Whether it is learning a skill, developing healthy and rewarding relationships, or having success in any job or career, there are proven ways to succeed, and it is important to understand and use them. Of course, talent, luck, and opportunity can play a part in being successful, but if you follow these basic principles you will win out in the long run.
1. Have a Plan. You can’t get from here to there without some sort of plan. This includes having clearly defined goals and the means to assess whether you’ve attained your goals. If your objective is to get more physically fit, set up a step-by-step workout plan and measure your progress. If you are trying to learn a new skill, setting clearly defined goals is also the first step. The acronym (and directions) for goal-setting is SMART. You want goals/outcomes that are Specific (focused on a specific outcome, such as losing a certain amount of weight), Measurable, Attainable. Realistic (neither too easy nor too lofty), and Timely (associated with a specific timeframe). Research demonstrates that goal setting works!
2. Study and Learn “the Game.” Social psychologists talk about the norms – the unspoken rules – and the “scripts” that govern all social interactions. Success in the workplace, or in relationships, is all about knowing how to behave appropriately and in a way to get desired outcomes. Study and learn the “rules” of the game – what is often known as developing social competence, or social intelligence, to get ahead.
3. Learn From Failures. All too often, we focus on the strategies that allow us to succeed. Yet, research tells us that we learn more from studying our failures than we do from success. Do an “after action review” (to borrow a term from military training), whereby you analyze what happened. Figure out why and how things went wrong and fix them in order to succeed the next time. Renowned leaders of nations and companies will often mention that it was learning from failures that led to their ultimate success.
4. Celebrate Small Wins. Motivational psychologists know that large accomplishments are easier to achieve if they are broken down into smaller units, and if you reward yourself at each step of the way. Take time to celebrate each important milestone or gain on your path to ultimate success.
5. Be Persistent. Major learning or significant change are not easy to accomplish, so it is important to work hard and be persistent. Many successful entrepreneurs and politicians failed many times, and had major setbacks, before they ultimately succeeded. Don’t give up and keep working toward that goal.