Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Achieve Success and Happiness In Life

Many people go through life living far below their potential. It is amazing to me to see so many people fall short of who they might be. In contrast, we all know people that have achieved great success and joy in life. But what do successful people know and do that others do not? In this blog post, I will share the four fundamental skills for success and happiness. These are very general in nature, and they must be individually applied be an individual to be of full effect.

My Experience With These Principles
Over the last 15 years, I have devoted thousands of hours of study to the topics of learning, goal-setting, and personal success. I have attended dozens of workshops, seminars, and trainings, speeches and presentations. I have read scores of books, listened to hundreds of hours of audio books and programs, have earned four college degrees in various disciplines, and have spent many hours researching how people learn and change.

During these studies, I have also worked and volunteered in multiple organizations, states, and countries. I have worked to apply the principles of success and happiness in my life, and I have concluded that there are a few very fundamental skills for achieving success, happiness, and fulfillment in life. In this post, I will describe what I believe these skills are and will give some strategies for developing these skills.

You Can Change
Before I share these skills and abilities, I want to discuss the most fundamental truth of success and happiness: you can change. You are endowed by your creator with the capacity to change, adapt, improve and grow. Every human being has the capacity to change habits, to gain knowledge, to live with purpose, and to grow toward the good and the pure.

Some subscribe to false ideas of predestination or determinism, believing that their choices have already been made for them. Others adhere to behaviorism, believing that our environment directs our behavior, and we only live in passive response to external stimuli. I fully reject these notions and state emphatically that every human being has the power to change their life and circumstances through exertion of thought and action. YOU CAN CHANGE. You can find direction in your life. You can grow. You can develop habits and take actions of your own free will and choice. You are not fully controlled by unseen powers or the environment you live in - you have GREAT power to live outside these influences and move toward excellence.

The Four Fundamental Skills for Success and Happiness 
Here are what I currently believe to be the most fundamental skills for success and happiness. I'll outline them here and then describe them in detail below.
  1. Live with Purpose and Passion
  2. Believe in Yourself
  3. Develop Habits for Success
  4. Keep Learning and Think Smart

Read Only if You Are Serious About Creating Change
I must be candid - it will take effort to achieve success and happiness in life. You must apply yourself and work toward your goals. And it can take a long time to make the changes you want to see in yourself.  However, if you begin down the path to your desired achievements, then you will eventually reach it. I can promise through my own personal experience that if you seriously study and apply these principles, you will find rich rewards, and the reward is always worth the required effort.

One of the most important ways you can start to build these fundamental skills is through learning. I strongly urge you to undertake a serious study of the principles of success and happiness. If you are willing to spend time reading the books and listening to the audio programs below, I can promise that you will begin to see success in these areas. I will discuss each of these fundamental skills for success and happiness in detail below, including resources for learning more.

1. Live With Purpose and Passion.
The most foundational skill for success and happiness is the ability to to find a sense of purpose in life. What are you passionate about? What do you love to think about and do? How are you uniquely positioned to make a positive impact on the world and on the people around you? Answering these questions can help you identify and move toward your purpose. For some people this can be difficult, but you must "begin with the end in mind" (Stephen Covey).

You must set goals that will help you achieve your purpose, specific objectives that will move you toward success. If you can discover your purpose and develop goals that will help you achieve that purpose, you will be among the empowered few who have a mission in life, a vision of how they can change the world. I believe that having purpose and goals will move you forward in life faster than any other thing.

Your task is to discover your purpose and set goals that will help you achieve it. I recommend that you study seriously these principles. It will take time to develop a deep knowledge and skill in these principles, but the following books, audio programs, and links can help you do this.

Books on Goal Setting and Purpose:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
How to Get What You Want (audio) - Zig Ziglar
Goals - How to Get Everything You Want - Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible - Brian Tracy
Happy for No Reason (book) Marci Shimoff

My Own Blog Posts on Goal Setting and Purpose:
A Challenge to the Slacker: Live Your Potential
How to Become an Expert at Anything
To Reach Career Goals, Be Deliberate
To Reach Your Goals, Avoid Distractions
How to Set and Reach Career Goals
Setting Professional Goals

2. Believe in Yourself.
The famous quote states, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." What you believe about yourself and about life directs how you behave in life. If you believe that you are unlucky, then you will behave like an unlucky person, constantly expecting bad things to happen to you. If you believe that you are not worthy of finding a companion, then your internal and external actions will likely fulfill that belief. What you believe about life and yourself becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, directly influencing and predicting the results you get in life.

Your task is to develop a deep reservoir of empowering, positive, true thoughts about yourself and life. You must flood your mind with positive, empowering beliefs, ideas and thoughts. These beliefs will act as the fuel of success, propelling you toward the fulfillment of your dreams. The resources below will get you started on doing this.

Books for Improving Your Beliefs:
Awaken the Giant Within (audio) - Anthony Robbins
Unleash the Power Within (audio) - Anthony Robbins
Happy for No Reason (book) - Marci Shimoff
A Healthy Dose of Motivation (audio) - Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
The Psychology of Achievement - Brian Tracy

My Own Blog Posts on Improving Your Beliefs:
Using the Power of Positive Affirmations

Using Your Thoughts to Create Personal Power
The Analogy of the Fleas: Self Beliefs, Learning and Success
Creating Results in Life

3. Develop Habits for Success.
Successful people develop habits that help them fulfill their goals and purpose. It is true that most of what we do each day is a result of our habitual behavior, so you must develop habits that will aid you in achieving your goals. You must also eliminate those habits which are unhealthy and which do not help you achieve your worthy goals and desires. 

To put it clearly, successful people have discovered (a) what positive habits are, (b) how they can change or eliminate old habits and (c) how they can adopt the new positive habits. If you would like to begin to identify and cultivate positive, empowering habits, begin with the resources below. These resources will give you an excellent foundation for changing your behavior for the better.

Books on Habit Development:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg
The Now Habit at Work - Neil Fiore

My Own Blog Posts on Habits of Success:
7 Fundamental Skills for Success
The Power of Habit (a book review and reflection)
Book Review - Instant Influence
The Importance of Humility

4. Keep Learning and Think Smart.
The world is increasingly complex, and the rate of knowledge creation is constantly expanding and changing. I attended a workshop the other day in which the speaker (a medical doctor) stated that 50% of the medical knowledge learned in medical school is obsolete before the individual graduates. The same is true in other fields, and to be successful in life, you must continuously learn and improve your knowledge so that you can maintain and improve your relevance and your ability to contribute meaningfully.

Not only must you continue learning, but you must develop and expand your capacity to use that information effectively. We live in a constant flood of information, so we must develop the ability to draw conclusions and make decisions that are effective and will bring the outcomes we desire. The resources below will give you a great start on effective thinking and decision-making.

Books on Thinking and Learning:
Outliers: The Story of Success - Malcolm Gladwell
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - Malcolm Gladwell

My Blog Posts on Thinking and Learning
How to Become a Successful Lifelong Learner
The Tendency to Jump to Conclusions
Become an Active Learning: Here's How!
Skills for Success in the Knowledge Society
6 Principles for Using Data to Make Decisions
Effective Strategies for Making Decisions
Leadership and Effective Decision Making

A Note on Spirituality and Success
I would like to emphasize that I believe in God and believe that He wishes the very best for each of us.  I believe that He has given us the power to choose good in our lives, and my personal belief is that exercising the habits described above can also be used to bring us closer to God. I have found that a more spiritually-focused life will build a deep foundation of happiness. There are books that can bring a deeper layer of happiness in life, and I have personally gained a great deal of spiritual strength from reading the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. I also gain a great deal of insight and strength in speaking with my friends of other faiths.

What Will You Do?
So, what will you do? Are you willing to take the challenge and begin to develop these skills and habits in your life? Are you willing to take the journey to higher levels of happiness and success? I know through my own experience that gaining and applying these skills has helped me to grow in my life, and I hope to continue to increase my knowledge and skill in these areas. Are you willing to change?

A 30 Day Challenge
Here is my challenge to those who are willing to work toward success and happiness. I challenge you to do the following for the next 30 days:
  • Read two of the books from the resources described above.
  • Listen to two of the audio programs described above. (I check them out from the library).
  • Apply at least two of the strategies I discuss in the linked blog posts.
If you are willing to do these things, you will almost certainly find yourself in a state of increased happiness. You will also find yourself beginning to see the path forward to the accomplishment of your own goals and desires. So, will you do it?

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