If you're reading this, chances are you have goals you want to accomplish. Whether they're personal or professional, big or small, the principles of achievement remain the same. Success is not simply a matter of luck, but rather a result of intentional actions and consistent effort.
In this blog, we'll explore the key principles of achievement that can help you reach your goals, from setting clear objectives to developing a growth mindset. By applying these principles to your own life, you'll be well on your way to achieving your dreams and living the life you've always wanted.
So let's dive in!
I just released my first book Intentional Mornings — How to Make Your Dreams a Reality One Morning at a time. Reflecting over the past few months, I realize that writing the book was one of the most life-changing projects I have ever gone through.
Writing this book helped me to accomplish two things. First I accomplished one of my lifelong dreams. And second, I grew as a person, learning some incredible life lessons.
My hope in sharing what I learned with you, is that you will be able to learn from me. And in doing so, accelerate your learning curb. And as a result, start turning your dreams into reality and begin living the life of your dreams.
1. Achievement Principle Number One
You must be willing to do the work.
Seeing a project through like writing a book, from beginning to end, is no easy accomplishment. I have wanted to write a book for years. But I always fell short because I wasn’t willing to sit down and do the work.
Sure, I wanted the end result like so many of us do when it comes to our goals. But I was never willing to put in the long hours needed to achieve my dream.
Just like you must consistently work out day after day to lose weight. To be a writer, you must you consistently sit in front of a blank screen with just you and your thoughts. Thoughts that on some days seem to evade you. Leaving you as blank as the screen you are staring at. Then on other days, your thoughts become so unfocused and out of control that you feel like the poster child for ADHD.
Yes. It was hard. But once I realized and accepted this cold reality, ironically it became easier. By reminding myself that hard work was the only way to gain success, my resistance to doing the work began to drop. Allowing room for words and ideas to slowly fill the blank space on the screen in front of me. And just as the hardest part of working out is going to the gym, typing the first few words is always the toughest part of my day.
Nothing Great is Achieved without Hard Work
So, lesson number one is to be willing to do the work. Let go of the idea that everything must be easy and comfortable in life. Instead, attach yourself to the belief that nothing great in life comes easy.
There are no shortcuts on the road to success. That idea alone will set you apart from the masses of people living in comfort. Those who never stretch and challenge themselves to become all they can become. And instead, continue doing what they have always done. Getting what they have always gotten.
As the Zen proverb goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” Hard work is part of the human experience and a good one at that so long as the work you are doing has a purpose and meaning to you.
If you fail to accept the fact that hard work is required, then all the other secrets to success do not matter. If and only if, you come to grips with this fact then you can move on to the next lesson I learned from writing my first book.
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2. Achievement Principle Number Two
You Must Be Committed
Success takes effort and effort is the fundamental reason you get what you want in life, or you don’t. As Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
Most of the time when we picture success, we imagine the end result. We see the finished product in our minds. Imagine all the rewards we believe it will bring us. In doing so, we fail to acknowledge all the early mornings and late nights it takes to achieve that magnificent result.
In my case, I had always pictured a book cover with my name on the front cover and my picture on the back. I could see my books in stores, flying off the shelves without much effort.
Who needs marketing? In my imaginary world, my books just sold.
I also imagined living the lifestyle of a successful writer. I saw myself getting up in the morning. Working my way toward my desk and effortlessly typing the words into my word processor. In my fantasy world, it all seemed so simple.
Success is Short in Glory
After deciding it would take work to become successful I then decided to see the production of my book all the way to the finish, I learned there isn’t as much glory in the process as I had previously thought. In fact, I quickly discovered that the long hours of sitting alone at my computer can become quite daunting.
Not only must I sit down and extract words out of nowhere, but I must also edit those words over and over again. Looking for grammar mistakes, poor word choices, and misspelled words, takes hours.
Once the first draft is completed, and the editing is done, I also learned how to create a cover that will hopefully grab my potential reader’s attention.
Next, I learned how to format my book so that it would look good on Kindle as well as in print.
The next step was learning to market it so that it doesn’t just sit on the proverbial shelf just gathering dust. Or in the case of the electronic age, getting lost in the infinite knowledge of some subcategory on Amazon, only to be found by a lonely soul beginning their search for wisdom on the 101st page of the Amazon search engine.
Learning to Enjoy the Journey
While I have come to enjoy every moment of my journey from the conception of my book idea to hitting publish on Amazon (four times now because I keep noticing formatting errors), I have also learned a crucial lesson of success. Not only is it hard work and you are better off excepting that up front, but it is also short in glory.
All the hours of solitary work it takes to become good at what one does is rarely seen. And when it is, it is compiled into a 90-minute documentary that undermines the overall years of dedication and hard work that helped them to gain their glory.
Success then is not what one achieves, it is what one does.
It is acquired by being committed to doing what others only dream of, but never do.
What dream or goal do you have that you have been putting off?
If you really want to achieve it, begin by acknowledging it will take hard work and that the glory is not in showing off the end product, but rather it is in knowing you have put in the effort day after day to move towards your desired result.
3. Achievement Principle Number Three
Little Things Matter
So far I've discussed how I learned that you must be willing to do the work and that most of the work involved is not glamorous. In fact, most of the work is tedious, behind the scenes, and time-consuming.
For me, success is like cooking a great meal.
Picture a table full of all your favorite foods. There’s a bowl of fresh-cut salad and another full of mashed potatoes. Beside it is a pan full of barbecue beans and a platter stacked high with your favorite meats. And to top it off there is a plate of desserts cooked fresh and waiting for you to indulge in. Just like the success you crave in your life, this meal took time and a methodical process to create.
The third lesson I learned while writing my first book is this: The Little Things Matter.
Success is often thought of as the finished product. The completed book being read by an eager reader. The brand-new home waiting for its new owners to move into and enjoy, or the happy graduate walking across the stage to receive their diploma. The reality is that the only way those rewards were ever made possible was by the creators doing the little things that were necessary for their creation.
Writing my book taught me to sit down and work through whatever needed to be done that day. It’s not like mowing the lawn or cleaning the house where in most cases you can start and finish within a couple of hours. No, it is much more complex than that and the hours turn into days which turn into months.
Some days would be spent making very little progress. On several occasions, I spent hours just researching what I wanted to write about before I could even begin writing.
Accepting the Process
Wanting desperately to see tangible results, I would start to feel frustrated at the lack of my apparent progress. However, once I realized the hours of research were just as necessary to my success as the writing was, I began to relax. Accepting that was part of the process, helped me to realize how much improvement I was actually making on those days.
Building my website, I faced the same challenges. While there are many articles out there telling you how to start your own blog in thirty minutes, most do not tell you that making a professional-looking blog takes days, especially when you have never made one.
I began creating my blog in September of 2016 and finally hit publish in December. Sure, I could have published it sooner, but I wanted it to have content, a free download, and an overall professional look.
You Must Continue to Learn
The little things I learned to do such as creating a 3D image book cover with an opt-in form to help me build my reader list took a few weeks to perfect. The truth is I am still learning all the ins and outs of creating a website, and I don’t imagine I will ever have all of it down.
To gain success, you must accept that sitting down for hours and working on the minute details is just part of the process. Who knows if I had learned this lesson when I was younger, I might have written several books by now.
What I do know is this. Success takes a willingness to do the work. An understanding that there isn’t much glamor in it as the media leads us to believe. And you must be comfortable with doing the little things that one day equal the big picture.
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4. Achievement Principle Number Four
You Must Overcome Obstacles and There Will Be Lots of Obstacles
Setbacks and obstacles are part of life. And the sooner you come to grips with this truth, the easier it will become for you to begin achieving your goals.
When I decided to launch my website and start writing my book, I told myself that I would have to take it slow. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and had a pretty clear image in my mind of what the end results would look like, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to get there.
I also knew there was a lot for me to learn and if I were going to reach the finish line, I would have to take the time to educate myself. It seemed that every day I was presented with new obstacles to overcome. And the only way I was going to address them would be by accepting that fact.
My First Big Obstacle
One of the first obstacles I had to overcome was learning how to successfully navigate the program I now use to write all my blog posts and chapters with, Scrivener.
Scrivener is an awesome writing tool that helps you to organize ideas into folders and subfolders. I love it. But, learning to use it properly takes patience.
When I first downloaded the program, I was overwhelmed with its features. However, because I had decided early on that learning and overcoming obstacles was part of the process of becoming a professional writer, I was able to pace myself.
I reminded myself that progress is made by taking small steps each day, and on some days that step might just be learning how to properly use the tools that would help me to eventually reach the finish line.
Just yesterday, I spent the whole morning learning how to do something as simple as putting a banner on my website. I had already discovered how to place a banner inside of each individual post, but I wanted to be able to save time by automatically putting it into each post. That way in the future if I wanted to change what it said, I could do so with the click of a button. I knew that spending a little time figuring that out would save me hours in the future.
Think Like a Scientist
I researched and tried several different ideas, but kept coming up short. Because I had hoped to do this quickly so I could return to my writing, I was tempted to give up my search and just enter the banner manually on each post.
After a few hours and several walks around the house to clear my head, I finally discovered the solution.
The point here is that by sticking with it, in the short term, I may have lost a few hours of writing time. But in the long term, I have gained hours because the next time I want to change my banner, I will know what to do.
As you advance toward your goals, I encourage you to think like a scientist. Stop trying just to accomplish your tasks and instead, begin looking at the work you have in front of you as an experiment.
Scientists are curious and in awe of the wonder of it all. They don’t know what will work, so they are always looking for what won’t work. They know making their great discovery takes time and patience.
Scientists take careful notes on what will work as well as what won’t so they can continue learning and growing. All with the faith that if they persevere long enough, they will eventually achieve what they are seeking to accomplish.
Don’t let obstacles stop you. See them as part of the process. By making this one distinction, you can become one of the few that see their goals through from start to finish.
5. Achievement Principle Number Five
Aim For Small Daily Success
There are many famous sayings about the importance of patience and reaching your goals.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
- Take baby steps.
And my favorite;
- How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
I like the last one the best because it expresses two important aspects of achieving success. Knowing what you want, eating the elephant, and how it will be done, one step at a time.
There are no shortcuts to getting things done. The simple truth is you must get up every day and do the work necessary to make your dreams a reality.
My First Failed Attempt at Writing
The first time I tried to write a book was over fifteen years ago. I had free time in the afternoons, so I blocked out two hours to sit at my desk and write.
The one major mistake I made was being impatient for the finished product.
When I look back on it now, I realize that every day I was actually making real progress. After just a week I had finished the first chapter. At the time, however, I thought I wasn’t writing fast enough and unfortunately became frustrated with the entire process.
A New and Improved Approach
This time when I decided to start writing again, I reasoned that small daily success was the only way I would succeed. Instead of hoping to write the book in a month, I focused on small obtainable goals I could meet each day.
In the beginning, my goal wasn’t even to write, it was to just simply to sit down with my little blue laptop at a certain time morning and do something that was related to my overall goal of writing a book. At first, this was learning how to use Scrivener, the word processor I use to write all my first drafts.
Next, I set the goal to create a list of ideas I could write about. After that, it was to write the outline for my book. Once I was finally ready to begin writing the book, I created goals based on how many words I would write a day.
The key was creating goals I could easily achieve in the time I had allotted for that day. This allowed me to focus on what I was doing in the current moment instead of becoming overwhelmed by thinking about all the unfinished tasks I had in front of me.
Putting this Achievement Principle into Practice
To apply this achievement principle in your own endeavors, begin by deciding what it is you want to accomplish and then break it down into small obtainable steps you can achieve daily.
For example, if you are looking for a new job, instead of telling yourself how you must get a job today, begin by creating a resume or making a list of the possible places you could work at.
I knew a senior in high school once who wanted to get as many scholarships as possible so she could go to the college of her dreams. Instead of overwhelming herself with filling out all the applications in one sitting, she began months before the deadline.
On one night, she would research and find two or three scholarships to apply for. The next night or two, she would dedicate an hour to filling them out. After doing this consistently for four months, she had filled out at least ten times more than the average student. All her hard work paid off. She received more than enough to pay for her school of choice.
When you set out to accomplish great things, keep in mind they are made up of many small steps that by themselves seem irrelevant and sometimes meaningless.
Persevere and know that eventually, the little things will equal that which you truly desire.
Word by word I wrote this blog post, and step by step you can make your dreams a reality!
6. Achievement Principle Number Six
Ignore Your Negative Feelings and Thoughts
Have you ever given up too early because what you were doing wasn’t working immediately?
There are many times when I am working on saying something the right way or trying to learn a new skill when I feel like what I am doing is getting me nowhere. In the past, I would have gotten up and retreated to something less stressful instead of persisting through.
Every time I decide to learn something new, it takes time. For example, right now I am taking a short break, from what seems like an endless search to learn how to create online courses, in order to write this section. I have been searching the internet for several days, attempting to learn how to create courses I can offer through my website and books.
Finding the right solution takes time and often feels like I am spinning my wheels. Hours and sometimes days can go by where I seem to accomplish nothing.
As I said, in the past I would have given up, thinking that I was wasting precious time. But now I know, it is just part of the learning curve.
Success Take Time
Success takes time. Despite all the wild claims by companies trying to sell you their magic beans that promise to give you what you want with minimal effort, sometimes you must go through frustration, setbacks, and what feels like a lot of junk to find what you are searching for to solve your problem.
History is filled with plenty of people who stopped short of achieving huge success and instead retreated into mediocrity. More importantly, though are the people who changed the world by not allowing their feelings of failure to define who they are and who they are to become.
Take the inspiring story of Colonel Sanders. Colonel loved sharing his chicken recipe. So, at the young age of 65 he decided to travel from restaurant to restaurant offering to share his recipe with anyone willing to collaborate with him. The problem though, was that all these restaurant owners already had a chicken recipe. It just didn’t make any sense to share their profits with him.
The story has it that he had to hear 1009 “No” answers before he heard one “Yes.” That is the definition of persevering.
Be Ready to Persevere
Do you think he had to fight his own feelings of wasting his time to keep moving forward?
I do. In fact, I imagine he probably gave up at least a hundred times. But like all other successful people, he also jumped back into the game. Reminding himself of his mission and why he needed to keep going.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
Writing my first book taught me that enthusiasm for what I am doing and why I am doing it is more powerful than feelings of wasting my time. Now instead of giving up when I don’t get an immediate solution to my problem, I persevere.
I remind myself of what I am seeking to accomplish and why that is important. I also tell myself that if I keep searching, eventually the answer will present itself. I had read that many times by great authors but never experienced it until I began pushing through, denying my negative feelings.
In times when my frustration grew, I learned to take a small break, breathe slowly, and center my thoughts on what I wanted, just allowing my muscles and my mind to relax. Once I was centered again, I would continue with what I was working on. It worked every time. Every challenge I faced, I found a solution to it.
If you wish to achieve success and accomplish your goals, then you too must learn to ignore or even refute your negative thoughts and feelings. Just because you feel like something is a waste of time doesn’t mean that it is. Success might be right around the corner, but you will never know it if you don’t keep going.
7. Achievement Principle Number Seven
Big Decisions Takes Courage
My wife Shelley and I recently watched The Zookeepers Wife. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s the true story of how the zookeepers of the Warsaw Zoo in Poland, Antonina Zabinski and her husband Dr. Jan Zabinski helped to save the lives of over 300 Jews during World War II.
After the Nazi’s bombed the zoo and invaded Poland, the couple used their zoo to work with the Resistance to smuggle refugees out of the ghetto. What stood out to me the most was how much courage the couple needed in order to help so many people. After all, if the Nazi’s had discovered what they were doing, they and the refugees they were helping would have been killed.
Big decisions require courage. When we venture into the unknown, we can quickly become filled with uncertainty. That unknowing can create fear and doubt which leads to stagnation and feeling stuck.
While writing a book doesn’t compare to hiding Jewish refugees during WWII, I did learn that it still takes courage. Courage to put my words out into the world where they will be scrutinized by critics. Courage to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them. Courage to keep getting up early every day, writing what I believe and hoping my words will help others and impact their lives in a positive way without receiving much feedback.
If you plan to go for your dreams, you must find ways to muster the courage. To ‘Take the road less traveled by’ as Robert Frost put it. To create more courage in your life, I have created the following list of ideas to help you in your day-to-day struggle to be yourself and go for your goals.
3 Ways to Be More Courageous
1. Be clear on what you want.
Lack of focus or clarity in a situation can cause us to become filled with fear. When the Zabinski’s were risking their lives to help others, they knew what their objective was. To provide safety and shelter for those in need so they could save lives.
When I write, I know my purpose is to express myself in a way that inspires others to live happier more productive lives. I want to share my knowledge with the world and impact others in a positive way. I also want to make a living doing it so I can provide for my family while doing what I love to do.
2. Visualize positive outcomes.
Fear usually stems from the pictures we create in our mind's eye. When we create images of adverse outcomes, we begin to feel scared and nervous. These thoughts then trigger our sympathetic nervous system which begins sending adrenaline through our body resulting in feelings of fear.
In addition, when we don’t believe we are capable of handling something, we feel weaker and less resourceful. Our natural inclination becomes the desire to run or escape the situation. However, when you are picturing a positive outcome where you have the ability to face the challenge and succeed, you become more resourceful and stronger. Because you believe you can handle the situation, you become more capable of handling it.
The Zabinski’s didn’t focus on getting caught. Instead, they used their mental energy to imagine saving innocent lives. When I write, I don’t think about the people who will judge and criticize my work. Instead, I imagine people smiling, enjoying, and benefiting from my words.
3. Focus on what you can control.
The third strategy I use when feeling less than sure of myself is to direct my energy into what I can control right now at this moment. When I am writing, I focus on the next word I am going to write or the next idea I am going to expand upon.
The truth is, I can’t control whether or not others will buy my books, read my blog or enroll in my courses. But I can work on getting better at what I do. I can learn from my results and continue to persist toward my desired outcomes. By paying attention to this moment, and not my negative thoughts, I can overcome my fears and get results.
In the end, courage is not something you possess, it is something you do. It is the result of knowing what you want, visualizing positive outcomes, and taking action by focusing on what you can control.
The next time you begin to feel less than courageous, remind yourself that you can handle it. As Christopher Robbin said in Pooh’s Big Adventure, “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
There you have it. The 7 achievement principles I learned while writing my first book, Intentional Mornings — How to Make Your Dreams a Reality One Morning at a time. If you have a big dream that you're chasing, I believe that practicing these 7 principles will serve you as they have served me.
Remember, real success is never easy. Whether you're wanting to write the next great novel, build a successful business, or raise happy and successful children, you're going to have your ups and downs. So plan for them and overcome them. Because in the long run, the person who can outlast failure is the one who wins.
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