When it comes to success, there’s no shortage of advice out there. The problem is—most of it is not inner-focussed. Success, as traditionally defined in many cultures, has to do with extrinsic rewards; power defined mostly by position and money. Sure, you need education, experiences and skills that can move you towards your goals, but do your goals include what you need to grow and sustain your wellbeing?
It’s been said that the most important thing in life is to decide what is important. Using your personal values as a touchstone to navigate through the inevitable challenges of working towards your goals is critical. The term “values” may seem overused—and abused—but don’t let that disillusion you. Your values represent what is most meaningful to you about work, relationships and life in general. Acting from your values will give you a solid foundation that can inspire, strengthen and renew you every step of the way.
Without a strong sense of your values to guide you, it’s easy to get caught up in other people’s agendas. While it’s noble and necessary to support others, it’s critical not to lose your way in service of someone else’s needs.
Working with your values is a continuous process. Think of your values as your “truth and meaning” metre. While there will be fluctuations in things that matter to you most at different points in your life, your core values are not likely to change.
These checkpoints can help guide you to a deeper understanding of what you value most:
1. Know your beliefs
Beliefs drive all behaviour. Beliefs run our lives in ways that we are often unaware of. You have beliefs about everything—success, work, money, relationships and, most importantly, who you are and what you are capable of. The more you connect your actions to your beliefs, the more power you will have to make changes in your experience.
2. Cultivate greater self-awareness
Think of self-awareness as your power tool. Becoming more self-aware requires a commitment to honest self-assessment. It can be challenging to not only tolerate the emotional discomfort of looking at our behaviour truthfully, but to do it without harsh self-judgment. Developing a more mindful approach will support you in doing this important on-going process.
3. Expand your emotional repertoire
The road to success isn’t just paved with ambition and determination. You’ll need a bigger briefcase of feelings to support your efforts and connect you to others. It’s a cliché but find your passion. Activate your curiosity about the unknown. Hone your confidence through honest self-evaluation. Practise patience—it will serve you well in all circumstances. And regardless of your personality, develop your people skills by engaging empathy and demonstrating gratitude.
4. Wherever you are, be all there
It’s easy to get scattered and unfocussed these days. Problem is our focus is more on doing than being. Full attention is a rare quality and most people will sense your interest and caring when they receive it. Staying “present” will also help activate your conscious awareness, regardless of the situation.
5. Don’t get hooked by comparisons
There’s nothing more distracting and emotionally debilitating than getting bogged down in envy and jealousy. It is one thing to admire and adopt the positive qualities of others—but don’t put yourself down in the process. We are all unique.
6. Manage fear
Fear is learned. We’re not born afraid. It is parents, teachers, friends and the culture in general that teach fear—often in subtle ways. While fear can have a protective quality, mostly its insidious grip prevents us from taking actions that can benefit us. Fear wears many disguises and because emotional contagion is real—we must safeguard against “catching” it from others.
7. Don’t attach “results” to every action you take
Sometimes the path to success can feel like a race. We get lost in judging every activity as progress or regression. This kind of thinking often brings on anxiety and doubt. Assume that there will be “failures” and missteps along the way—all are a welcome part of the learning process.
8. Stay humble
There’s no shortage of boasting and self-promotion out there. Humility can seem soft or passive in the face of it. Don’t buy into those ideas. Humility is grounding and promotes appreciation.
9. Don’t succumb to cynicism
Cynicism can become a default feeling and worldview. Energetically it is draining, for you and others. Pursuing your goals will undoubtedly mean you will meet challenges and have setbacks. Don’t join the cynic’s club when that happens. Assess your situation positively and regroup using your highest level of thinking and most resourceful emotions.
10. Prioritise peace
Too many people postpone peace. In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to relegate times of peace to an occasional vacation. Staying on the path to achieving your goals requires time spent in quiet reflection. Rest and relaxation is essential. Make space in your life for peace—and it will find you.
Any path toward professional success will have its twists and turns, but when you’re standing on the foundation you’ve built—you’ll keep your balance.
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