Let’s face it: most advice about success is bad. Key to success in life is unique to each an everyone.
After all, if most of it were good, you and I would have to assume—given the sheer volume of advice on the topic a person can access at the click of a button—there would be many more successful people in the world today.
But as we both know, that is not the case. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions, most advice about success suffers from one fatal flaw…
It’s built around a shortsighted definition of what success really is.
Society is quick to tell you that success means having a:
- Nice car
- Huge house
- Large travel budget
We cling to things like this as indicators of success because they’re so easily visible. Over time, we develop tunnel vision about them, blinding ourselves to the possibility of pursuing things that actually make a lasting difference.
- Your legacy
- Your level of influence
- Spending time with your family
- Your ability to give to those in need
So when searching for the keys to success in life, it’s important to take advice with a grain of salt. Be aware that most of it are designed to help you obtain more things rather than making more of an impact.
If, as I suspect, success means more to you than the kind of car in your driveway, I encourage you to keep reading.
This list is built to help you do two things:
- Determine what success looks like in your life
- Give you actionable steps to achieving it
Keep This Question in Mind As You Read the Keys to Success
Before we go any further, there’s one more important thing you need to know about the definition of success:
There is no one definition.
That’s why it’s critical that you define what it looks like to you.
Otherwise, you’ll be starting a journey without a destination. And without a destination, you’ll have no idea where to go, how to prepare, or if you’re even on the right track.
So, instead of simply asking, “What does success look like for me?” I want you to make a slight change to the question.
Ask yourself, “What would a successful life look like for me?”
To get your mind jogging, here are a few follow-up questions that can help you paint a mental picture of your successful life:
- What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind? What will people say when they describe my life?
- How much influence do I want and what will I do with it?
- Who do I want to impact and how will I go about it?
- How much time do I want to spend with my family?
You don’t need a definitive answer before you read any further, but keep this in mind as you continue. Once you can define your successful life, these seven keys to success will give you a blueprint to living it.
8 Keys to Living a Successful Life
Most of us have trained our brains to have a negative connotation with this word. We think of discipline as punishment or as making ourselves do something we don’t want to do.
But I urge you to change the way you think about it…
Think about discipline as something you may not like doing, but have the opportunity to get the results you would like to have.
Take reading for example—most adults either don’t like reading or think they don’t have time for it.
But statistics show that people who read:
- Make more money than people who don’t
- Have a lower divorce rate than people who don’t
- Have fewer problems with their children than people who don’t
- Get promoted at a higher rate than people who don’t
- Get hired at a higher rate than people who don’t
Are you after those results? Then it really doesn’t matter if you like reading or not. Because the results you are after in your life have very little to do with what you don’t like. In fact, forget what you don’t like. This is about WHAT. DO. YOU. WANT?
From now on, I encourage you to think of discipline in this way:
- What do I really want?
- What results would totally change my life and the lives of those I care about the most?
- Is it worth doing something I don’t want to do for relatively small chunks of time in order to achieve those results?
Without discipline, a successful life is impossible to reach.
The ongoing process of learning what you need to learn in order to do something with extraordinary excellence is often grueling and repetitive.
You need discipline to keep yourself moving toward the life you want to live during those times that don’t seem to be producing immediate results.
Because the truth is this: success is an incremental realization of a worthwhile dream or goal—not a destination.
2. Develop Mental Toughness
Mental toughness refers to the resilience to carry on and continue trying even in the face of obstacles. People who possess this mental strength see challenges as opportunities. They also feel that they have control over their own destiny, are confident in their abilities to succeed, and are committed to finishing what they start.
What can you do to improve your mental toughness and increase your chances of being successful in life?
- Believe in yourself. Cut out negative self-talk and look for ways to stay positive and self-encouraging.
- Keep trying. Even when things seem impossible or setbacks keep holding you back, focus on ways that you can develop your skills and keep soldiering forward. One of the key habits of successful people is always looking at setbacks or failures as learning opportunities.
- Set goals. Mentally tough people know that to achieve, they need to start by having attainable goals. These goals are not necessarily easy to reach, but you will be better able to move forward and overcome obstacles by having something to aim for.
- Find support. Doing things alone can be difficult, but having a strong support system can make things easier. Mentors, friends, co-workers, and family members can cheer you on when things get tough and even offer advice and assistance that can help you improve your chances for success.
3. Build a Growth Mindset
Research by psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that two basic mindsets influence how people think about themselves and their abilities: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
People who possess a fixed mindset believe that things such as intelligence are static and unchangeable. Those with a fixed mindset believe that success isn’t a result of hard work—it’s simply a consequence of innate talents.
Because they believe that such talents are something people are either born with or without, they tend to give up more easily in the face of a challenge. They quit when things do not come easily because they believe that they lack the inborn skill needed to excel, which is an important key to success in life.
Those who have a growth mindset, on the other hand, feel that they can change, grow, and learn through effort. People who believe that they are capable of growth are more likely to achieve success. When things get tough, they look for ways to improve their skills and keep working toward success.
People with a growth mindset believe that they have control of their life, while those with a fixed mindset believe that things are out of their control.
What can you do to build a growth mindset?
- Believe that your efforts matter. Rather than thinking their abilities are fixed or stuck, people who have a growth mindset believe that effort and hard work can lead to meaningful growth.
- Learn new skills. When faced with a challenge, they look for ways to develop the knowledge and skills that they need to overcome and triumph.
- View failures as learning experiences. People with growth mindsets don’t believe that failure is a reflection of their abilities. Instead, they view it as a valuable source of experience from which they can learn and improve. “That didn’t work,” they might think, “so this time I’ll try something a little different.”
Think for a moment about the most influential person you know.
It could be someone in your community, a family member, or even a friend.
What do you think would happen to this person if they suddenly lost their money?
How long would it take them to get moving? Would they have trouble finding opportunity?
I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t be financially devastated for long…
Influential people have a greater impact on others. Because of their value to other people, they have more connections and subsequently receive more opportunities.
It doesn’t matter how you define success; being influential will make things much easier on you. Unfortunately, many people get squeamish at the first mention of the word “influence.” It brings to mind cheap psychological tricks used to manipulate people and play on their emotions.
But the reality is that positively influencing someone has nothing to do with manipulation. In fact, it’s much more about making changes to your own behavior than trying to make people do what you want them to do.
If you acquire and hone these four overlooked skills, you’ll be well on your way to positively influencing people you meet each and every day:
- Being someone others want to be around
At the end of the day, this simple quality is the most important determinant of whether you’ll be influential or not. If people don’t want to be around you, it’s going to be tough for you to lead them anywhere.
Fortunately, becoming someone others want to be around isn’t complicated. I’ve spoken at length about how simply smiling while you talk can make an incredible difference in the conversations you have every day. But beyond that, focus on these three qualities specifically:
- Positivity: When you think about people you love being around, chances are they’re not “glass half empty” type people. The most influential people are positive by choice and understand how to balance it appropriately with realism rather than negativity.
- Respect: Demonstrating respect for everyone with whom you interact is not only the right thing to do. It’s also the easiest way for others to observe your character in action. This is exactly why respect is an overlooked superpower for influence.
- Engaging: This third point is perhaps the most intimidating—learning to be an engaging conversationalist. But the keyword there is “learning.” Because, despite what you may think, you do not have to be born a gifted speaker or even be an extrovert to master the art of conversation.
- Understanding the components of change
If you want to influence positive change, you have to let go of the three common myths society believes about change:
1: “It takes time to change.”
2: “You have to want to change.”
3: “Change can only happen when you hit rock bottom.”
In reality, these myths are totally obliterated when two things are made clear:
- The person who needs to change understands “what’s in it for them.”
- The person has proof beyond a reasonable doubt that they should change.
If you master the ability to clearly communicate those two things, your ability to positively influence change in others (and even yourself) will skyrocket.
- Harnessing the power of storytelling
Since stories connect in a way regular information can’t, you can use its power to help people change their perspective and take action.
A well-told story can illuminate lessons, principles, and insights in entirely new ways that help people instantly understand something they’ve been missing their entire lives.
Look for stories from your own life that can provide that connection with your audience.
- Learning how to network the right way
Next to becoming a better conversationalist, this is probably the skill that gives people the most pause.
And it’s easy to see why—who doesn’t hate “networking,” after all?
But there’s so much more to networking than the traditional things that come to mind, like going to a Chamber of Commerce meeting and handing out business cards. Rather than getting trapped in the traditional networking “tactics” that make you want to avoid every public meetup you see, try a different approach.
When you walk into a room of people, instead of asking who might be able to help you, ask things like:
- What do I want to learn?
- Who might I be able to help?
- How can I build friendships rather than contacts?
Maybe one day the connections you’ll make will pay off. Today, however, look at them only as new friends.
There are several things we can learn from society’s top achievers, but one secret in particular stands out from the rest:
Almost all of them invest in some form of personal coaching.
They realize that with the right kind of coaching, they can double their production and results across nearly every aspect of their life.
But a curious thing happens when you talk to people about the importance of coaching…
Although they’re quick to agree that coaches and advisors are critically important to everything from sports teams to businesses, they fail to acknowledge that coaching can be just as valuable for their own lives.
While there’s not really any such thing as a “shortcut” to success, there are certainly things that make the process less painful! Coaching is one of them.
And if you think you can’t afford it think again.
There are many ways to get coaching, and some of them are free:
- Read books
Some of the best coaching I’ve ever received cost less than $20, didn’t speak a word, and sat on my nightstand.
Sure, personalized feedback is great, but never discount the insights you can gain from reading the right books at the right time. Read often, and you’ll find them. Look at my list of books here!
2. Hire a personal coach
Hiring a personal coach can be a game changer. It’s hard to give specific tips for doing this since the options available to people depending on their financial situations vary so much, but my one piece of advice for everyone would be this:
Look for someone who gives you things you can take and actually use in your life, rather than one who simply gives you emotional fuel.
As someone who has both coached others and been coached, trust me—that is the critical factor that separates the coaches who are actually worth their cost.
3. Join a mastermind group or private coaching community
Whether you can hire a personal coach or not, this is another excellent option. A group of like-minded peers who are after similar results can keep you accountable and engaged as you work through the inevitable ups and downs of success.
6. Having a Personal Mission Statement is the key to success in life
Imagine how difficult it would be to build a house without a blueprint.
You’d have to design the layout as you go, which would inevitably lead to all kinds of delays and hiccups. And when it’s all said and done, the result would likely be much different than what you originally had in mind.
The same can be said about trying to live a successful life without a mission statement. A personal mission statement is a blueprint for achieving your definition of a successful life.
It keeps you aligned with your core values and guides you toward the life you want to live—making every decision you’ll ever face much easier.
That’s why nearly every business and high achiever has some sort of mission statement.
A Personal Mission Statement establishes boundaries that will protect your time, money, and assets.
Take mine for example:
My mission is to help others live a blessed and Positive life.
If something I’m considering doing doesn’t align with this mission, I don’t do it. Plain and simple.
For a detailed guide on how to craft your personal mission statement, click here.
Over and over again, it’s been proven that it’s impossible to achieve anything that lies beyond what you believe yourself capable of doing.
So when I surveyed members of my email list about the number one thing preventing them from reaching their goals, and the responses overwhelmingly cited a lack of belief or confidence, I knew there was a problem.
As important as belief is, we all struggle with it. But that doesn’t mean the struggle has to be endless.
Increasing the belief you have in yourself starts with understanding three foundational truths:
- Your belief comes from your thinking. Every choice you’ll ever make is determined by how you think. Fortunately, it’s possible to direct your thinking.
- You direct your thinking by what you seek…or don’t. Your thinking determines your strength of belief, your lack of belief, your struggle with belief, and your absolute belief. The beautiful thing is you direct your beliefs the same way you direct your thinking—by CHOOSING the things you watch, read, listen to, and give your focus. Choose wisely.
- You must guard your thinking. YOU are the guard who admits or turns away the people, things, or activities that will negatively influence your thinking. It’s on you to set boundaries for what you will and will not accept into your life.
Every choice you make is determined by what you think, how you think, and how long you think about it.
If you learn how to direct and guard your thoughts, you can ultimately control your thinking and increase your level of belief.
8. Goal Setting is a key for success in life
When we decide we want a better life, what is the first thing we usually do?
We look for “best practices.” For the tips, tools, and strategies that have worked for everyone else.
For the “keys to success,” if you will. ????
And while these things are helpful (I wouldn’t have written this blog post about them if I didn’t believe they’d help), it’s easy to let them shroud the most important ingredient in creating your ideal life.
Do you remember what that is?
It’s the question I told you to keep in mind at the beginning of this post: “What would a successful life look like for me?”
The answer to this question gives you your destination. And starting with your destination in mind will put you miles ahead of the vast majority of people who set goals and never achieve meaningful progress.
Rather than letting methods determine your destination, let your destination determine your methods.
While I’ve listed seven keys to success in this post, the reality is that you need to know what your destination is before you can determine which of these keys will be most vital for you to master first.
Instead of viewing them as a step-by-step plan, see them as a set of tools you can use in a variety of different ways (and at different times) to create the methods you will need to follow to create your ideal life. Because when it comes to creating your life, there is no step-by-step plan. It is uniquely yours. The plan is being written as you live it.
Remember: Success Is a Process
There will be times when you get discouraged. You’ll feel like you aren’t making any progress. You might even question if it’s worth continuing.
When you do, remember this:
Success is not a destination; it’s a process.
Most people jump ship when they aren’t seeing progress. They get discouraged and decide to change course.
But don’t take the bumps in the road as signs that you’re headed in the wrong direction. They’re a requirement of any journey worth taking.
Stay the course.
Focus on the process of becoming the person you were created to be.