Every business requires a different set of skills, but four key elements underlie all success stories. To navigate that often ominous ocean known as the business world, you need to know what enables people to succeed. Successful people understand the power and purpose of goals. They do not set low standards, but aspire to something higher. When striving to obtain their goals, they plan but do not procrastinate. And finally, they refuse to fear failure.
Understand the Power and Purpose of Goals
Before you can achieve success, you must first set your goals. Goals possess both a power and a purpose that can affect us in three important ways:
1. By defining our goals we define ourselves. “What we truly and earnestly aspire to be,” said Anna Jameson, “that in some sense we are.”
2. By determining our goals we give our future direction. As Joe Clock has said, “It is the absence of immediate and compelling goals that leads to boredom, low energy, pessimism, depression, and despair…The ultimate scourge is purposelessness-a pervading realization that one’s life has no value to the world.”
3. By setting goals, we lend passion to our lives. “When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life,” writes Greg Anderson.
Aspire to Something Higher
When you set your goals, you need to aspire to something higher. When things don’t go as well as we’d like, we often grow discouraged. The mundane details of daily life and the pain of past failures can drain our energy and discourage us from setting high standards for ourselves. You may ask, why should I bother to aspire if I have not obtained my goals in the past?
The reason you should aspire is simple: the more intensely you focus on your object, the more likely you are to achieve it. The great American philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau once asked a very poignant, though rhetorical, question, “Did you ever hear of a man who had striven all his life faithfully and singly toward an object and in no measure obtained it?”
But aspiration is not to be treated as a goal in and of itself. For aspiration is but an initial step toward obtaining your goals. It is the emotion that drives you on toward realization. You must translate this powerful feeling into actual deeds.
Plan, But Don’t Procrastinate
Now that you’ve set your goals and are aspiring to achieve them, it’s time to act. When you make plans to meet your goals, consider how fine a line divides planning from procrastination. We need to find the happy medium between two age-old truisms: “Look before you leap,” on the one hand, and “He who hesitates is lost,” on the other.
When does forethought become inaction? When does seizing the moment only mean rushing in unprepared? There are those who argue that delay can never be beneficial. There is an ancient Slovakian proverb: “Anger is the only thing to put off till tomorrow.” However, rushing in to tackle a problem requires a considerable expenditure of time and effort. If those efforts are rashly focused on the wrong method or object, you could find you’ve squandered your time.
It is important to think through an action before taking it. But it’s just as important not to put off decision making. They key is to evaluate the situation carefully and clearly, arrive at a timely conclusion, and then act. We need both to plan and to act, to have standards and be flexible, to find that perfect, positive balance between rash action and unproductive inertia.
Fear Not Failure
All the planning in the world will never lead to success if you fear failure too much to act. For many, the biggest obstacle to success if feat of failure. This fear can keep us chained to mediocre performance. If, however, we surmount our nagging doubts, we will be free to pursue our goals unfettered.
Ironically, we often avoid the possibility of failure by failing to challenge ourselves. We lower our aim, or we refuse to take our own goals seriously. We often tell ourselves we cannot achieve something so that we are not disappointed if we do not achieve it. This is a defeatist attitude we must combat if we are to have any chance of success. Success does not consist of merely avoiding failure; for anyone can avoid failure if they set their standards low enough.
Fear of failure is natural. So how can we overcome it and press on toward our goals? We should recognize that the occasional failure is an opportunity for growth. We can gain wisdom from failure, learning from our mistakes. Yet even this realization will not utterly destroy our fears. People who succeed do not succeed because they have no fear of failure; they succeed because they learn to live with that fear, and by living with it, conquer it. Fear may never leave you, but you can leave it!