part a lot less painful, enjoyable even.

Side note: Your current goal may be something that you’ve previously succeeded at, but that doesn’t mean that it will be exactly the same this time. Everything changes with time, even the path to your goals. You may have different obstacles, abilities, resources, etc. Don’t get flustered or discouraged if the path to this goal isn’t the same as it was last time! 
Double side note: Not so great at forcing a positive attitude? Neither was my fiancé until I found this TED Talk.
Check it out for some tips: Your body language shapes who you are.

Problem Solving: We’re going to use our creative thinking skills to build on our failure(s). It’s time to start coming up with solutions and alternative routes. First, determine what’s gone wrong so far. What is the obstacle? Second, do some research on your goal and on the ways to get there. (Hint: Look for loopholes or off-the-beaten-path solutions.) Researching doesn’t necessarily mean googling your goal, although that’s a good, broad place to start. From that broad information, try to find narrow, focused pages about your goal so that you can really understand the ins and outs. Try talking to other people (in person, on reddit, chat forums, blogs, etc.) who have either reached your goal, made greater strides in progress than you thus far, or are the kinds of people who make goals happen (ie. college admissions counselors, human resources at the kind of company you want to work for, whoever has experience working with goal.) Third, after you have gathered what you deem to be sufficient information, start putting your brain to work! This is a puzzle and you have to figure out how to get from where you are to your goal, using this information. Take notes, draw mind maps, brainstorm ideas with the people around you, research more, write up a plan, and alter it as needed.

Persistence: Everything you just read? KEEP DOING IT. Every time you run in to an obstacle or feel defeated, start again from the beginning. DO NOT STOP. You really, really want this, remember?? There is no reason why you can’t make it happen! You are strong, smart, and determined. You totally got this.

  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Fake it ’til you make it.

Alright, so maybe you’re not looking for a promotion but this still applies! Typically when people make serious goals like the ones we have, half the battle is believing in yourself. If you don’t believe you belong or that you’re capable, why on earth would anyone else?! Just like the TED Talk discusses, your actions can change your behavior. Start forcing daily habit changes in order to fit into the culture of your goal. Want to work in a high-powered corporate office? Dress like it. Want to be a teacher? Dress like it. Want to be a clown? DRESS LIKE IT. Seriously, it sounds so silly but the way you dress partially determines how you feel. (Think about when you’re going out for the night. Would you feel as gorgeous/handsome and totally pumped for the night if you went out in pjs? I think not.) Dressing for your goal (or just generally trying to fit the culture of your goal) is a lot harder than it sounds. Most people feel so out of place at first. It seems as if everyone knows you’ve only worn a suit twice before and they’re all staring. It’s all in your head. Own it. Fake it ’til you make it. If you project an image, that is what people will see. They will begin to treat you as if you actually fit that image, which, in turn, makes you feel as if you do. You just have to force it at first. I promise, it will be worth it.

  • The 15-minute rule.

My mom taught me this when I was a kid because I hated chores. Like, kicking, screaming, full-on sobbing, hated chores. (Seriously, I was a nuisance of a child. That woman is a saint.) The rule goes like this: You know you have things to do but OH. MY. GOD. it is just so daunting and you don’t want to do it. It’s going to take you hours, days, YEARS. Okay, probably not but damn, it sure does feel that way when I have to do the dishes. Forget completing the task, because we know that is not going to happen. Let’s just chip away at it. Go start whatever it is you should be doing. Once you’ve gotten started, feel free to look up at the clock as often as you want but DO NOT SET A TIMER. If, after 15 minutes, you are just soooo over it. Stop and do another 15 minutes the next day. Here’s the great part though, most tasks aren’t as awful as they seem, it’s just getting started that sucks. I’d say at least 70% of the time, I end up either working way longer than 15 minutes or entirely completing the task. Try it out and let me know in the comments how it works for you!

  • Lists are life.

This one is beyond easy but even easier to skip completely. Lots of people say to get a notebook and use it religiously but you do you. Most of the time, I make my lists on scrap/computer/loose leaf paper. It’s hella easy to keep with you when it’s only one piece of paper and you can toss it when you’re done. I make lists for everything. Mostly because I have ADHD and cannot remember anything. It’s also a fantastic feeling to cross something off a list and actually visualize how productive you’ve been. Easy peasy self-esteem boost. *high five*

  • Use a planner and/or calendar.

I know, I know. Everyone is so tired of planners. Why should I do more work, just to get my work done? THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK. 1) Using a planner means that I don’t have to keep my life/schedule/routine/assignments/etc. stored in my head, which is great because that is entirely too overwhelming. 2) If you use a phone/computer calendar, you can access it anywhere. You can even print it out if you want a physical copy. Personally, I do better with a physical planner. I think it’s the designer in me. I like to make it look pretty and carry it everywhere so that I actually want to use it. Keep in mind, everyone plans differently. For the longest time, I couldn’t use pen in my planner because if I didn’t do whatever it was or the date was moved, it gave me anxiety. Who knows why. That was years ago. I’ve since created systems for myself, most of which are still evolving. Grab a cheap planner and start experimenting. Let me know in the comments if you would be interested in a post all about my planner habits and details. I could seriously talk about it for way too long and I wouldn’t mind showing off my daily design skills.

Can you think of any great success habits that I’ve left out? Let me know in the comments!

 

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