You make your own luck, as the saying goes.
And it's only in the last 10 years or so of my life that I've really understood what that means.
At the ripe age of 42, it has become obvious to me that there are principles to success in life, and it's following these principles that will attract lady luck into your life and give you that occasional lucky break we all need from time to time.
As I always say: when I write about success, I am not, by default, talking about making money and a quest for material gain.
I'm talking about whatever success looks like to you.
Success for some might be a 9-to-5 job that pays enough to cover the mortgage and bills and provides lots of spare time for your children.
For someone else it might mean becoming an accomplished musician or artist. And for some it might mean finding that someone special to spend the rest of your life with.
Success is personal and can mean so many different things to different people at different times of their lives.
That being said, I have identified a number of principles over the years that apply to any kind of success. And I'm pretty sure that if you apply these principles to your vision, you will succeed, at least to some degree.
You might not end up exactly where you wanted to when you started out, but you'll certainly find some success and happiness along the way.
The 4 Proven Principles of Success
1. Develop a Clear Vision
Most success stories start with a vision, a desire, a goal to get from A to B.
It certainly helps to know roughly what you want to do and the outcome you want from doing it, otherwise you'll just be a stick in a stream, floating down river and being carried wherever the current takes you.
You don't need to know what the end result looks like, but you should establish the direction you want to take.
So let's say you want to learn to play the piano.
You might say “I want to learn to play the piano. I want to learn all of the chords and scales and be able to play 10 songs really well. To accomplish this I'm going to practice for at least 30 minutes each day”.
If you were to deviate from this pathway and practice only twice a week, and become distracted by tinkering with other instruments, your likelihood of succeeding in your goal is greatly reduced.
Don't Spread Yourself Too Thinly
For the first 30 or so years of my life, this was my Achilles heel. I always wanted to do lots of different things and would get distracted from one pathway by walking down another.
I'd do pretty well at one thing but never see it through long enough to reach my potential, realize all the benefits, and yield maximum success.
At this stage you might not be able to formulate such a concise vision – like the example above – and that's fine.
Perhaps you want to be your own boss, but all you know at this point is that you want to have your own business. That's a good enough starting point because you have a very good idea of the outcome you want.
With visions such as this, you need to test the water in a number of areas before you find your niche. Where business is concerned, that might mean a few failed attempts; although we shouldn't look at these as failures but rather as part of the learning curve on the road to success.
Similarly, if your vision for a relationship is to be with someone who enjoys fitness, healthy eating and traveling, then that's a really good starting point. Knowing what you do and don't want is important in any aspiration for success.
The further you walk along the pathway towards your goal the clearer the vision will become; because the pieces of the puzzle begin to slot together.
Once you are walking in the right direction, life has a funny way of helping you realize which way you need to turn.
It's only when we are torn over which direction to take, held back by the negativity of past experiences and worry over the future, that life can lead us down uncertain pathways that aren't conducive to our wellbeing.
2. Hard Work & Consistency
The bottom line is that you have to work hard.
Some people get a really lucky break and stumble across success with minimal effort, but it doesn't happen often.
What does happen, however, is that when you start putting in hard work you are rewarded with a bit of luck along the way. It could be a spiritual thing or simply the law of averages, but if you bang on enough doors one is eventually going to open.
You must apply your hard work consistently.
Focus on the same vision and do something every day to work towards what you want.
Even on days where you feel too tired, or when you rather watch TV, make time. Even if it's just 10 or 20 minutes of doing something towards your goal, get it done.
That something could simply be reading an article or an extract from a book about the subject matter you are interested in. It could be just a little bit of practice.
It might be a 10-minute meditation session where you visualize your success and condition your mind to believe that it is wholly attainable, and that in many ways you are already in ownership of the success.
I guarantee that if you do something every single day towards your vision, and this becomes a habit, you will see some level of success.
Whether that's the level of success that you set out to achieve, or just a small amount of notable success that you wouldn't have achieved otherwise, I guarantee you that there will be some solid progress.
3. Honesty with Self
Every single point on this list is vitally important, but this one is really important.
You must be honest with yourself. You must be honest with yourself about the amount of effort you're putting in and about the quality you're producing.
- Are you really trying hard enough?
- Could you put a bit more effort in?
- Do you need to study more to improve your skill set?
- Is the work that you have done really the best you can produce?
Whatever type of success you are aiming for, whether it's creative, physical, or relationship-based, you need to be firm and honest with yourself about the results that you're producing. You must consistently ask yourself whether you can do better.
You have to be tough on yourself.
That doesn't mean wearing yourself down with lack of sleep or berating yourself for not being good enough. It means that you check in with yourself to ask whether you have done your best.
All you can ever ask of yourself is to do the best you can in a given situation.
Of course, we can't always give our best every single day, but if we are consistently operating below par then we are letting ourselves off the hook and aren't going to fulfill our potential.
It's easy to make excuses and get lazy. We humans are programmed to find easier ways to do things. So instead, find easier ways to make yourself better at what you want out of life.
4. Form an Inner Circle
Successful people are usually surrounded by other successful people. This is no coincidence.
- They surround themselves with positive people who motivate them to be better.
- They surround themselves with people who pick them up when they feel down.
- They surround themselves with people who have their best interests at heart and want them to succeed.
Among these people are a few close-knit advisers, and what I call an “inner circle”.
People in your inner circle will always give you honest advice. They aren't like your mum or your dad who will tell you that every drawing you do is amazing, or that your karaoke performance “sounds just like the original song”.
These people will genuinely help you improve your life by being honest with you about where you are and what you can do to be better. This relationship is reciprocal, and you'll become part of their inner circle too.
Criticism is hard to take, but it is essential to success.
The people in your inner circle will help you make decisions, truthfully laying out all the possible risks and benefits.
Perhaps you only have one or two such persons in your life, and that's fine – it might be all you need.
And if you don't have anyone in your life who you can turn to for honest advice, then I'm sure you will find someone like this once you start your new journey.
Indeed, you will find that once you start putting these principles into action, you will attract some very interesting people into your life. It's just how it goes.
When you take action, consistently, you open up the universe: you attend more social events, you communicate with more people, you inspire others, people radiate towards you.
It's part of the law of attraction.
A Final, Important Word
I want to finish with a caveat of sorts.
Along the pathway towards our vision of success, we end up visiting places that were never part of the plan.
And it's these places along the way that ultimately determine our final destination and realization of success, which is often somewhat far removed from our original vision.
At first you might be disappointed that you didn't achieve exactly what you set out to do, or that you allowed yourself to deviate from your pathway. You may have trusted someone that you shouldn't have, or made a rash decision that took you off course.
But look, you are human, not a robot. This is all part of the journey. “It's all in the game”.
And what you will come to realize is that where you are is exactly where you are meant to be.
It may not be perfect, but it's probably not too bad.
This acceptance is part of life, part of everyone's journey.
And the good news is, if you're reading this, you still have time to do more: to make a change, to develop a new vision, to start walking a new pathway, to create more memories.