Most people believe that success is something that comes to those with innate talent. They blame their failures on the lack of a certain skill or natural ability. This is what I like to call a loser’s limp – the kind of excuse that causes many people to miss out on achieving their full potential.
If you’ve ever experienced this kind of thinking, you’ll be relieved to hear that you already have everything you need for success. And no matter your circumstances, it’s never too late to adjust your mindset. You’ll learn the six steps you need to take to become a high achiever and live an enriching life.
A poor self-image leads to self-defeating behavior.
So, you’ve decided it’s time to change your ways and start aiming for the top. Where do you begin?
The first step on the ladder to success is to evaluate your self-image – that is, how you view yourself. Self-image is a crucial building block for success because it determines how you perform.
For many people, self-image issues can be traced back to childhood. Let’s say your son accidentally drops a plate; without thinking, you tell him he’s the clumsiest boy you’ve ever seen. You might not intend for your comment to be destructive, but for many children, offhand remarks like this can lead to an inferiority complex. When parents, teachers, or friends imply that a child is inept, that child might come to believe that he doesn’t deserve good things in life, such as love or success.
On the other hand, imagine how you’d feel if you received a phone call from someone who simply wanted to tell you how great you are. Whether you’re a doctor, a student, or an athlete, this kind of boost to your confidence would likely make you perform better. In fact, the link between a positive self-image and high performance has a proven track record – in elite sports, athletes often visualize themselves succeeding to achieve real-life success. Top golfers, for example, “see” themselves sinking their ball into the cup before they even tee up.
But developing a positive self-image can be hard. This is especially true for children, who not only face criticism from parents and teachers but also feel the weight of society’s emphasis on appearance. Multiple surveys have found that over 95 percent of young Americans would opt to change some aspect of their physical appearance. Later in life, this dissatisfaction often leads to an unhealthy obsession with material possessions and body image.
Having a negative view of yourself also informs your behavior in your professional life.
Imagine a salesman with a negative self-image. He lives in constant fear of rejection, and this mindset causes him to be a people pleaser. This doesn’t just undermine his ability to make sales – his need to be accepted by his teammates also stops him from adopting the leadership skills that would enable him to rise into management.
Unless he finds a way to alter his self-image, the salesman will never be able to envision success for himself on either a personal or professional level.
Dressing up and helping others both improve your self-image.
Have you ever suffered from a negative self-image? If so, the good news is that there are several methods to improve it.
Remember that your self-image starts and ends with you. Other people can't make you feel bad about yourself unless you allow them to.
It might not be obvious, but if you take the time to consider it, you’ll realize how special you are. After all, there’s only one you! And whether you feel his presence or not, God has a plan for everyone.
But no one can deny that appearance has a massive influence on our self-image. So, one practical place to start improving your self-image is by enhancing your appearance.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, a new haircut or outfit can work wonders for how you view yourself; just think about how women look when they leave a beauty salon. Armed with a new haircut or makeup, women get a confidence boost that’s immediately apparent in the way they hold themselves. And while men might not like to admit it, wearing a new suit has the same effect.
But improving your self-image isn’t only about taking better care of yourself – it’s also about how you care for others. Spending time helping people who need it creates an immediate sense of satisfaction and can serve as a reminder to feel gratitude. This, in turn, improves the way you see yourself. You can experience this by volunteering for the Red Cross, visiting someone with a disability or illness, or simply helping children cross the road.
If you need some extra inspiration, try reading biographies or autobiographies of successful people who contributed to other people’s wellbeing. Learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, or Booker T. Washington is a great way to inspire you to find success by being altruistic.
You might also try reading or listening to works by motivational speakers or preachers such as Mamie McCullough or John Maxwell – both of whom have dedicated their lives to inspiring the best in other people.
I’ve seen firsthand experience of the power of looking to others’ stories for inspiration. During a particularly rough period while he was a struggling salesman, he read The Power of Positive Thinking by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. This book helped him see that it was up to him to improve his situation. Later, he dedicated his life to helping others accept themselves in their own journeys toward success.
Improve your relationships by looking for the good in others – including your spouse.
So, helping others is crucial to boosting your self-image. But what about the people you care for the most? The second step on your journey to success is improving your relationships.
You can achieve anything you want if you make the time and effort to help others. That begins with how you perceive and treat the people around you.
Whether they realize it or not, most people treat others according to how they see them. And in some cases, your behavior toward a person could deeply impact their future.
In an experiment led by Dr. Robert Rosenthal at Harvard University, two groups of students were assigned to two separate teachers. The first teacher was told that their group came from average backgrounds and had average levels of intelligence. The second teacher was told that their group consisted of geniuses. As it turns out, both groups of students were average students. But at the end of the year, the students that were treated like geniuses were an entire school year ahead of the other group.
As with most things in life, when it comes to relationships, you reap what you sow. Since you should treat people the way you want to be treated, the best approach to developing relationships is to look for the good in others.
Ironically, many people treat strangers politely while still making abrupt and hurtful comments in one of their most important relationships – their marriage. But with a simple change in mindset, it’s easier than you might think to keep this relationship thriving.
Think of it as courting your husband or wife even though you’re already married. By applying the mindset, you had when you were dating your spouse, you’ll have an easier time remembering the reason why you married them in the first place.
But there are also plenty of practical things you can do to strengthen your marriage. Try starting each day by reminding your spouse of your love for them. You can also surprise them by calling them in the middle of the day for a few minutes – if their schedule permits – or by sending a love letter. He or she will appreciate the gesture, especially if it’s unexpected!
Set specific goals that can be broken down into daily increments.
Creating goals is a powerful tool for getting what you want out of life. Yet many people fail to harness it, usually because of how they go about it. Setting goals – step number three on your road to success – demands hard work and concentration. Here’s how you do it.
The first thing you must do is be as specific as possible. Vague or arbitrary goals such as simply wanting to lose weight or earn a lot of money rarely materialize. Therefore, you need to quantify your goals: How much weight do you want to lose? How much money do you want to make?
Second on the list is to give yourself a timeline long enough to take inevitable obstacles into account. Say you give yourself a year – rather than two months – to earn one million dollars. With the right mindset, you could manage to achieve this even after facing a major setback such as an illness.
With these two caveats in mind, start writing down your goals. Consider your financial and career aspirations as well as your physical, mental, spiritual, personal, and family goals. Ideally, you should strive to achieve a goal in each category of your life so that you’ll feel balanced. But if you're new to goal setting, starting with just one is fine.
To reach your goals, break them down into actionable increments that you can execute daily. This helped the author when he realized that he wanted to slim down his 202-pound figure. The author decided that he wanted to be 165 pounds within the next ten months. In fact, he even wrote this number in a book of his, due to be published in ten months’ time, to add an extra incentive.
As soon as the author decided that he wanted to lose weight, he started going out for a run at the sound of his alarm clock every morning. Each day, he ran a little further, starting with a block and incrementally working his way up to five miles. He later added in some calisthenics, and soon, the results became apparent.
On average, the author lost just 1.9 ounces a day. But after ten months, he had lost a whopping 37 pounds! And since he carried out the goal over a long period of time, he developed healthy habits and was thereby able to maintain the weight loss for good.
Avoid “stinkin’ thinkin’” by adopting a positive attitude.
Even when you make the effort to reach your goals, life will often bring unexpected obstacles your way. While you can’t stop these situations from arising, you can control your response to them.
That brings us to the fourth step on the stairway to success: adopting a positive attitude. Unlike your self-image, which is about your view of yourself, your attitude is your approach to the rest of the world.
According to one Harvard University study, 85 percent of our accomplishments can be attributed to attitude, while only 15 percent is derived from technical expertise. Yet often, people sabotage this 85 percent by engaging in unproductive thinking – or as I call it, stinkin’ thinkin’.
Stinkin’ thinkin’ is exactly the problem that the minor league baseball team in San Antonio, Texas was experiencing during a losing streak in the 1930s. Instead of working together, the players began to blame each other for their blunders. So, after a particularly embarrassing loss against the weak-hitting Dallas team, San Antonio’s manager Josh O’Reilly went about finding a solution.
O’Reilly told the players that he’d asked a faith healer named Slater to bless two of their bats so that they would win the pennant in the Texas League series. The idea inspired the team, which went on to score 22 runs and 37 hits in their next game before going on to win the pennant.
If you want a game-winning attitude, you don’t need to wait for someone else to motivate you. All you must do is start the day with a positive mentality. Instead of complaining about getting out of bed when you wake up in the morning, channel gratitude and excitement for the day ahead.
Unfortunately, we live in a negative society that is pervaded by a glass-half-empty mentality. But you can check in with the language you’re using and choose positive words over negative ones – even if that means making them up. Next time you’re waiting at an intersection while driving home from work, try referring to a “stop light” as a “go light.”
Even if you must explain your new vocabulary to people, you’ll find joy in these small positive changes and adopt a productive attitude that will feed into the rest of your life.
A persistent work ethic is a key ingredient for success.
Have you ever heard of a professional making a name for herself by rushing home as soon as the clock struck five every day?
Probably not. Going above and beyond what they’re expected to do is what distinguishes successful people from average ones. That’s why the fifth step in our journey is to understand that success takes hard work.
Funnily enough, on the rare occasions where someone gets a big break without working for it, the joy of winning turns to painful disappointment.
On September 4, 1994, John Stossel aired a program on ABC News about multimillion-dollar lottery winners. He found that one year after their lucky draw, most of these lottery winners were unhappier than people who had been paralyzed following a severe injury.
In fact, one survey conducted about televised quiz show winners in the 1960s found that within seven years, those who had earned more than $75,000 from game shows were financially no better off than before their win.
As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day but teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” Successful people know there’s no free lunch if you want to make it to the top. Rather than expecting work to come to them or waiting for their big break, they apply their positive attitude and strive to excel in their professional life every day.
So, if you really want to make it big, prepare to work more than the normal 40-hour work week.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see results immediately. In fact, many people give up at the first sign of failure, before their careers can take off. What these people don’t realize is that failure is an inevitable part of the journey to success.
Just consider President Harry S. Truman, who experienced failures in both the oil business and the clothing business before making a name for himself in politics. After one failed endeavor, the future president even went broke. What Truman knew, however, was that if you bring a positive attitude and continue to work hard even when projects fail, you’ll eventually be rewarded.
It’s easier said than done but finding creative ways to turn your failures into successes could be the key to a career you haven’t even imagined for yourself yet.
Burning desire and intelligent ignorance are crucial for success.
You might be wondering what motivates successful people to become overachievers. Sure, having a good attitude and positive self-image are important. But the most successful people embody the sixth and final step in our journey – a burning desire to excel.
In many cases, desire can give you the ability to win against the worst of odds. That’s what happened to the American boxer Billy Miske. In 1923, after being hospitalized for kidney failure, Miske was diagnosed with Bright’s disease. He knew that he had less than a year to live, and he felt compelled to provide his family with one last merry Christmas.
Miske was broke, however. So, in November of that year, he convinced his manager Jack Reddy to let him fight one last time.
Since Miske didn’t have the physical strength to train, he had to stay at home until the big day. On that day, he traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, where he was to face Bill Brennan – a boxer who was past his prime but nevertheless a formidable opponent.
Against all odds, Miske beat Brennen in four rounds. Thanks to his burning desire to win, he was able to take home $2,400 for his family just weeks before his death.
People like Miske can beat the odds and achieve remarkable feats because of what is called intelligent ignorance. These people have such a strong desire that they don’t know what they can’t achieve, and they find a way to succeed even in the most unlikely of situations.
Of course, intelligent ignorance and desire don’t guarantee success. But even if you fail to achieve your goal, when you put all your efforts into an endeavor, you can face failure knowing that you gave it your all. Plus, your experience with maintaining a good attitude despite losing will improve your chances of success the next time.
What this shows is that desire is only one part of your road to success. If you don’t have a positive self-image, healthy relationships, a good attitude, concrete goals, and a persistent work ethic, it will mean very little.
And while there might not be a shortcut to success, don’t be discouraged. As you now know, you already have what it takes!
The key message in this article:
There are six steps you need to take if you want to be successful: improve your self-image, strengthen your relationships, set specific goals, adopt a positive attitude, work hard, and be driven by a burning desire. While you can’t skip any of these steps on your way to the top, rest assured that everything you need to start is already inside of you.