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Stop Trying To Be Successful

Well, doesn’t that just fly in the face of all things people working on happiness and positivity and toward a big goal focus upon.  I mean the whole point of the exercise, in whatever endeavor, is to be successful, no?

Swimmer in the swimming pool

Of course.

But the point here is not to quit being successful, but to quit trying to be.

And this isn’t some semantics’ thing!  I’m not saying this in the sense of what lots of coaches say whenever you use that verb: “Don’t try to be something, get up and be it.”  Which is all good and true, but not what we’re getting at here.

The trap so many folks fall into when pursuing anything, from a better golf game to achieving that promotion to standing atop the podium somewhere, to following new-age spiritual thought about focusing from the end, is to get tunnel vision on the prize.  But the essence isn’t in the thing they’re striving to attain, it isn’t in the winning of the thing.

Yep, that’s the carrot.  The prize at the end of the day. And while it’s fine to dream it, want it, the desire itself being the force that propels you on, when you’re focused on that end, you miss the boat that’ll get you there.

Athletes know this better than anyone.  And I tend to use studies about them to prove points because in most sports, the method for quantifying success is pretty cut and dry.  Yes, many “judged” events are out there.  But most sports are timed, measured, results given in absolutes.

In other words, unless the 100-yard-dash guy trips the runner next to him, whoever has the fastest time wins.

So how does one find that road to success?

By following the road, rather than focusing on the prize.

Athletes have long visualized their performances before competition.  And that’s the key—they focus on the doing of the thing, not what happens after the finish line.  It’s a fine line, but one I hear people getting mixed up about every single day.

Swimmers visualize each stroke, each turn, where they’ll make their moves at the 75 yard mark.  So do runners. And pole vaulters.  And football players.  So do gymnasts and figure skaters and golfers.  They see themselves performing through every single move they’ll face, accomplishing each element that they’ve trained for every day of their lives.  Feeling it in their muscles as they execute at the highest levels.

In short, walking down that competition road, focused on one step at a time.

All wins, whether in the Olympics or the board room, live and die in the process.

That old, “life is about the journey” saying.  Because, everything’s in the journey.

Funny thing too, this is how to become a person of value. By valuing the process, you bring value to yourself.  Knowing that every move—even the missteps—brings you closer to your goal.  What you learn along the way brings a deeper understanding of yourself, and hopefully, the life you’re living.

And all of that in pursuit of a goal.

It’s one of the reasons I so firmly believe that to live a rich and rewarding life, you have to stay in the game—whatever garment that game is dressed in for you.  There’s a reason 14% of men die 5 years after retirement, which doesn’t have to do with simple aging . . .

And it’s also the very thing I say to people who tell me, “I want to write a book.”  (ed link) Great!  But don’t focus on the Mt. Everest that writing an entire book may seem (and be). Instead, sit down and write the first paragraph.  And then the next.  Take it in segments, and focus on each scene being the very best you can make it.  If you do this every day, by the end of the year you’ll have that book written.

So, quit trying to be successful.  Focus instead on the steps to get your there, the journey to the brass ring rather than the shiny ring itself.

I love the brilliance of Sports Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Lardon.  He’s worked with and studied elite athletes (and been one himself) for decades.   As Lardon says, “This human predilection to be strictly results-oriented is toxic to the elite performer. When you stay more process-oriented and focus on mastering the controllable variables, you inevitably accomplish greater results.”  —Finding Your Zone

How do you become successful?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Michael LaRocca

    Many people enjoy the view from the top of the mountain. But if you don’t also enjoy the journey, it’s the wrong goal for you.

    1. Susan Malone

      So true, Michael. If we don’t love what we’re doing day to day . . .

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