When Eric Yuan came to the United States from China in the 1990s, success didn’t happen right away. For one thing, it took him nine attempts before his U.S. visa was finally approved. It would have been easy to give up after being rejected time after time, but Yuan remained persistent. When he finally arrived in the U.S., he worked in Silicon Valley for years before he launched the company that would make him wildly successful: Zoom. To say that Zoom has become a phenomenon in the last few years would be an understatement. Yuan’s vision for a world where communication barriers were broken down moved closer to reality as more than 750,000 companies use the technology he helped pioneer. His story is one many people can look toward as they learn how to be successful.
As Yuan’s example shows, achieving success often requires tenacity, perseverance, vision, and a firm strategy. When people lack these things, they often find that success evades them, and they’re not sure why.
Being successful in life means being organized and writing down what you want to achieve. According to research from the Harvard Business Review, a shocking 83 percent of people don’t even have goals. 14 percent of people do have goals, but they fail to write them down. Only 3 percent have taken the time to write their goals down. As the study shows, those who have unwritten goals achieve success ten times more often. As for those who write down their goals, they’re three times more successful than the former group.
The path to success requires careful planning, unquenchable desire, and a belief in yourself and your abilities. Simply writing down your goals gives you a much better chance at success in life. As you learn more, you’ll gain a greater understanding of how to become successful.
What Is Success?
To know how to be successful in life, one must first define what success is. Unfortunately, defining success is anything but easy. Some people may view success as earning a lot of money and driving a nice car. Others may think a successful person is someone who holds a position of authority and dictates to others what to do, like knowing how to become a CEO.
These are worldly views of success. They may provide momentary comfort, but it will be temporary. True success is long-lasting, even eternal. It creates significant positive impacts in other people’s lives, and it leaves a lasting legacy that people will feel for many generations to come. As Viktor E. Frankl once put it, “[S]uccess, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.”
Ultimately, how to define success comes down to your beliefs about what success is. As long as you work for the betterment of others and look for more than material comforts, you’ll be able to achieve your goals.
6 Strategies for Reaching Your Definition of Success
1. Create a Vision for Your Life
A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Knowing how to succeed involves knowing what your end goal is. What does the finish line look like? If you don’t know, you can’t create a detailed plan for how to achieve it.
Your success is dependent on the vision you have for your life. It requires giving your goals careful thought and determining just what exactly you want to be successful at. Back in the 70s, Diane von Furstenberg wanted to change the landscape of women’s fashion, creating clothing that all women could feel comfortable in as more of them entered the workforce. During a time of revolutionary change, she succeeded in changing how women dressed. She had a solid vision that even today continues to be successful.
To create a vision for your life, visualize what you want to become and how you want to help others. In that way, you can reverse engineer your goals to line up with that ambitious destination.
How to create your vision:
- Ask deep questions about your identity.
- Identify problems and the issues in the world that you want to solve.
- Think of ways to get people to take the problem seriously.
- Create a vision statement to clarify the vision you want to pursue.
- Set aside time to continuously refine or expand your vision.
- Communicate your vision to others.
- Determine the steps needed to reach your vision.
- Don’t let distractions keep you from pursuing your goals.
2. Become an Expert in Goal-Setting
Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.Viktor E. Frankl
A key to success is setting goals that push you to become better. Once you have a vision, you can begin to map out the goals that will get you there. As you do so, think back to other goals you’ve had throughout your life. Being successful in life means noting where you’ve succeeded before and why. It also means understanding why you’ve failed to achieve goals in the past.
Rid yourself of negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that keep you from becoming better. Once you know what might be holding you back, you can work on eliminating those elements to increase your chances of success.
With your vision in mind, start working backward. Set goals for where you want to be three to five years from now. Then set yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. With careful planning, you can achieve great things through your goals.
How to create strategies for completing goals:
- Create goals that will stretch you but are within reach.
- Make sure the goals you have are easily measured.
- Note the major milestones you want to achieve.
- Set specific times to complete your goals.
- Make a system that you can follow that will lead to more completed goals.
3. Manage Your Time Wisely
He who every morning plans the transactions of that day and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.Victor Hugo
You can have an ambitious vision and a clear plan for achieving it, but it will mean nothing if you don’t manage your time well. Time management can often mean the difference between success and failure. In business, much of a leader’s time can feel like it’s taken up with busy work. Those leaders who know how to be successful will use delegation to help them out as more responsibilities shift to team leadership on down.
When it comes to time management, you need to have things written down. This will act as the guiding force in all your activities. Put things into your calendar. Even writing the little things like when you wake up, eat breakfast, and work out can make a difference. Don’t forget to block off time for praying, meditating, thinking, and even playing.
How to manage your time effectively:
- Note when your most productive times are and make sure you aren’t interrupted during those times.
- Set aside time for creating plans for the future.
- Identify when your schedule gets off track and try to eliminate the sources of that disorganization.
- Have regular “pause days” where you can rest and recharge.
- Prioritize your most important tasks first.
- Protect your time by saying “no” to additional tasks that don’t help you achieve your goals.
Learn how to prevent the Peter Principle from occurring.
4. Work With a Mentor
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.Steven Spielberg
When you want to know how to succeed, it helps to have someone you can rely on who has been successful in their life. As one survey from UPS found, 70 percent of businesses that have been mentored last for more than five years, which is twice the rate of those companies that do not have a mentor.
As John Maxwell has stated, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” This definition can also describe a mentor. When you have someone who has been there before, they can act as a guide to help you avoid common pitfalls. If they know how to be successful in life, they will offer leadership coaching that provides guidance, support, advice, and wisdom.
What qualities to look for in a mentor:
- Listens to concerns and problems.
- Finds opportunities to make connections.
- Is transparent and honest at all times.
- Provides necessary perspective.
- Motivates others to do difficult things.
- Advises on important business and life decisions.
- Holds everyone, including themselves, accountable.
5. Never Stop Learning
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.Dr. Seuss
Learning is a lifelong mission. Every leader should spend time every day devoted to learning something new. If you dedicate yourself to growing as an individual and a professional, you’ll find you’re always improving and moving closer to your goals.
Learning can take many forms. It might mean developing new leadership skills you can apply to your work life. Or it might mean adopting new leadership styles to help you deal with new situations and different people. As long as you keep exercising your mind, you’ll have a better understanding of how to be successful in life.
Taking this approach shows a growth mindset or an attitude that developing yourself is one of the best things you can do. With this mentality, you seek new challenges and don’t let failure hold you back from pushing farther and becoming the best version of yourself.
How to develop a growth mindset:
- Identify where you can grow the most as a leader.
- Find ways to serve others and learn from them.
- Understand that growth is a process, not a quick fix.
- Write down what qualities you want to develop as a better person.
- Believe that you have the ability to accomplish anything you set your mind to.
6. Don’t Let Failure Define You
Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.RicHard Branson
A fear of failure can often keep people from becoming truly successful in life. Success requires taking risks, which means failure is a possibility. When people fail at something, they often think it represents some terrible flaw they must have, but it’s important to understand that failure is just part of life.
The key part of overcoming this fear is to always get back up. Failure can provide valuable teaching moments that help you learn something new about yourself and life. Hold yourself accountable for what went wrong and learn from those mistakes. If you keep failing because you keep doing the same things incorrectly, then that does fall on you.
Instill this attitude about failure into your team. Teach them not to fear it but to learn from it. Show them that failures are opportunities for growth and course correction. Doing so will teach your employees how to succeed during the most difficult moments.
How to overcome a fear of failure:
- Visualize yourself overcoming your fears by focusing on your goals.
- Stay positive at all times.
- Deal with anxiety and stress through prayer, meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises.
- Focus on things you have control over.
- Teach others about your past shortcomings and what you’ve learned from them.
Success is Rarely Accidental—It’s Habitual
You may have heard of so-called “overnight success” stories, but what appears on the surface to be an instant success often comes from years of hard work before finally breaking through.
Take the example of Anne Wojcicki and 23andMe. She seemed to come out of nowhere with an innovative company, but that would disregard all the efforts she made before becoming mainstream. In 2000, Wojcicki quit her job in order to dedicate her time to genetic research. It wasn’t until 2008, eight years later, that 23andMe gained widespread attention and success.
Becoming successful means putting in the necessary work every day and developing good habits. Those habits are what will take you closer to success. As John C. Maxwell once said, “If I could come to your house and spend just one day with you, I would be able to tell whether or not you will be successful. You could pick the day. If I got up with you in the morning and went through the day with you, watching you for 24 hours, I could tell in what direction your life is headed.”