The road to success is paved with many an obstacle to strengthen our ability to excel. The definition of success, however, is fluid. The Corporates deems success as straight A’s and a high-paying job; the Philosophers and Psychologists define success as stable and continuous progress. Scientists view success as revolutionary breakthroughs and discoveries of new chemicals and cures, and politicians see success as the logical policies on paper, whether or not they can be carried out in society.
However, there are a few key factors which pertain to every scale, and they are simple to understand and do.
1. Compete against yourself, not anyone else. If you compete against others, you’re fighting a losing battle, unless you are the most intelligent and wealthiest person alive.
2. Do what you love and love what you do. With almost a decade of work experience, I’ve only worked six months in my life, because I love what I do.
3. Live by the advice you give others. Not only does this raise your credibility as a person, but the reason you give the advice in the first place is that you already believe it’s the “right thing to do”.
4. Get it right in your own life first. It’s easy for us to nitpick and criticize others’ flaws, but it’s a deflection hindering us from trying to get it right ourselves. If we can’t live up to our own expectations, demanding it from others is merely asking them to compensate for our own inadequacies. In doing #3, you will naturally get to #4.
5. Mistakes are experiences, but experiences are not mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you slip up and make mistakes – learn from them and remember the solution for the next time you encounter a similar problem. The scientific (natural as well as social science) world is all about experiments gone wrong – and finding solutions to fix problems they created.
6. Never mock a pain you haven’t endured. Your nightmare might be someone else’s reality; someone’s reality might only be your dream.
7. Only take criticism that works to your advantage. Humans are critical – it’s inevitable. But not all criticism is constructive, and if it’s destructive, brush it off and improve the parts you believe will help you.
8. Criticism should be constructive, not absolute. When criticising others, ensure that you use their strengths to build their weaknesses. Avoid focusing only on the weakness and telling them what to change. (See #9)
9. The right thing for you may be the wrong thing for someone else. Everything is about perspective. If you want to encourage change and progress, shift their perspective, don’t force their actions.
10. The process is just as important as the result. The results are only what can be seen on paper, but the process entails the actions and experiences. Experiential learning is the most lasting effect, and if the process is destructive, the results are only short-lived. (Click here to read Carl Rodgers’ theory of Experiential Learning.
11. Balance your life Every psychologist will tell you this: balance your life. Work out a schedule that gives you time for work, fun (creative outlet), friends, family, sports, and yourself (me-time). South China Morning Post published an article in 2013 stating that despite having long work hours, one should have at least four meals a night with the family, two nights a month spent with friends, five hours of exercise a week (even if it means taking a long walk during your lunch break), one evening a week of “me time”, and never bring work home. For a healthy mentality, when you clock-off, you clock-off: work is work, not life. (Unless you’re living by #2)
12. Be the person you know you are. All humans are flawed, but exert your strengths and use your virtues to positively influence others while secretly working on your weaknesses until you are satisfied. Then they will become strengths, and you will continuously shine.
Essentially, success is subjective – but subjective in the sense that you only need to compare your current self to where you were this time a year ago, five years ago, a decade ago, or more. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others your age – we all have different backgrounds, different paradigms, different realities. We are all apples and pears, oranges and tangerines. We might be very similar to others, or very different – but we all have different experiences, therefore we have different perspectives.
So get it right in your own life, and because you can’t change 50% of the world without changing 50% of your perspective.
References: 1. Carl Rodger’s Theory of Experiential Learning 2. Sonya Derian – Stop Comparing Yourself To Others: An Alternative To Competing with People 3. Steve Jobs And The Seven Rules to Success 4. South China Morning Post – Parents Must Exercise Their Duty to Ensure A Balanced Life for Kids (2015) 5. Mikavelli – Do What You Love and Love What You Do