The answer to achieving success at work and in life

The absolute secret to success - but be warned, it might hurt!

Many of us think about what ‘success’ means — what it looks like for me and how I’ll know when I get there. It’s one of life’s tough questions, and often takes years (if ever) for us to get clarity on ‘what’s it all about?’ — for us.

There is good news though. While nailing what ‘success’ means can be a long journey, the answer on how to get there is right in front of our noses. Seriously. Achieving ‘success’ is built around one very simple habit.

The most critical single quality for success is self-discipline.

“Ho hum’” you might well say. “Is that it? Surely there is more to it than that?” Truth is, there isn’t.

As Elbert Hubbard defines it, ‘self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not’.

According to Brian Tracy, there are three steps in Hubbard’s approach.

Step 1: Making yourself do what you should do.

Easier said than done. You have to use strength and will power to force yourself into motion, to break the power of inertia that holds you back. Fitness guru Michelle Bridges has a great tool to help on this. She calls it “J.F.D.I”  – when you know you need to get started but really, really don’t feel like it, then “Just ‘F**king Do It”, she says. But there’s a twist. You must J.F.D.I… but, do it for just 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes you don’t want to continue, then stop. According to Michelle, it’s extremely rare people stop after 10 minutes. Once you get started, you get the momentum and away you go. Give it a go. It works!

Step 2: Doing what you should do when you should do it.

Yes – you have to take action. But you have to take it at the right times. You have to make plans, develop a schedule, then do what you’ll say you’ll do. You have to keep your promises to yourself and others.

Step 3: And you have to do it whether you feel like it or not.

The true test of character, says Tracy,  is when you do something you know you must do whether you feel like it or not. This is the greatest test of self-discipline.

So – keep thinking about and evolving what ‘success’ looks like for you. I loved this quote from the movie “Papadopoulos and Sons”, where the failed business tycoon, now working in his brother’s fish and chip shop and when asked what success means to him, answered: “Success is the amount of joy you feel in your life“. Powerful.

And remember, getting there is all about self-discipline, summarised in the wise words of Brian Tracy: “Your ability to endure… to continue taking action step by step in the direction of your dreams, is what will ultimately ensure your success. If you keep on keeping on, nothing will stop you.”

Keep on keeping on – NOTHING will stop you if you do that. Good luck!

More reading: 

Success at work: what are you chasing?
Are you living your résumé or your eulogy?
The Zulu, the rugby coach, and how to keep winning
Don’t get caught up in the career game
This is how you make a start on a more successful life


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