There is no question that success is attainable and within reach of anybody who pursues it. But what does it take to be successful on our goals?
On very general terms, when pursuing success we are typically looking to achieve certain goals or steps to ultimately conquer an objective. Also in general terms, achieving success is not a simple task; it takes a lot of hard work, concentration, and vision to reach our goals. Granted, the way to achieve success cannot be described as a cooking recipe, where well predefined steps must be rigorously complied in order to obtain the desired results for our endeavours. Nevertheless, we can identify certain constants that usually lead to the way of success.
Some of those constants have to do with our mental and physical preparedness to embrace that success. They have to do with our attitudes and behaviours to face challenges and with the degree of tolerance we have to adapt to situations outside of our comfort zone in order to go forward on our path to completion. Moreover, since success is not a one-time only pursuit but rather an ongoing matter, those constants also have to do with the degree of maintenance we provide to that state of success, and with our mental and emotional state to keep the right attitudes in place. Positive thinking is a crucial ingredient before, during, and after reaching goals.
Whereas positive thinking and goal setting are without question positive practices, there is a fine and dangerous line that has to be noted between positive thinking and fantasizing.
What is fantasizing? One of the dictionary definitions of the word fantasy describes them as “the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need (…); a mental image or a series of mental images (as a daydream) so created”.
The definitions above would suggest that a person’s potential to achieve success is limited from the get go, which is an arguable point. We like to think (and in fact, we believe) that a person’s potential is as big as the magnitude of the objectives they set for themselves; however there are two points where both the dictionary definition and our understanding of success viability converge: on the words ‘unrealistic’ and ‘improbable’.
For an endeavour to be successful, it has to have a reality check where the individual must make sure that the goals they set for themselves are in fact attainable. For example, let’s analyse the case of a person who decides to undertake a new years resolution where they will lose weight. Is that an actual goal or a fantasy?
While the achieving success on the goal of losing body weight is a perfectly attainable goal in principle, the vagueness with which the goal is pictured makes it look more like a fantasy. Is the person aware of their own physical and mental state to pursue this goal? Do they have what they need?
In order to mitigate risks of pursuing a fantasy rather than an actual goal, certain professionals (of very different specialties) recommend the use of the SMART approach: For a goal to be likely to be achieved, it must be:
- Specific: How does the person plan to lose weight? By eating less, by working out more, or by undergoing a liposuction surgery? Is there going to be a combination of factors that determine this decision?
- Measurable: How much weight will the person lose to consider the endeavour successful? Would 5 kg. suffice? Will 50 kg. suffice?
- Attainable: If the person decides that they will lose 1 kg, is it attainable? If they decide to lose 60 kg, is that attainable? Is it viable considering their body build?
- Realistic: Does the person have a positive attitude to face this challenge? Is their willpower tuned up to keep up with the challenge?
- Time-framed: How long will it take for the person to lose weight? If they are losing 10 kg, will a week suffice? Will 6 months suffice?
Having considered those points, for a person to pursue a goal where they will “lose 10 kilos of weight within the next 6 months by jogging 5 km every day and eating more veggies” sounds more likely to be a successful endeavour than just daydreaming about losing weight and hoping for the best.
All of the above does not mean that we should refrain from dreaming high and fighting for our dreams. It is healthy to face uncertainty and evolve as our circumstances change, and we have within ourselves the power to reach high. But having a route map drafted can be of huge benefit to ensure that our road to success does not get lost in the land of fantasy.