So, you have a goal. That’s all you need, right? A vision of what you’d like to achieve tossed with a motivational maxim and you’re good to go.
All you need to do now is sit and wait for the cosmos to hear your call, align the planets, and deliver your fortune.
That was the sum of my grand strategy when, at the age of 18, I resolved to “save some money” to buy a new car.
By the end of the year, I had amassed just enough wealth to purchase a set of car tyres.
The cosmos was obviously running on low charge that year. Or something.
My goal, of course, failed because I had failed to recognise that, in setting out an objective – no matter the size – there needs to be a proper strategy in place, i.e. a strategy driven by focus, realistic expectation, and commitment to the outcome.
Looking back, my “strategy” was only going to succeed with the help of a lamp housing a genie.
To be fair to those who have visions, they can be tough to realise, but rarely impossible.
How much of ourselves we invest in achieving a goal will determine the level of return we get back.
Whether our dreams of success lie in our professional or personal lives, it is vital to avoid falling into the trap of idealistic expectation.
Instead, we need to realise the reality that behind any success, it takes effort, time, and commitment on our part to achieve anything we set our hearts on.
Even those who are already successful and, in the minds of many, “have everything” they need to maintain incredible focus and drive whenever they set new goals.
Oprah Winfrey, the American billionaire and TV mogul, is famous for her relentless pursuit of self-improvement in learning a particular skill, living outside her comfort zone, or deepening her spiritual awareness.
Like any competent person, she is aware that success isn’t just about what you do to get there; it’s also dependent on who you are.
The more you can invest in yourself beyond your college degree, the more likely you’ll stay on course to achieve whatever goal you set.
With that in mind, it’s also important to get to know yourself.
You can read books on success, collate interesting quotes, and listen to inspiring talks, but you need to know where you are starting from.
Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and – as in Winfrey’s example – work on improving your skillset and personal communication skills.
There is no sense in looking to establish a career in banking if you have poor numeracy skills and lack the ability to network.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t develop and hone those skills in order to turn your dream into a reality.
When setting out your vision, allow progress to come one day at a time.
Keep your eye on the finishing line and make sure each step you take is manageable, achievable and conducive to your overall success.
As the American President Abraham Lincoln once said:
“I may walk slowly, but I never walk back.”
Lincoln was a man revered for his capacity to captivate his audience with stirring speeches, wise words and comical tales; and yet, he was also a man who received less than one year formal schooling and taught himself how to write.
A voracious reader and keen observer, he knew the value of investing in his own potential and, in time, his efforts paid off, leading him to the White House, and ensuring an indelible legacy as one of the world’s most effective and inspiring leaders.
Rooted in values
While it’s easy to become insular when charting your vision, don’t forget the value of those around you in terms of the impact they can have on your future.
Actively seek out people you feel are smarter, wiser and more experienced than you.
The motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, offered a valuable reminder to us when he said:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
The English actor and author, Stephen Fry, expanded on that statement when describing his education at Cambridge University.
He insisted that, while his professors were brilliant in their teachings, he learnt most from discussions and debates with the friends he had around him.
Never underestimate the potential value of input people can have on your vision’s journey: a single line of thought can open up avenues you never before considered.
Remember that success doesn’t come overnight. No beginner, for example, has ever walked into a gym and become a bodybuilding champion within the first month.
The reason why many people fail to succeed is because they lack the perseverance to stick it out. In other words, they do not have grit.
What is grit? It’s the quality that defines a person’s capacity to stomach the toughest times, endure failures and press on despite setbacks encountered along the way.
If you are passionate about what you want, your grit will prove to you sooner than later that it’s impossible to fail if you never give up.
Attitude is vital
When asked what was the most important factor dependent on success, Scotland’s first self-made billionaire Sir Tom Hunter was unequivocal in his response:
“Attitude trumps aptitude, every time.”
It is essential to put yourself in the driver’s seat when setting out your vision. You have to be in control of the process in order to reach your desired outcome.
The strength of any vision relies solely on the strength of your dedication and commitment towards your own future.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the noted psychologist Viktor Frankl gives us the bottomline on what makes or breaks us:
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognise that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
Sandy Clarke is a journalist in the UK with years of experience in journalism, public relations and communications, and was press officer to the Scottish Government at one time. Send in your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or send your comments in the box provided.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 17 January 2015
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.