how to succeed in life

How to Succeed in Life

No matter where you live or how old you are, you know that it is hard to succeed in life. Regardless of age or social status, we all want to succeed. Even though we all want to succeed, our definition of success is different. If you just started a new job, success to you might be recognition among your coworkers. If you lost your job, success is finding a job fast. If you are in school, success might be an early graduation.

There are no universal standards for success. Success is different for all people. We all define success in our own ways. Money, power, and recognition are some of the most revered signs of success. Success might be different for you. The most important step toward success is to define success for yourself.

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” Henry David Thoreau

Before we go further, I want you to acknowledge that in many ways, you are already successful. If you assume that you are a failure until you reach your goals, you will never be truly successful. You will never be truly happy unless you accept the fact that you are already successful in many ways. Recognize and appreciate everything that you have accomplished in your life.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the most significant accomplishments of my life?
  • How did I succeed in my previous goals?
  • What can I do to have more success?
  • What have I learned about myself in the process of reaching my goals?

One more thing about success.

Success is less about reaching goals and more about the journey. You will never fail if you enjoy the journey toward your goals.

What success means for you?

The most important thing about success is that if you don’t define it for yourself, someone else will define it for you.

What is success for you? Money? Recognition? More time to travel? Take an honest assessment of where you are in life today. What would make you happy? What would it look like to live a fulfilled life?

When I was younger, I believed that more money equals more happiness. Today I know that it is important to have money to pay my bills, but there is a point where more money doesn’t result in greater happiness.

To me, success is about happiness. You know what makes you happy. You know what the perfect day looks like for you. Make a list of what the perfect life looks like to you.

Answer the following questions about success:

  • What is really important to me?
  • What am I truly passionate about?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • What is my ideal lifestyle?
  • What does the perfect day look like?

Here is how successful people define success:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” –  Maya Angelou

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”Socrates

“I measure success by how many people love me.”Warren Buffett

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.”Confucius

“Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”Thomas Edison

“If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience,” he writes in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “you will find your definition of success.”Stephen Covey

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”Winston Churchill

“Success isn’t how much money you have. Success is not what your position is. Success is how well you do what you do when nobody else is looking.”John Paul DeJoria

Learn about success

How did other people succeed before you? When you look at other people who succeeded, don’t ask: “Why them and not me?” It is better to say: “If they succeeded, I can succeed too.”

You can learn from successful people in several ways:

  • Read books about people who have succeeded. If you want to start a business, read about people who have successfully started a business in the past. If you want to become a doctor, read books on what it takes to get into med school.
  • Attend seminars related to your interest.
  • Find a meetup group to network with like-minded people. If your goal is to lose weight, there are groups for that. If your goal is to learn a programming language, there are groups for that too.

Success requires planning

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

Success is no accident. Those who plan succeed. When you look at successful people, almost always, there is a plan to succeed. They know what they want. They know where they are now, and they are willing to take the necessary steps to succeed.

It is important to make a plan that is right for you. For example, if you are forgetful, set yourself reminders to take action. If you need encouragement, create a support group to help you succeed. Know your personality. Create a plan that fits your personality best.

Set realistic goals

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

Goals are important for several reasons:

  • Goals help you get clarity in terms of what you want in life.
  • Goals provide direction.
  • Goals help you push yourself beyond your limits.

What about unrealistic goals? One of the reasons people fail is because they set unrealistic goals. If you set unrealistic goals, you will fail. It sounds great to set a goal to make $1,000,000 dollars. But, if you only make $40,000 a year today you shouldn’t set a goal to make 1 million in the next 6-months. It won’t happen. As a result, you will be frustrated.

Don’t confuse thinking big with unrealistic goals. It is good to think big, but you have to act small. If you want to be fluent in Spanish, you can’t start by speaking fluently after the first lesson. You have to start learning words. Then, you can start putting sentences together. Think big, but set goals you can reach.

Have the courage to succeed

Successful people have courage. Dr. Seuss had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers. If you are going to succeed, you have to have to courage to be rejected.

Increase your self-confidence by the following:

  • Desensitize yourself from rejection. Learn from Jia Jiang, who put himself through a 100-day rejection therapy.
    Visualize a successful image of yourself.
  • Tell yourself that you will succeed. Positive affirmations are effective in boosting your self-confidence.
  • Reject your inner critic. You get some of the harshest criticism from your inner critic. Ignore it.

Imagine success

“What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”Napoleon Hill

If you want to succeed, you have to be able to imagine success. I think that there is a big difference between imagination daydreaming. Visualizing is a tool that will help you succeed. Daydreaming is an activity that will not get you closer to success. Daydreaming is an impulse. Imagining is strategic.

You might be daydreaming about being rich one day. Unfortunately, it will not help you get rich. Daydreaming has no connection to reality. It has no substance. It is empty. Daydreaming is the junk food of the soul.

Imagination is productive. It involves direction. Imagining is also more emotional. You are making a real connection with your goals. Imagination is moving towards your goal as opposed to daydreaming, where you are trying to get away from something.

Don’t waste your time with daydreaming.

Be likable

If you are a likable person, you will be more likely to succeed. It doesn’t matter how talented, smart, or educated you are, if people don’t like you, you will be less likely to succeed. Let’s face it; you need other people to help you succeed. If someone likes you, she will go out of her way to help you.

Here are the top reasons likable people succeed:

  • Positive attracts, and negative repels. Positivity is attractive. People gravitate toward positive people.
  • Likable people have more friends. It is easier for them to ask for help when needed.
  • People prefer to do business with people they like.
  • You are more likely to be hired for your dream job if you are likable. A large part of getting hired is how much the people who interviewed you like you. They are not hiring a set of skills; they are hiring a person.

Manage time effectively

Time management is the key to success in everything. Successful people understand that time is limited. You only have 24-hours each day. When you manage your time effectively, you take control of your time. Your focus will enable you to accomplish more with less effort.

Better time management results in improved decision making. If you dedicate a chunk of time to complete a specific task, you won’t feel like you don’t have time to complete the task. When you control your time, you reduce stress in your life.

Network with successful people

Network with successful people. Reach out to people in your network to connect. If you are not directly connected with someone, you want to learn from asking for an introduction. Use social media to find people. Most people use at least one form of social media. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are some of the best tools to reach out to successful people.

Develop selective hearing

Successful people are selective about taking advice. They understand that they shouldn’t listen to most people. They are great at ignoring the noise. Only listen to those who will help you succeed. Everyone has an opinion, but it doesn’t mean that every opinion is valuable.

To succeed, you must take action

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” – Thomas Jefferson

Dreamers dream. Successful people take action. Taking action is the less glamorous part of success. It is the part most of us don’t see. When you go to a concert to hear a world-class pianist, you don’t see the thousands of hours of practice hours. For the pianist, taking action is putting in the long hard hours to practice.

Instead of waiting for the perfect time, you must take action. Instead of hoping for a miracle, you must take action. Instead of expecting a shortcut to success, you have to take laser-focused action.

If you want to succeed, you have to take action in the following ways:

  • Set specific goals. If you want to make $100,000 in a year, you need to reverse engineer how much you have to make a month and even each week. If you want to make $100,000 in a year, you have to make $8,333 per month and $1,923 per week. Once you know the specific number to reach your goal, you can plan the appropriate action that will help you get there. What kind of jobs pay $100,000 or more? What skills do I need to learn to get one of those jobs?
  • Put it in writing. If you write down the steps you need to take, you will be more likely to take action.
  • Find a way to keep yourself accountable. Hire a personal coach if you need help taking action. You could also ask a friend or family member to keep you accountable.
  • Join a group of like-minded people with similar goals. A mastermind group is a great way to push yourself to take action. For example, if you want to learn Spanish, organize a meetup of people who want to learn Spanish. Meet at least once a month to test how much each of you learned in the past 30-days.
  • Blog about taking action. A blog is a great way to document your journey.

Enjoy the journey

Unfortunately, many people waste their lives chasing the next thing. Successful people understand that the journey is more important than the destination. Happiness is the greatest form of success. If you learn how to enjoy today, you will be more successful than most.

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” – Eckhart Tolle

As you are working toward your goals in life, make time to be grateful for what you have today. Keep a gratitude journal. Take time out of your day, every day, to be grateful. It is best to be grateful for the little things in life.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”Ernest Hemingway

You will enjoy the journey more if you follow the following steps:

  • Take pleasure in the simple things. Enjoy a morning walk. Call a friend. Do something that you enjoy doing.
  • Appreciate the little victories. Reflect on your accomplishments, no matter how small they are.
  • Welcome the challenges you face. Understand that success is only possible if you face challenges. You have to take risks, and sometimes you will make mistakes too.
  • Be patient. It takes time to succeed. Give yourself a realistic time-frame to succeed. If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert pianist, you shouldn’t expect to get there in 1,000 hours.

Follow your passion

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer

If you live a life where you follow your passion, you are already successful. To succeed, you should love what you do.

There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning, having to do something you hate. Successful people seek activities that they are passionate about. When you allow yourself to follow your passion, you will have more fun.


“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee

Successful people know the importance of focus. Life is full of distractions. There are phone calls, meetings, scheduled and unscheduled meetings, time wasted on Facebook, and many other distractions that suck time away from reaching your goals in life. Successful people minimize distractions to stay focused on their goals.

Focus will help you succeed in several ways:

  • When you have focus, you need less energy to succeed.
  • Focus will help you state your goals.
  • You will measure and track your goals.
  • Focus helps you prioritize. You will know what tasks must be completed to progress toward your goals.
  • With focus, you develop positive habits of success.
  • When you are laser-focused on success, you won’t be easily deterred. People who fail to succeed lost focus on their goals.

Eliminate bad habits

Bad habits kill success. We all have bad habits. If we want to succeed, we have to find ways to eliminate most bad habits. The best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good habit. If you find yourself wasting time on Facebook, delete the app from your phone. Replace it with a language learning app like Duolingo. Learning a language might help you with a promotion, or you might make new friends in the process.

You can eliminate bad habits several ways:

  • Make an announcement. If you make it public, you increase the pressure to succeed. Tell your friends and family that you are trying to break a bad habit.
  • Eliminate triggers. If you eat candy after each meal, replace it with a healthy snack.
  • Find a partner to keep each other accountable. If you want to lose 20 pounds, find a friend who also wants to lose weight.
  • Avoid people with bad habits. If you want to quit smoking, avoid contact with smokers. If you want to have a more positive outlook on life, avoid contact with whiners.
  • Visualize breaking the bad habit. See yourself in a size smaller pants after losing weight. Visualize yourself quitting whatever bad habit you have.
  • Use self-talk to help you reach your goal. “I am 20 pounds overweight, but I could lose 5 pounds a week. In about a month, I could lose almost 20 pounds.”

Resist the urge to compare yourself to others

“Comparison is the death of joy”Mark Twain

Successful people understand that comparing themselves to others is dangerous. Comparison could result in envy, fear, low self-confidence, uncertainty and depression in your life. People often present an image that is far from complete.

Life is a movie, but we tend to see snapshots of people. It is easy to find enviable snapshots in other people’s lives. When you overestimate the presence of positivity in someone’s life you set yourself up for failure.

Another reason you should not compare yourself to others is that it won’t help you succeed. Whining about how someone else makes more money, lives in a nicer house or drives a better car is a waste of time.

Eliminate losers from your life

Successful people don’t allow people to drag them down. Surrounding yourself with the wrong people will hurt you several ways.

If you spend time with the wrong people, they will:

  • Make you doubt your own abilities.
  • Want you to fail too.
  • Not inspire you to succeed.

If you want to succeed, you need to surround yourself with people who are more successful than you are. They will inspire you to reach new heights in your own life.

Connect with successful people

Successful people find ways to connect with other successful people. When you connect with successful people they will inspire and motivate you.

You can connect with successful people several ways:

  • Reach out to successful people and ask for interviews. If you have a blog or want to write an article, you could reach out to successful people.
  • Use social media to make connections.
  • A great way to get attention is to offer to help.
  • Attend seminars or conferences.
  • Ask for introductions. You can reach out to your network of friends and family and ask for introductions.
  • Join a group of people who are trying to reach goals similar to yours.

Don’t expect others to do your push ups

Michael Jordan once said that “I have always believed that if you put in the work results will come.”

There are no shortcuts to success. Neither are there secrets to success. Success takes work. If you want to succeed, you have to be ready to put in the work.

If you want to learn to play the piano, you have to schedule a time to practice each day. If you want to lose weight, you have to eat less and exercise more. No matter how many books you read on the subject, success is the result of putting in the work.

Don’t allow negative thoughts

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you allow negative thoughts, you will fail. Negative thoughts are like weights that hold you down. They hold you down, drain your energy and take away your will to succeed.

If you want to succeed, don’t allow thoughts like:

  • My life sucks.
  • This will never work.
  • Why can’t I get a break?
  • Nothing I ever try works.
  • I shouldn’t even try.

This type of thinking will result in failure. You can’t control most things in life, but you can control your thoughts. Fill your mind with positivity.

Keep yourself accountable

If you want to succeed, you have to find ways to keep yourself accountable. You can become your own manager. You can motivate and push yourself to succeed.

Keep yourself accountable the following ways:

  • Set small measurable goals. If you want to lose 20 pounds, set small goals such as taking a 30-minute walk each day.
  • Make a list of tasks. Don’t end your day until you have met your daily goals.
  • Focus on a few important goals. Don’t create a long to-do list.
  • Review yourself. Assess how you did in the past week or month and make adjustments to get better results.

Keep working toward success

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”Steve Jobs

To the most part, success is the ability to stick to your goals. If you want to learn a new language, you have to practice every day. If you want to lose weight, you have to eat less every day and stick to your exercise regimen.

Follow these strategies to keep working toward success:

  • Don’t give up. This is very simple. Just don’t give up. If you want to learn to play the piano, keep practicing. If you want to lose weight, keep eating less and stick to your scheduled exercise routine.
  • Learn from people who have succeeded. Read articles or watch videos of people who have succeeded.
  • Ask for help. Reach out to someone who succeeded. If you want to lose weight, reach out to someone who lost weight and ask them for advice.
  • Make adjustments. Ask you work yourself toward success you might need to make a change here and there. Keep an open mind to make adjustments.

Give yourself a break

It takes time to succeed. It might take you longer than a month to lose 20 pounds. It might take you longer than a year to find your dream job. It might take you longer than a couple of years to find the best partner. As you work yourself toward success you have to give yourself a break.

As long as you are making progress toward your goals you are succeeding.

The following two tabs change content below.
George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.

Latest posts by George Meszaros (see all)