You’ve Had Your First Taste Of Success. Now What?!

We all taste success at some point, because when we want something deeply enough, we work tirelessly to get it. Consistent hard work brings positive results. While we all have the ability and opportunities to improve our circumstances, success is temporary for some people, whereas for others it’s a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I’ve always been interested as to why this happens, and whether there’s a difference in behaviour or mindset. What I have learned is that there is one threat, above all, which we need to be able to manage in order to keep winning and keep making progress.

One of the biggest threats to our continued success is not failure. Failure is an important part of success, because it’s one of life’s best teachers. Through failure, we learn what works and what doesn’t. We learn what feels right for us, and who we are. With each failure that we experience, we are given an opportunity to re-evaluate our goals and decide whether they are still relevant. So, if it’s not failure, what is this threat to success then?!

The biggest threat to success…is success. To be more precise, achieving success can leave us with a feeling of complacency, causing our egos to swell and encouraging us to relax our efforts. Some people find themselves unable, or unwilling, to push onwards when they are winning, and this leads to disappointment in the long term. Instead of capitalising on their win, and the opportunities which present themselves, they choose to drop everything and celebrate their achievements. While this may be a fun way to unwind after the grueling journey towards success, stopping to celebrate leads you to lose momentum and any advantage you might have gained so far. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be proud of our achievements and share them with others, but that we should practice moderation. Spend too much time congratulating yourself on your achievements so far, and you risk losing sight of your overall goals and the sense of urgency with which you started your pursuit of them.

This is what separates high achievers from the rest, because when this group achieve what they set out to, they take some time to celebrate but then get back to work. They reflect on what they have learned so far, how far they have come and how far they still have to go. Wherever necessary, they adjust their goals before getting back to work, focusing on the task at hand and not on past wins. The key factor that sets this group apart is a thirst for constant improvement in their lives, and a desire to positively impact the lives of others.

If you want success and achievement to be more than a one-off event, there are a few lessons you can learn from high achievers who make success a habit;

  • Moderation. Don’t get carried away in congratulations and celebrations. Take time to acknowledge and celebrate your wins, and then get back to work.
  • Reflection. As with failures, wins are also valuable learning experiences. Once you have finished celebrating, reflect on what you have learned so far, and what you need to get yourself to the next level.
  • Action. Get back to work and go after your next win.
  • Constant Improvement. In all areas of your life, constantly ask yourself – Can I do this better? How? Am I making the full use of my skills and abilities? Am I pushing myself to constantly achieve bigger and better?

Successes and wins are not a reason to stop trying to improve yourself, but rather what happens when you adopt a philosophy of constant improvement in all areas of your life.

We all need a challenge

If you don’t push yourself and leave your comfort zone, how can you hope to discover what you are truly capable of, where your talents lie and what your limitations are? That’s why, as well as goals, we need to set ourselves challenges. Challenges not only force us to learn, develop and grow, but also keep complacency and laziness at bay.

If you are a gym-goer,for instance, then you will probably be aware that every 6 weeks or so you have to increase the amount of weight you lift in order to challenge your muscles to grow stronger. A runner may find themselves increasing their distance or speed every few weeks. This is because the body adapts to the pressure it is put under after a few weeks and your progress begins to slow. This is why it is necessary to increase the pressure under which the body is placed, in order to keep your muscles adapting and developing.

Challenges come in many forms, not just physical. Studies have shown that, in the workplace, people not only need to feel appreciated but also challenged. Without challenging your brain, work can start to feel mundane and repetitive leading to the best staff heading for the exit. Outside of the workplace, our brains can still benefit from exercise, whether it take the form of puzzles, creative work, video games or anything else that forces you to learn and develop.

In short, all forms of challenge can;

  • Increase focus
  • Give you something to aim for
  • Force you to learn, grow and develop
  • Provide a huge confidence boost when overcome

While laying in hospital in a weakened state, I decided I needed a physical challenge which would motivate me to work hard on my health and fitness. So, after I was discharged, I took the plunge and entered 3 triathlons for next year. It’s been a few years since my last race and this is the perfect motivation to get me back on track. For me, a triathlon is one of the best physical challenges with 3 disciplines back to back. As your body tires, the temptation will present itself to keep stopping, slow down or give up. Persevering through the soreness, tiredness and negative self-talk is as important as your fitness levels and preparation for the race. The feeling when you cross the finish line in a triathlon is like nothing else, because you have not only taken on a physical challenge and won, but have also become mentally stronger in the process. I want to experience this feeling again next year, 3 times, so have already started easing myself into a training programme.

So far, we have only looked at voluntary challenges, by which I mean ones which we consciously choose. These, however, are not the only challenges we will face in life.

As we pursue our goals in life, no matter how well prepared we are, at some point we will hit a roadblock. As in many other difficult situations, there will be a temptation to give up and try something easier. A little voice in your head will also be telling you the same thing repeatedly. These situations, which seem terrible at the time, can be a blessing in disguise as they force you to reflect on your progress so far, what has led to this point and what you could learn from them. Once you overcome these unforeseen challenges, you will be able to get back to pursuing your goals while being wiser and more knowledgeable for the experience.

Whether you choose them specifically or they just happen, challenges are powerful forces for good. They force us to learn and grow, and stop us from stagnating in life and becoming bored or boring.

 

Complacency

Having recently looked at regret, and how it can either be a negative emotional state or a force for good, I would like to explore one of its main causes; complacency. In life, we often reach a certain level only to become comfortable, shift our priorities, develop a routine or just settle. In doing so, we lose some of our drive and stop chasing our goals with much purpose. Most worrying of all, though, complacency blinds us to many of the opportunities which present themselves to us. These could be opportunities, which with some work, have the potential to further improve our lives. However, we often don’t realise this until it is too late and the opportunity has long since passed.

Our minds, if we fully take advantage of them, are incredibly powerful. In the animal kingdom, doing everything they can to the best of their ability is a matter of life and death for many creatures. If they want to survive, then lions must become expert hunters, just as monkeys must become expert climbers and always alert. Humans, however have a choice. We actually choose, whether consciously or not, to do less than our best.

Every single person has the ability to choose their own destiny and to actually make it a reality. This is why some people, despite the most difficult of upbringings, achieve incredible success while others from privileged backgrounds falter and fall short of their dreams and ambitions. What is the difference, and why does one group soar, while other stumbles or falls flat on its face?

Much of this is tied to our mental and emotional strength. Anytime we pursue our goals, we will likely face challenges along the way. The bigger the goal, the bigger the challenges. It is our reaction to the challenges that we face which determines our success. The brain considers change to be a threat to the status quo, therefore we often become resistant to it or find ways to avoid it. Humans love to walk the path of least resistance. At crucial moments, we doubt ourselves and lack confidence. We give up too easily after a setback. Or we settle when we reach a certain point, for fear that the challenges which we will face as we try to strive for our next goal will be too big and beyond our abilities to overcome.

Challenges, as I have said before, are wonderful things. They are an important ingredient for success because they can teach us so much if we pay attention. We can gain knowledge, learn new skills or improve our abilities in a certain area as we strive to overcome them. Facing fears, challenges and obstacles which arise on your journey towards success also builds character. Or, if your prefer, you can avoid them and just remain comfortable while not exerting yourself. You are unlikely to achieve much with that attitude and approach though.

Settle for less or relentlessly go after your goals. One of these leads to a fulfilling life, the other to regret. The choice is yours, so choose wisely..