“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”
Benjamin Franklin (American Politician)
“Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire which transcends everything.”
Napoleon Hill (American Writer)
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt (American President)
Everyone says they want success.
But, how do you know when you’ve reached success?
What does being successful actually mean?
Everyone’s definition of success, and how they measure it, is different.
Initially, it’s often superficial.
Typically based on predictable measurables that are akin to lottery odds or empty fulfillments.
Material gain… “stuff”.
Modest monetary goals.
Showy tangibles, but no substance.
Temporary achievables, but nothing sustainable.
It’s an image game.
But, it has no foundation.
And, it doesn’t last.
This is fake success.
It’s someone else’s definition of what success looks like.
Or, something you’ve been sold.
It doesn’t mean you won’t like it, but it’s not the same as intelligent achievement.
Strategic, purposeful, intentional success is totally different from fake success.
If you’ve fallen into the trap of celebrating fake success, you’re not alone.
Sustainable success is a long road.
It takes discipline, vigilant focus, and the ability to steadily increase and build with intention using scientific strategies.
Not just to reach small goals…or one big goal, one time.
But, to stack your success one habit at a time, one victory at a time, using momentum to reach big goals and sustain your success for a lifetime.
It’s not an art… it’s a science.
The word, “success” is overused and incredibly subjective.
Why You Don’t Want Fake Success
What people say they think success looks like isn’t necessarily what success is.
When researched, success is more about values and goals than it about the vanity metrics you might compare against your peers.
The conflict comes when “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality meets depth of purpose and a life of fulfillment — not just on your tax return, but long-term.
Intelligent achievement has legs and longevity, not just a few perks.
A study by Strayer University reported that 90% of Americans believe that success is defined by happiness more than money, power, or fame.
Yet, when most people judge others as successful of not, the criteria is on material gain, or financial or socioeconomic status.
In reality, only 1 in 5 counted affluence as a measure of success.
60% cited loving what you do for work as a key definer of success.
67% measured success based on reaching individual goals.
66% said having positive relationships created their version of success.
Intelligent success is obtained by aligning with personal goals and purpose, while fostering positive relationships.
Success, then, is measured by goal attainment and positive relationships.
In fact, positive relationships increase goal achievement.
Researchers also concluded that those who developed better relationships did so because they were conscientious (persistent, prudent, and planning), accomplished more at work, had more opportunities, and lived the most exciting lives, compared to others in the study.
If you want to be healthy, spend time with healthy people.
If you want to be successful, spend time with successful people.
Having accountability and encouraging people in your network add to your own success in the areas that matter most.
3 Traits Of Intelligent Achievement
Building good habits around researched success principles move you from fake success to sustained intelligent achievement.
Following the crowd will keep you in a mediocre life without ever fully reaching your potential and the levels of achievement you’re capable of.
It also keeps you dependent on and influenced by others, and completely average.
You’ll numb out to your purpose, fail to set goals, and end up surrounded by the majority of average.
Instead, successful people master these 3 elements of intelligent achievement.
1. Selective focus.
Selective focus is your ability to focus on the things and people that matter.
This means protecting your mental energy by guarding against distractions.
Knowing how to stay focused, despite predictable distractions and the unexpected, is like a superpower for consistently producing at a high level.
To do this, you have to take control of your own thoughts, your relationships and influence, and your environment.
When your success matters enough to you, it’s easy to get ruthless in protecting your focus.
You’ll learn when you work best and feel your sharpest by tracking your mental energy levels and you’ll set up your schedule appropriately.
You’ll learn how to delegate low-level time-wasting tasks so you can focus on higher level, creative priorities.
This means blocking off time as non-negotiable during certain times of the day for your most important purpose-oriented tasks.
People who work with intense focus for 90-120 minutes at a time, followed by a break, end up outperforming people who work longer hours.
It’s the difference between a distracted worker who works 8-10 hours a day, and the deliberate and intensely focused worker that accomplishes the same amount of work in 4 hours or less.
Optimizing peak performance means being smart with your schedule, but also being firm with your boundaries around your time.
This includes the time and energy-wasters that are the dependent, toxic, needy, dramatic, manipulative, or negative people in your life.
Being strategic with your focus means that not only are you protecting your schedule from distracting tasks, you’re also protecting yourself from distracting people.
People who aren’t positive, successful, and actively supporting your goals, create tension in your life that hold you back from true success.
They’ll expect you to listen to all their problems and steal your focus so the spotlight is on their lives, not yours.
They’ll want help for their goals, not yours.
Eliminating negative people from your life will automatically free up your schedule and your time.
This act alone will free up the mental energy you need to focus deliberately and intensely on the things that matter the most to you.
Then, you’ll have room in your life to focus on relationships that add to your life and contribute to your success.
Deliberately cultivating selective focus into your schedule will eliminate time-wasting tasks, thoughts, and people and accelerate your progression to your goals.
2. Creative ownership.
The second principle is creative ownership.
The reason that most of us are miserable is because we are dependent on everyone else for our success and happiness.
We’re dependent on our boss, we’re dependent on somebody at home, we’re dependent on somebody we use as our emotional barometer.
If they’re not happy, you’re not happy.
Their problems are your problems.
You’ll rely on them for emotional stability and opportunity.
If your boss doesn’t give you a promotion, you can’t climb in your career.
And, in any dependent situation, you feel stuck.
You easily get into a habit of yielding your purpose and achievements for someone else’s.
Or worse, you sit and wait, do nothing, but hope you can take the easy way up by hitching your wagon to someone else.
There’s no easy path to success.
You have to do the work.
You have to get your mind strong.
And, you have to start valuing autonomy more than dependency.
You have to be ready to take some risks in your life.
People are more easily motivated when they feel engaged in their work or purpose, and have a sense of ownership and investment in the process.
Otherwise, you’re working towards someone else’s dream.
You’ll build resentment and envy along the way because you aren’t working towards anything of your own, or anything that feeds your deepest passions.
You have to discover what it is that makes you tick, what you care so much about that you get energized just thinking about it, and connect it to the life that you really want to live.
Once you can connect to the vision of goals that feed your sense of purpose, you can reverse engineer your goals into a strategic plan to reach them.
This process often means you take a step back from everyone and grab some introspection.
What does your perfect day look like?
What does your perfect life look like?
What elements do you need to feel fully engaged in your life?
You won’t do the work if you don’t believe in what you’re doing.
It’ll end up draining you, rather than energizing you.
Set your own standards and think big.
When you start to feel fired up, you’re on the right track.
3. Pragmatic growth.
Pragmatic growth, measurable growth, the growth that you take personal responsibility for.
Your growth has to be measurable and you need to have someone you’re accountable to for it.
Otherwise, you’ll be like everyone that starts a new diet and fails one week later.
Knowing what your end point is, and reverse engineering a plan of measurable steps to get there, is key.
It’s not one of those ideas that floats through your brain, mixes with other thoughts, and dissipates.
It’s written down.
It’s specific, dated, and you’ve shared it with someone that will hold you to it.
Pragmatic growth requires behavior change.
This comes down to setting up micro-habits for yourself.
Creating small, achievable, daily habits that you start building into your routine, specifically oriented to your end goal and overall success.
You make small changes every day that lead to increased momentum and bigger changes long-term.
All in the direction of your goals.
Once you do this, and start stacking your good habits and small achievements, start rewarding yourself.
This will help you avoid willpower depletion.
This helps you feel like you are in control.
That you take personal responsibility and self-regulate through challenges and struggles, rather than blame any mistakes on other people.
When you start taking personal responsibility, you keep growing.
When you make mistakes, you can look at what went wrong, fix it, and move forward.
It’s an evolution.
But, your goal is the prize you keep your eye on.
Fake success is the kind of success that is a moving target.
It doesn’t have anything to do with you.
Usually, it’s you trying to achieve somebody else’s version of success.
It doesn’t require the same level of discipline or focus, and is easily influenced.
Studies show that if you and a friend both write down your goals and you happen to read your friend’s goals first, you are 50% more likely to write down a goal that’s related to your friend’s goal.
What that means is that other people affect us.
Our biology causes us to copy other people.
And so, whoever you’re around, you will end up chasing their goals if you leave your focus left unchecked.
The desire to copy will work against you and lead to fake success.
You might think you’ve reached some pinnacles you were hoping for, but more often than not, you’ll reach that peak, look around, and think, “Wait, this isn’t right for me. This isn’t actually what I wanted.”
You won’t have changed and your success won’t be as savory.
You’ll never feel satisfied, because you will have focused all your energy on something that doesn’t really resonate with you.
You might have got caught up in someone else’s enthusiasm and reached their pinnacle.
But, it’s not the same as setting your own, engineering your own, and putting in the work to achieve and celebrate it as your own.
The only way to avoid this is to pursue an intelligent achievement, which is something that’s a part of you, something that’s aligned with your goals, aligned with your priorities, and is based on these 3 things: focus, creation, and growth.
There is a difference between fake success and intelligent achievement. And, that difference is focus, creation, and growth. Protecting your mental energy, prioritizing autonomy in creative ownership, and creating a smart plan that is measurable and accountable, and designed to move you forward with strategic habits and behaviors, is the formula for real success that has depth, is fulfilling, and lasts.
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