Let’s face it. Life is often a challenge. We worry about if we are good enough, if we are on the right path, if we’ve made the right decisions. And, in the end, we question whether our lives have been meaningful and successful.
Based on psychological research, and a lifetime of teaching and research, I believe there are a few key practices that will lead an individual to a more successful and fulfilling existence.
1. Set Goals. The evidence is overwhelming—goal-setting works! Whether you are trying to have a successful career, take on a major project, or simply lose a few pounds, by setting goals, and doing it correctly is the path to accomplishing things (by this I mean SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-specific; more on success and SMART goals here). Our recent research project has looked at perceptions of life success, and we define success as the attainment of self-set life goals. This is in contrast to how society or others might gauge your success—through earning a high salary, holding a prestigious position, etc. If you set challenging goals for yourself and achieve them, you can feel satisfied and fulfilled.
2. Stand for Something. We all hold important, positive values. For example, we may believe that honesty and integrity are key values for us, or we might believe that helping our family members or aiding others are key values. It is important to be true to those—to live those values. The more we adhere to our core values the more satisfied and fulfilled we will be.
3. Forgive Yourself. Sometimes we fall short of our goals, or we don’t live up to our expectations. Don’t dwell on it. In those times, it is important to forgive yourself and to work to be better. Using our failings as an opportunity to learn and to improve is critical, and helps us become a better person.
4. Be a Warrior. Face life head-on. Meet life’s challenges. All too often we become timid, afraid to take risks, to try something new, or to push out from our comfort zones. We should quell our unfounded fears and dive into opportunities. This is the path to a more fulfilling life.
5. Leave a Mark. This is about our legacy. What have you done in your life that has had a lasting impact? This could be important accomplishments, mentoring and developing others, creating a thriving organization, or a wonderful family. What did we do that left the world a better place?