In my experience the ingredients for success can be isolated, and what’s more there are just five.
Principle 1 – Belief
If you don’t believe you are going to succeed, you won’t. Simple as that. Perhaps you’re thinking that buying a winning lottery ticket disproves that. You buy a ticket, totally believing you have no chance of winning, and you end up a millionaire.
But you did believe – deep down somewhere in your subconscious. That is why you bought the ticket in the first place!
Napoleon Hill, in his best-selling book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ – first published in the 1930s – famously wrote:
‘Anything the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve’
But that does not happen as you lounge in front of the TV with a beer in one hand, idling through your smartphone with the other! Effective belief comes from what self-improvement experts call ‘programming your mind for success’. It sounds pretty extreme and may seem implausible but in reality it is little more than we do all the time, unconsciously, unknowingly – as part of the learning process.
There are several different techniques or approaches, all based on the following: if we believe something enough, our subconscious will find a way to make it happen.
Principle 2 – Preparation
Belief is stage 1, preparation or programming is stage 2. For our thoughts to become a reality, we have to work on them. Belief on its own is just fantasy, wishful thinking. Belief based on firm foundations – knowledge, experience and expertise – is what it’s all about.
We have to programme or prepare our subconsious mind to achieve our goals. We have to give it the tools it needs to do the jobs we want it to do.
Programming your mind is an example of the practice of ‘auto-suggestion’. A pioneer of the method was French 19th century psychologist Emile Coué who urged his patients to recover their health by encouraging them to believe the phrase:
‘Every Day in Every Way, I am Getting Better and Better’.
The start of mind-preparation is refining your goal, what you want to do or achieve, writing it down and breaking it down into manageable parts with a timetable for completion of each stage and review dates to assess progress on a regular basis. Then you need to have a constant conversation with yourself, repeatedly declaring the goal or part-goal you want to achieve – first thing in the morning and last thing at night – until your objective is achieved.
A further element is ‘visualisation’ – imagining you have achieved your goal, and trying to feel the sense of pride, achievement, enjoyment and happiness which will follow.
Step by step, the theory goes, your subconscious will diligently and methodically work its way through your objectives, helping you to hang on in there when the going gets tough, effectively brain-storming and resolving problem after problem – often as you sleep.
Principle 3 – Action
It is not enough to reconfigure your mind for success, you also need to test your preparation by launching into the action phase. Whatever your goal, you need to start and continue the series of stages or steps needed for success.
The bigger, the more complex or multi-faceted your goal, the more stages that will be needed and the longer the process will take – and, of course, the more challenging it will be, and the greater the risk of failure.
This juncture, where action is needed, is for many people the most dangerous point. Dangerous because there is a very high risk that they will not actually start up. Like the driver who spends time and effort getting their car ready for a long journey, they get into the driver’s seat but they don’t turn the key – and just sit there.
Analysis paralysis is a major reason why many people never get going. They over-analyse everything and end up not being able to stick or twist.
I like Connor McGregor’s take on the importance of action, quoted on Pinterest:
‘Act the way you want to become and before you know it, it just happens’.
Taking the time to gain the right mindset is a complete waste of time if you don’t put your goals into action.
Underlying negative beliefs and feelings of inadequacy are not easy to eradicate.
Despite mind re-programming, elements of doubt and fear often remain and comfort is sought in trotting out a 101 ‘good reasons’ for not going forward such as: age, race, gender, health, marital status, education, money, knowledge – to mention just a few.
Of course none of them are ‘good reasons’ – merely excuses to justify backing out or delay. Setting your goals with someone – such as a business or ‘accountability’ partner – makes it less likely that you will fall at this important hurdle.
Working with others is one of the best antidotes for inertia. Another good approach is just to think of the slogan popularised by Nike:
Principle 4 – Assessment
Once you have started, you need to make sure that you keep going in the right direction and consider and address the problems and issues which will inevitably arise, time and time again.
Your goals and plans need to be regularly, comprehensively and honestly reviewed – always by you, but also, where possibly, by a third party who can provide any necessary element of expertise or objectivity which you may lack. Here too having a business partner, coach, mentor or professional adviser may help.
Regular and thorough reviews can help to identify problems early, giving you a chance to address them in good time – with the best prospects of sorting things out. You need to constantly review how well your goal-attainment is doing. If things go wrong you need to be ready willing and able to fix up and if necessary start again.
Principle 5 – Perseverance
In the course of pursing any goal, problems – perhaps serious problems – are inevitable. Usually the challenges you face will be relatively minor, capable of being sorted out without breaking the bank or putting you out of business.
However, sometimes challenges can be terminal in nature, especially if not identified early. A good example in the field of property is the decision of the Government to reduce mortgage interest tax relief on buy-to-let properties owned by individuals. From the tax year 2017-2018, individual landlords will each year lose 25% of the tax relief previously enjoyed.
The end result is that they will be increasingly liable to pay more tax, reducing their profits – in some instances to zero. In some cases, because of the absurdity of the tax system, landlords will be paying tax even though, strictly speaking, they are not in receipt of profits. It is likely to be end of game for any landlord who ignores these changes and fails to take corrective measures.
Corrective action available to landlords includes:
This example illustrates the importance of regularly assessing goals and plans and the need to make changes, sometimes drastic changes, where necessary. For some buy-to-let landlords, the best course of action will be to sell up and get out of property altogether. But for others, taking into account their own specific financial or personal circumstances, throwing in the towel may not be the right course of action.
Key ingredients of successful perseverance include flexibility, adaptability and realism.
Some people see the smallest hurdle, failure or setback as justification for slowing down or stopping. They are easily discouraged, easily deflected from their course.
Successful people, and those likely to be successful, take the time and effort to work out what has gone wrong and why, before rebooting and moving forward again – carefully, with their eyes wide open. Giving up, giving in, opting out – those are things they look at only as a last resort.
LOSERS GIVE UP, WINNERS FIX UP! Fixing up does not mean that you stick with your original goals at all costs and never change objectives or course. Just as quitting at the first sign of trouble is wrong, so too is holding on stubbornly when things are clearly not working.
Having to start again will always be hard. You will feel that you have wasted time, and perhaps money, and you will be wary about a repetition.
Since most people in pursuit of a goal will suffer multiple setbacks during their journey, the ability to fix up and restart – if necessary – is a must. Persistence or perseverance is needed to ensure that you don’t ever make knee-jerk decisions, but instead seek the views of others and take expert advice as to the best way forward.
As the saying goes: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again’.