Redefine success and learn to love the pursuit
Updated: Sep 27
One thing I know all of us who are taking a leap of faith to pursue our dreams have in common is the desire to succeed.
We’re not squeezing in extra computer time for the love of computer work, giving up family time on the weekends or risking our safe and predictable realities for nothing, are we?
All of the effort we put in and the sacrifices we make have to be worth something in the end.
But how exactly do we go about ensuring success?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried all of the recommended strategies, steps and processes meant to lead you to success, desperately hoping to stumble across the secret formula.
The thing is, there is no secret formula. And the tighter we hold on to the need to achieve our end goal, the harder it becomes to attain and the more discouraged we become in the pursuit of it.
When we put all our attention and focus on achieving “success”, we are more likely to feel terrible when we don’t achieve it.
We attribute failures to our own personal inadequacies: we’re not good enough, smart enough, appealing enough.
If only we were smarter, better, prettier.
That attitude is what’s known as a “fixed mindset” and it’s extremely common in our outcome-driven world that judges success based on tangible results.
And while a focus on tangible results can lead to impressive outcomes, it also comes with stress and anxiety that causes us to either lose our determination to persevere or worse, to burn out.
What I have learned, and am still learning if I’m honest, about persevering in business and ultimately achieving success is that it’s less about what you accomplish and more about your attitude and mindset as you strive for it.
Your mindset is your biggest resource when it comes to achieving success.
When you have the right mindset – what’s known as a “growth mindset”– you have the ability to persevere, stay focused on the journey and consequently, be more likely to achieve those outcomes you’re striving for than by following any particular strategy or process.
Either that OR your end goal transforms to become more in alignment with a truly fulfilling definition of success rather than one measured solely by outcomes.
Having a growth mindset means that you believe improvement is always possible despite the intelligence, ability or talent you started out with and regardless of circumstance.
Your talent, ability, intelligence and circumstance create the conditions to succeed but it’s what you do with them that determines your success.
So what does all of this mean for you?
It’s good to have outcome driven goals (like hitting those sales numbers or signing a certain number of clients) because they help focus our efforts but equally important are goals recognizing skills gained and effort put in.
What skills do you want to build as you strive towards an outcome?
As a coach, let’s say my goal is to sign 4 new clients a month but I focus on the skills of practicing consults and reaching out to new people. If I focus on the effort I make towards these skills, I’ll feel good even if I don’t sign 4 new clients a month. But the truth is I’m much more likely to get those clients if I’m focused on improving my skills rather than simply signing the clients.
It’s the same with an example as relatable as exercise. Let’s say you want to lose 10 lbs. If you focus on the effort you’re putting in to achieve that weight loss goal, like exercising every day and eating healthy, you’ll feel really good about yourself even if the scale isn’t budging. AND then it becomes less important if you lose the weight or not.
Consider this: is it the attainment of the goal you’re striving for that you want or the feeling you’ll get when you achieve it? Is it the new client or money you’ll make that you want? Or the feeling of being on top of the world when you get them?
You don’t need to wait until you’ve achieved 'success' to feel on top of the world. By developing a growth mindset and focusing on the journey and the skills and effort that come from that, you get to feel on top of the world NOW.
Here are some tips to help build your growth mindset:
Ask for help. When you’re determined do something on your own, it’s often because you fear criticism from yourself or others when you don’t do it perfectly. Asking for help opens you up to learning something new and building your skills.
To get comfortable with vulnerability and failure, practice self-compassion. Practice ways of speaking to yourself that are reassuring, congratulatory and encouraging, especially in the face of failures or when feeling vulnerable.
Regularly celebrate effort not outcomes. Take time in your schedule on a regular basis to acknowledge your efforts. When failures occur and you sense your fixed mindset creeping up on you to criticize, remind yourself of the effort and skills learned.
Forget trying to impress others. Impressing others is based on external measures of success that have nothing to do with you and what you’re trying to achieve.
Lean into fear. Anytime you feel vulnerable or scared, don’t turn away, go for it anyway and think of all the ways you’ll grow and develop as a person. Growth only comes from doing things that make you uncomfortable.
When putting yourself out there, focus on how you’re serving others or on what you’re learning rather than how you might fail or embarrass yourself.
What does success mean to you? Come up with some internal measures of success – things that you’ll be happy to have accomplished even if you’re guaranteed to fail.
Look for clues in your vocabulary and thoughts. Thoughts like, “I need to achieve this,” or “have to” or “what will they think of me?” are examples of your fixed mindset coming into play from a place of fear. How can you shift to a growth mindset focused on what you might learn as a result of your efforts?
Lastly, know that mindset isn’t all or nothing and it's not a one shot deal. Sometimes we’ll be more fixed than growth mindset and that’s okay. It’s something we all constantly strive to work on, even people who’ve achieved big outcome driven measures of success!
Remember that your mindset is one tool you have wherever you go that doesn’t change based on the latest algorithm or pandemic. Your mindset is yours to help you achieve whatever it is your heart desires.
Now go get it.