The elements that you look for in your life to determine that you have been successful may be completely different from the elements I would consider. For instance, I’ve just handed in my notice on a secure, well paying, well-respected management job with excellent benefits – for someone this job probably signifies the peak of success. However, not to worry, I have been working hard to consolidate the plan for success.
The best definition of success is going to be personal. It will be composed of the elements that are important enough to you that they contribute to your overall level of happiness. While success is defined by the Cambridge English Dictionary as “the achievement of positive results”, happiness had a more complex definition comprising both a sense of positive emotion or contentment in the present and within the longer-term context of life-satisfaction.
In order to understand which positive results might constitute success for you as an individual, I feel it is important to also consider what will contribute to both your present sense of contentment and longer-term life satisfaction.
Breaking Down Happiness
In his blog post “You Don’t Know What Makes You Happy” Mark Manson proposes that happiness is not something that you can obtain, but rather something that you inhabit. He suggests that pursuing happiness is actually the perpetual process of becoming the best version of yourself.
This involves looking beyond superficial pleasure and pain to understand that happiness exists within the act of overcoming challenges achieving difficult personal goals. It is not sufficient for achieving these goals and then stop, rather the process of ongoing development and pursuit of personal goals is what leads to happiness.
When I resigned from my job I was asked if there was anything that the company could offer to make me reconsider leaving. While we eventually came to a mutually beneficial arrangement extending the duration of the notice period that I would work, I already knew that my job and the amount of time and effort I put into it was not aligned to my long term life vision.
Using Imagination to Clarify Your Vision of Success
I can’t open my Facebook page without being bombarded with adverts about manifesting success or money or whatever your heart desires. There are elements of manifesting that I find very useful; however, it must be clarified that manifesting success does not mean that applying positive thoughts or visualization only will lead to your version of success, but they are useful tools to assist you.
Have a look at my video introduction to creative techniques for why your imagination is the key to crafting your success.
Following Diana Reid’s advice in “How to Manifest Anything in 5 Easy Steps” as a model my journey to success looks like this:
Step 1: What do you really want?
Diana says you need to be specific about what you want, it needs to be time bounded and you need to write it down.
This advice is aligned to goal-setting theory – where an action plan is developed to motivate and guide you towards your goal. Goal setting is well documented in literature within personal development, sport, and management realms.
Counter-intuitively I prefer to start my goal setting with long term goals. Once they are defined I can then support them with medium-term and short terms goals. You have probably experienced goal setting through the use of the SMART criteria. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bounded.
Develop a sustainable remote business returning a full-time income and paying off my mortgage in 5 years.
Achieve a monthly income equivalent to 125% increase my annual corporate income, through passive income streams, part-time jobs, consulting and contracting within 12 months of resigning from my corporate job.
- Investigate remote business opportunities – by 1 April 2020
- Develop a strategy – by 15 April 2020
- Create a business plan – by 1 May 2020
- Further short term goals will be defined within the business plan
A key strategic point – it is important to review and revise your goals on a regularly defined periodic basis. They should be used to measure your successes, understand your failures and revised to reflect any changes in your course on your path.
Step 2: Visualize
Diana says spend as little as 5 minutes twice a day picturing yourself having the success that you desire. She recommends engaging with your emotions and being in the moment without considering the “How” element of achieving your success.
My vision of success:
- Working location independently, I’ve always wanted to work from the beach!
- I’m half Canadian and half British. My niece is almost a year old and I want to spend more time with her.
- Traveling when I feel like it, rather than only when it doesn’t conflict with month-end.
- Being able to work to my own schedule, rather than starting and stopping when it suits the company.
- Being able to fit work around life
- Complete another marathon without missing training for business trips
- Move up to level 4 in CrossFit
A note on visualization:
To gain the most value from the process of visualization you should engage all of your senses so that you know what your success not only looks like but also what you’ll feel, smell, taste and hear. While the laptop on the beach looks lovely and serene, to really engage my visualization needs to have the little details documented.
While spending your daily 5 minutes visualizing don’t be afraid to challenge or amend your visualization as your vision of success changes and develops.
So what am I going to visualize?
- Waking up in the morning when my body wants to, rather than to the sound of a blaring alarm
- Planning my day around the workout or workouts that I want to do – smell the sweat and the mats of the gym and hear the grunts of the lifts and the weights hitting the floor
- Paying off my mortgage, selling my apartment and buying a house on a hill with cash that I can rent when I’m traveling
To make my visualization easier, I often use Pinterest to save images that I find inspiring.
Step 3: Action
This is key, Diana reinforces to us of the need to understand the steps necessary for achieving your goals, and then to actually action these steps.
Defining the steps required for achieving your goals is a big piece of work that builds on having an understanding of your vision of success. Mind Tools has a great short article on creating action plans for small scale projects that you can see here, this is a great place to start. In brief, they suggest:
- Mind mapping the steps that you need to take to achieve your goals. There are numerous creative ways to identify the tasks that you need to undertake to move towards your goals
- Next is analyzing and delegating tasks, check to see if everything is necessary, if anything could be done by anyone else, or if there are specific orders or deadlines that need to be considered
- Make sure you haven’t missed anything using the mnemonic SCHEMES
- HELPERS / PEOPLE
I will be working through my own case study using creative techniques over the next few posts, but a simple way to get started is to look at the tasks required in the order that they need to occur.
Actions required to achieve my long term goals:
- Investigate remote working opportunities
- Affiliate Marketing
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- Understand current expenditures and necessary levels of income
- Breakeven analysis
- Cash flows for the next 12 months
- What if income scenarios
- Resource Requirements to fulfill remote working opportunities
- Systems of work
Step 4: Gratitude
Diana reminds us that using gratitude to focus on the small positive elements that we can find every day stops us from falling into the trap of focusing on the negatives which inevitably occur and can suck you in if you give them the chance.
The act of practicing gratitude assists with gaining an appreciation of things that you would normally take for granted, especially the small things. Gratitude can also be found in reaction to challenging environments.
How am I planning on using Gratitude?
I know I struggle to use gratitude effectively. To maximize my performance in this endeavor and to give myself the greatest possible chance of success I have equipped myself with some tools.
Combining performance, planning, gratitude, and self-measurement I have bought myself a year’s worth of The High Performance Planner by Brendon Buchard. I know without doing a detailed cash flow analysis (yet) that I have approximately enough cash to work on this project for 12 months.
I know that starting a business is very hard work – I’ve spent the best part of the last fifteen years working in business for other people and I’ve spent that time increasing both my levels of knowledge and skill. I undertook an MBA with a focus on creativity and entrepreneurship while working full time. I am grateful for everything that I have done to date which has lead me to this point.
Step 5: Limiting Beliefs
Being aware of how your brain can convince you that you have artificial limits, Diana reminds us that often these thoughts are not true and can be combated.
It is key that you acknowledge your self-limiting beliefs. You do not give the limiting beliefs power by acknowledging them, rather by identifying them you can use creative techniques to understand their core reasons. There are two types of self-limiting beliefs – those that act as road signs and direct you off of your planned path, and those that are the self-limiting destination to which the road signs direct you.
Combating my self-limiting demons
For a very long time, I couldn’t see my destination of remote self-employment as something that I could achieve. I have always felt like I needed to work harder than everyone else to be worthy of my position – but I can now see that I deserved everything that I have achieved in my current job.
By setting goals, visualizing my successful outcome, creating, following and revising my action plans, using gratitude and acknowledging the self-limiting beliefs as they occur and by applying that work ethic to my new venture I have set myself up the best I can for success.
I’d love your inputs, are there any techniques that you find particularly helpful in understanding and defining success and happiness?