Monday, October 29, 2012

The Secret of Success

I was thinking about success this morning, during my morning meditation. Specifically, I realized that success in reaching a goal or completing a task does not depend on how many hours of work you put in. It doesn't depend how much you obsess and plot and plan, or even what skills you have. Yes, what you do does matter - of course it does. But not nearly as much as what you feel and believe. 

The most important step in attacking any challenging task is to prepare your mind and heart. Calm your anxiety. Quiet your chattering thoughts. Breathe deeply, and believe that you have whatever you need to succeed - knowledge, skill, determination, inspiration. Move forward in confidence, with faith in yourself, and you can accomplish far more than you would ever dream possible.

I realize that this sounds like mystical mumbo jumbo, but I've seen demonstrations of its truth in my own life, again and again. When I believe, I astonish myself. When I question my abilities, when I falter and lose heart, I stumble and fall.

I remember a simple but telling example. Long ago, one of my boyfriends had this neat trick. He could light a match with one hand, folding it against the striking surface of the match book and hitting it just right. Trivial, right? But surprisingly difficult. He taught me the technique, but I couldn't seem to get it to work. He grinned at me and said, "Lisabet, the problem is that you think you can't do it. Believe you can, and see what happens."

He was right. As soon as I let go of my conviction of failure, I was successful every time. When I let the doubts creep back, I lost the knack.

Recently, author Michael Lewis gave a baccalaureate address at Princeton, his alma mater.  One of his points - which generated a lot of commentary online -  was that success is much more a matter of chance than people normally admit. Successful people like to think that they've earned everything they have, that all their accomplishments can be attributed to intelligence and ability, but in fact, chance encounters and random events play a big role.

I agree with this - with one proviso. I think that one's attitude determines how we react to those random events, whether we turn them into assets or let them pass. If you believe in your own ability to succeed, you will be ready to capitalize on every positive accident that befalls you. And you'll be more able to shake free of the negative events, too.

When we tell ourselves we can't succeed, we are condemning ourselves to failure. When we approach  our goals with confidence, we're halfway to achieving them. Of course, we still have to do the work. I still have to write that novel, create the query letter, send it out to publishers, negotiate the contract, do the edits, plan and execute the marketing efforts. However, if I begin with the conviction that I can write that novel and get it published - well, it's only a matter of time and effort before that happens.

And now - it's back to work!

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