While there are so many aspects of success, the most important I have found are: a keen sense of purpose; planning, discipline and commitment; and execution. These could be further subdivided, but five are relatively easy to remember and regardless of your goals, they can fit into these five categories.
A keen sense of purpose is your roadmap that tells you where you want to go. It is essential that you have one and don’t be afraid to change it if you realize that your interests and goals no longer align with that particular plan—remember you can make many mistakes, but you only live once. You don’t need to have detailed breakdown of everything, but you must have a general idea of how you will move from your idea to its fruition. For your plan, think about all the major components and ignore the small details.
Most of us fail at the third phase, even if we have the best idea and the most thought out plans, these most be embellished with commitment and discipline to be successful. It takes long hours, sacrifice of quick pleasures, focus and courage in the face of adversity to stick to your plan. If you waver and begin to drift off-track, without adjustment, you will fail. My own experience shows that this is major area of weakness for me. I normally get out of the blocks early with my idea and plan in hand, only to have my enthusiasm subside within a couple of days. I am not advocating to pump yourself up with adrenaline, you only need to have your system in place to keep you on-track and focussed on the prize.
The last phase of the process is execution—the actually doing! We tend to overlook this part, since a lot of us get overly excited about the three earlier phases, perhaps over investing the allotted time to the task to them. Everything we did up to this phase was crucial, but proper execution is what it boils down to. If there is full commitment to the plan, but execution is poor you will not achieve your goals. The execution phase requires action most times and usually competes with the desire to go do something a bit more pleasurable or less onerous. But the difference between winners and losers is often how they handle those internal battles and their need for immediate gratification.
When we put in a lot of effort into what we’re doing, we do not benefit straight away, there is a lag and we may become impatient—sometimes it takes years before the fruits of our labor become evident. Those of us who are motivated externally may lose hope and belief in their system and start to change course, when all they needed to do was to be patient. A good understanding of the time frame within which one could reasonable start seeing positive feedback is a good measure to have as a benchmark. If on average it takes a year to start seeing results, wait a year and a half instead before you start becoming despondent, if you ‘re not getting any positive feedback. A year might be the average, but there are a range of times around the average.
The steps are easy, but in reality the process is not as straightforward. I spent years trying to figure out what it is that I wanted to do. Deciding that you’re going to take a particular course of action can be quite daunting, since a lot of us are afraid of over-committing on a single idea or path—what if we’re wrong, and we invested a significant amount of time and effort into it and now has to change. We may be faced with the “sunken cost” effect, where because we’ve invested the time and effort, we don’t want to change even though it is obviously not going to work out or it was not the right decision for us. Changing path can be hard, but sometimes it’s the only way to avoid a destination with disastrous repercussions.
If you’re risk averse, it may be extremely difficult for you to make tough decisions involving your future. You always want to play it safe and go along the beaten and trotted path. While this way will certainly satisfy your own need to avoid risks, it is the slowest way to get you to any goal you might have. Think about it, you’re following the path that everyone else takes—you’re not doing anything new or different. The results you’ll get are certainly not unique from others. If this is regarding your career, then you are following in some else’s footstep and the best you can hope for is to end up in the same situation as the person who blazed the trail for you—and you won’t be the only one.