Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
What is Success?
Have you ever thought, “I want to be successful?” I know I have. But what is that…really? Is it having a lot of money, being well educated, having freedom, helping others….what is success?
A couple of years ago, I was talking to a new neighbor and we started swapping stories about our families. The neighbor’s son was getting a degree in Finance and my brother has a degree in Finance as well. During the conversation, I said a few things like, “My brother is very successful. He has a bunch of real estate and rental properties. He has done very well for himself.” In the same conversation, I turned the tables on myself and said that I have never figured out how to do any of that. We have 9 kids and money is always tight. And this new neighbor said, “You have 9 kids…that sounds pretty successful to me!”
At that moment, something shifted in my brain, and I realized that I had been approaching this all wrong. I had been looking at other people to help me determine my own success and in the process, I had deemed myself…”Unsuccessful.”
Determined to overcome that poverty mindset, I have learned all I can to help others look at their lives and fully embrace their current success and future opportunities.
Here are 10 Habits to Be Successful in Life
1. Know Who You Are – Set the Foundation
Who are you? Why are you here? What is your purpose? These are the deep questions of life that drive us whether we talk about them or not. Because under all the outside appearance, we need to know who we are and why what we are doing matters. There are plenty of successful (wealthy) people who live miserable lives filled with devastation in their personal relationships. Clearly, not all “success” leads to a blessed life.
So to be successful in life, we need to ask ourselves these deep questions. And if we don’t know the answers, it is ok to know that too. But don’t stop searching. You were created for a purpose to do good work and knowing who you are is the foundation for all the other steps. Your life is a blessing and when you know that, it overflows in natural abundance onto those around you.
Your purpose and your identity MUST be built on something BIGGER than you. People who are successful in life make a habit of operating with sense of purpose.
I would argue that to find peace as well as purpose, your life must be built on knowing the ONE who created you. Many people like to refer to a “Life Source, Mother Nature or Great Spirit. ” In fact, every major religion has a name for their “god.” But there is only ONE (and they are not all the same) who created you and can give you Peace, a restored Identity, Forgiveness and Confidence that your life on earth will continue forever in a better place. The Bible calls Him “Elohim” and He has made you for a purpose and wants a relationship with you.
My Favorite Motivation and Productivity Books
2. Identify Your End Goals
This is big-picture thinking. Step way back from your life and identify how you want your life to go. At the end of your life on earth, what do you want that to look like? Do you want to be active and healthy? Do you want to have wealth to give away? Do you want good relationships with your family? Prioritize the big picture goals of your life because they will help you as you make choices along the way.
3. Write Out Your Goals & Filter by Seasons of Life
One of our sons has always had a 5-year plan. He has always brainstormed years out even from the time he was in early elementary school. I learned a lot from watching him do that. As it turns out, having goals is pretty safe. Absolutely no one gets hurt by you writing down your goals on paper. It is ok to dream really big and really detailed on paper. Write down goals for your Relationships, Career, Home, Education, Health, and Spiritual Life.
It helps to get things out of our heads. But once you have that list of goals, go through and identify the top goal in each category. Now…FILTER. Does that goal line up with your End Goals? Is that goal a good one for the season of life you are in right now?
Moms often face the dilemma of how to prioritize goals. They may have chosen to stop working when they had children. Or they may be underemployed to allow for a more flexible schedule, so they can be present for their children. When babies come along, it is often hard to navigate fitness goals for a while as sleep and childcare are competing needs for time away at the gym. So we must look at our goals with some kind of a filter to help us navigate whether the goals we have line up with our big End Goals and are a good fit for our current season of life. Often our definition of being successful in life will vary depending on all the factors we are juggling.
(Links in this post may be affiliate links. I will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking those links.)
4. Declutter your life
Once you have identified what your smaller goals are, it is time to declutter.
Physically Decluttering: We are in a season of life transitioning away from homeschooling (for now…but maybe not forever!). My current office also doubles as a library and supply storage room. So right now, I’m decluttering a lot of curriculum that served us in the past but isn’t needed in the next season.
Opportunity Decluttering…Say NO! In many ways, I am an introvert. I value quiet and time to think. However, I also really like being around people. I recently felt very inspired by people and FILLED my schedule with daily outings and social opportunities to engage with others. By the end of the week, I crashed hard for days. As it turns out, not all social interactions are the same. Some fill you up and others drain the life out of you. Choose LIFEgiving opportunities and let go of the rest.
Filling your days with people, things and opportunities in line with your goals leads to being successful in life.
5. Plan Your Days
Having a plan for our days gives us a target to aim at. It is not meant to be something that makes us feel guilty. I say this because as a mom with a lot of children, I often have days where things go sideways and the original list does not get done. That doesn’t mean nothing got done…and when it happens, it is because the things we did lined up with my Big End Goals. That is ok.
That said…to be successful in life, it is a good idea to plan our days. A technique I enjoy using is called Time Blocking. It is explained well in this article. In essence, if you look at your day, go ahead and map it out in half-hour or hour chunks and preplan what you will do during this time. Establishing a habit of mapping out your time allows you to figure out how long it takes to complete a task. It also serves as a reminder to stay focused on your goals. With a glance at the plan, you will know exactly what you should be doing.
6. Eliminate Distrations
In his book, InDistractable, author Nir Eyal makes the strong argument that time is our most valuable resource and yet we waste it by filling our time with distractions that keep us from our goals. A primary offender is technology. Our phones, ever on our person, are useful productivity tools and sources of endless distraction.
We have all heard stories of someone’s adult children who live in the basement and are consumed with playing video games. The distraction of technology has quite literally consumed their lives. While most technology distractions do not turn us into unbathed, disheveled, basement dwellers, they can cause us to miss out on the life we really want.
Here are 5 simple tips to create more focus:
- Silence ALL notifications on your phone
- Put your phone in another room when you are sleeping
- Have a “no technology” rule at the dinner table
- Schedule the times of day you will check email, Facebook and other social media you enjoy.
- When you are with other people in a social setting, put away the phone and be fully engaged
7. Live in Community
A key to being successful in life is living in community….intentionally living with and around people that support us as we move toward our goals. Business gurus encourage people to “build a network” all the time. But what is that…is it just swapping business cards at early morning breakfasts or is it something more?
For a long time, I espoused the ideas of independence and a desire to “live off the grid.” My idea of being successful in life was living apart from other people. Part of that is sometimes still appealing, but as I developed a broader understanding of relationships, I realized that a mutually supportive group of people is far superior to an independent mindset. Sure, I know people aren’t always trustworthy and may let us down.
Where do we find this community? In my experience, we find community when we surround ourselves with like-minded people or those that share similar interests and values. Years ago, I was desperate for mom-friends, so I started a Scrapbooking Meetup Group. I put it out there on Meetup.com and invited perfect strangers to come scrapbook at my house. That first night was hilarious as moms knocked on the door with a look of slight trepidation and relief when they found out it was real and there wasn’t a psycho at the door. Every one of them took a minute to jot off a quick text to their spouses to let them know that it was “ok” and they were fine. That group lasted for years and many long-lasting friendships were built from that experience.
Others might find community in a church, community group, parenting group, or athletic organization. There are lots of places to build friendships. We can expect that out of those friendships we will build connections that will continue to bless us in other areas of our lives. Successful people view relationships with people as assets of great value.
8. Be Generous in Your Attitude toward others
As we navigate the idea of being successful in life, it is exceedingly important that we be generous in our attitude toward others. Assume the best. Even when people say something offensive or unkind, assume something good about them. Maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe they have poor social skills. Maybe neither are true but assuming something good helps us have a positive mindset toward others. This generous attitude helps us preserve precious mental energy for things that support our goals rather than waste time ruminating on things that don’t help us.
In addition, if we assume the best of others, it will often trickle back to us. Others will know that we are not judgmental, safe to talk to, and on their side. This makes us an ally. People will (usually!) assume the best about us when we do that for them.
9. Be Consistent
People who are successful in life identify a goal and make progress toward it consistently. Whether the goal is stronger relationships, exercise, education, or anything else, spending 10 minutes a day on a goal will yield much better results than 5 hours (300 minutes) once a month. And let’s face it…if we aren’t willing to give our goal 10 minutes a day, are we going to give it 5 whole hours once a month anyway?
I have found that being consistent in working toward a goal has required some creativity but it is absolutely worth it. As a mom with a schedule that changes all the time, I need to have flexible ways to work on my goals. I need to seize the opportunities as they arise.
Ideas for that promote flexibility working on goals:
- Get up early
- Use small chunks of time efficiently (I keep a few things handy to use car time well while waiting to pick up kids from school or practice).
- Walk while doing another task (talking on phone or listening to audio books)
- Listen to audio books or podcasts while driving in the car
- Participate in online groups that support your current goals
Consistent pursuit of your goals…even if it’s only 10 minutes a day…will keep the goal on your mind consistently and you will begin adjusting things in your life so that the free time you have to work on your goal grows over time.
10. Stop Making Excuses!!
In his class book, The Magic of Thinking BIG, David J. Schwartz says,
“Go deep in your study of people, and you’ll discover unsuccessful people suffer a mind-deadening thought disease. We call this disease excusitis.….You will discover that excusitis explains the difference between the person who is going places and the fellow who is barely holding his own. You will find that the more successful the individual, the less inclined he is to make excuses.”
Essentially, people who are successful in life take 100% responsibility for their lives…both success and failures. They could make excuses…after all their lives are not perfect…but they CHOOSE not to.
Schwartz outlines 4 common excuses:
- Health Excuses: These range from the mild, “I’m not feeling well” to “I have XYZ health problem so I can’t do that.”
- You Have to be Smart to Succeed Excuse: This excuse blames a lack of education or knowledge for the reason one is not successful.
- I’m Too Old or Too Young Excuse: This excuse blames age as the reason one can’t achieve their goals
- Bad Luck Excuse: This is looking at other people’s success and deeming that their accomplishments are based on luck.
Excuses allow us to remain spectators in life. Excuses prevent us from being successful in life. We can comfortably compare ourselves to others and find an endless number of reasons why they accomplish their goals and we do not. Instead of comparing ourselves to others. we need to take a personal inventory of ourselves and ask ourselves what we are doing to hold ourselves back. No more excuses.
Begin Today…Start with What you Have…but Begin
Years ago, I was talking to my brother and said something like, “If I just had XYZ, I could start a business.” He wisely jumped in and said, “That is a false assumption. The truth is, people, can start businesses with nothing, using just the things they have in front of them.”
And I have come to realize how true that is in life in general. We can start exercising without special clothes or a gym membership. We can start organizing without special planners and stickers. Being successful in life and working toward goals don’t require that we have the perfect setup to begin. We begin with what we have and build on the early success over time.
I’d love to hear what goals you want to work on in your life! Drop me a note or share in the comments below.