I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.

Anthony_GoddardWhat does that mean?
This quote goes to the heart of the definition of ‘dream.’ To some, a dream is more a fantasy, something you engage in when you don’t have anything better to do, or don’t want to think about what you should be doing. To them, dreaming is the opposite of doing, right?

In today’s quote, this definition of the word dream seems to be about a perfect fit. Perhaps using the phrase ‘day-dream’ in the quote would be a bit more precise and a bit less ambiguous. “I never day-dreamed about success. I worked for it.” That has a more solid ring to it, doesn’t it?

The ambiguity comes from all the quotes where dreaming is the big build up in the mind of all the things that will soon be done. It’s the purpose, the big picture, the motivation for the project. That is the good kind of dream, and most definitely not the dream about which this quote is based.

Why is taking action important?  
Success doesn’t just stop by and visit from time to time. It will not seek you out. The best you can hope to do is to stumble into it from time to time. If you truly want success, you will need to work at it, and work towards achieving what you define as success.

Taking action is what is required. Without action, nothing substantial will get accomplished. If all you do is think about it, talk about it, or day-dream about it, nothing is going to happen. Success will not happen. It’s that simple, and that straight forward.

Where can I apply this in my life?
We’ll try this as a three step process. First we’ll try to define success for a few different parts of your life. Then we’ll try to figure out what it will have to take place to determine that you have achieved success. Finally, we’ll try to figure out if you are willing to work that hard, or if it is just going to remain a day-dream.

Step one is to determine what you believe success actually is. Grab some paper and start thinking about the different aspects of your life. Work, home, friends, family, social groups, etc. What constitutes success in each of those areas, and all the other areas into which you might divide your life.

At work, do you have to be the best, or just enough to not get fired? If you don’t have a definition of success, how will you know what to do and when, right? Try to give a fairly solid answer, not something trivial, like I just used in the example.

Now that you have your life mapped out, and have definitions of success in each of them, it’s time to consider how you get from where you are to where you have defined success to reside. In other words, where is your finish line, or what is the goal for each day, month, or year?

There are some days as a parent when I consider the day a success if I haven’t killed my kids. Again, that’s a trivial answer, and your results will be in proportion to the effort you put in. If you are just day-dreaming through this process, you’re not working towards success, right?

Take a moment and go through each area of your life and write down however many ways you actually have for being successful. For work, it might be “deliver a presentation” one day, “fix a production problem” the next, and “design a new product concept” on another day. This may take a few minutes, but don’t take hours, right?

Finally, take a list of all the things you have listed as ways to achieve success in your life. Which are the most important? Put a mark of some kind next to them, so they stand out. Double check that they are things you can do, and are willing to work to accomplish.

Now scan through the rest of them and mark the ones which are long-term goals, like retirement, changing careers, or getting your kids out of the house (more for those with younger kids). These will take a lot of work over a long period of time, but still need your attention, right?

Look over the list one more time, and cross out anything you really aren’t willing to work to do. I’m still not sure I’ll need to become an expert at public speaking, even though it is a measure of success in my field of expertise. I have enough other ways to consider myself successful.

What are you going to cross off your list? Try to be realistic, and not just cross out the things you don’t like, especially if it leaves you with only a very few ways to achieve success in that part of your life.

What is left on the list that hasn’t already been marked as high priority, long term, or not applicable? These are the things you can do, but are not focused on, as avenues for success. Just remember that they do exist, especially on days when your primary measure of success didn’t go as well as you would have liked.

Success is a process, not a destination, so plan to revise your list from time to time. And be sure to celebrate your successes, each and every day. Especially the small ones!

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