How to be Successful


One of the most common things people ask about and like to discuss is the idea of, “How to be Successful.” There is a powerful desire to lead the lives we envision and many suffer greatly when reality doesn’t match expectations.

The first roadblock to success is lacking a SPECIFIC plan for what that would look like. I’ve written and talked about the dangers of pursuing “happiness” as a goal. All too often, the answer offered when asked, “what do you want out of life?” is: I want to be happy. Happiness is not a valid goal. It is far too fleeting and too contingent upon variables outside of your control to act as any sort of rock upon which to build the foundation of your life.

I think this should go without saying but just to be sure: I am not opposed to happiness, in and of itself. I don’t think you should be Unhappy and I think that when you are happy you should really be grateful for it. My concern with it as a goal stems from the fact that more often than not, people aren’t even really sure WHAT would make them happy. Then, they’re stuck pursuing a RESULT with no clear methodology to obtain it.

                Before you pursue “happiness”, you would have to know who you are, anyway.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t know how this intangible emotion would be most readily obtained. Over the years, I have suggested and personally practiced a variety of strategies for discovering the true “you.” One of my favorite (and one I just recommended last night to someone), is to make a list.


      When faced with a choice, it is often helpful to write down exactly how you envision your future.


You must be specific. “Make money”, for example is not good enough. “I will work at this company doing x” is far more helpful. It sharpens the resolution in your mind’s eye and it better allows you to mentally represent what a typical day would truly look like. It also gives you actual measuring sticks to use when you are either staying on, or veering off course.

Many people do not like to make such specific lists because it creates instant accountability. If I say I am going to work at this place, then it is pretty easy to determine if I have succeeded or failed. The grayer your list is, the harder it will be to “fail”, but also the less useful it will be.

Writing things down makes them real and it helps to organize the thoughts that swirl around in your head. It must be taken very seriously.

People often joke about things or make light of situations they wish to avoid. In my practice, I cannot tell you how often I hear, “My meditation is my gardening”, for example. No. Your meditation is not your gardening. It is your gardening. You are avoiding accountability and getting commiserate results.  Since “How to be Successful” grabbed your attention, I can only assume that you aren’t thrilled with the current results. If that is the case, then you have nothing to lose by being more accountable and I am suggesting you have everything to gain.

Make your list and stick to it.

Don’t try to take on more than you can actually, usefully map. There are far too many variables in life to say, “I will be this, in 20 years.” Start small. Map out a perfect day. Once you’ve done this, stick to it. The secret to success is purpose and accountability. It is being the person you say you are going to be, when you want to be that person, regardless of external factors or influences.

If you can manage this on a day-to-day basis, those days will add up quicker than you can imagine or even believe, into a successful life. You must start with a goal and plot your course accordingly. Be honest with others and honest with yourself. Evaluate your actions against your goals often. Don’t be side-tracked by what you see others doing or claiming on social media. The beauty is that you are free to pursue whatever goals you want. If something changes, as it inevitably will, then adjust your list, don’t discard it. The secret to success is purpose and accountability. Use this little tool to help you find yours and then stick to it.

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