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5 Key Principles for Success

November 4, 2018 | by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

How to overcome hurdles and achieve your goals.

We all want to succeed and bring out our inner greatness, that special something that only we can offer the world. But why do we always seem to be at the foot of the mountain looking up?

How can we overcome the hurdles on the path to personal development and be more motivated for genuine change?

Here are five key principles for success:

1. You are succeeding!

Use past success to inspire your future. Look at a photo of yourself from 20 years ago. True, you haven't yet earned a Nobel Prize, but you have grown in astounding ways.

This is not to suggest saying, "Look at me, I'm so great!" Rather, we humbly take pleasure in our accomplishments – appreciating the results of our good choices and sincere effort.

To access this state, try this exercise:

  • Go to a quiet, private place. Sit straight, feet flat on the floor, hands on your thighs.
  • Close your eyes and whisper the words (audible to your ears):
  • "What is the greatest challenge I have overcome in the past 20 years?"
  • Focus on the first thought to enter your mind.
  • Recall the circumstances of this triumph. Tell yourself the story, as if speaking to a trusted friend.
  • Savor that feeling of success, and be grateful for having achieved it.

To tamper the ego's inclination to impress others, keep these thoughts private. It's not bragging when there's no one to impress.

The result is a powerful, authentic affirmation of self-worth that energizes future stages of growth.

2. Born to toil

Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt"l asked the question: Why did God make a baby's first teeth come with so much pain?

You can't get to Heaven on roller skates.

The answer, he said, is that "you can't get to Heaven on roller skates." The world is imperfect and it is our privilege to partner with God in making appropriate repairs. From the earliest age we are taught, "A person was born to toil" (Job 5:7).

Stop complaining that "everything is so difficult." Anything truly valuable in life – close relationships, successful career, athletic achievement – requires serious effort. Pain, i.e., effort, is the "price tag" for acquiring pleasure. As the saying goes, "No pain, no gain."

So put your shoulder to the grindstone and enjoy the process!

3. Define your goal

Imagine you have a billion dollars and a blank slate – no restrictions of time, obligations or resources. After traveling the world, what will you do with your life?

Define your goal and articulate it. Because if you don’t know where you're going, you'll never get there.

To clarify your goal, try the SMART method:

  • Specific – Avoid generalities like, "I want to be rich and lose weight." Quantify those terms; how much is "enough"?
  • Measurable – Compose a series of metrics to evaluate whether you are in fact achieving your goal.
  • Assistance – Don't be afraid to ask for help. Every great achievement involves some teamwork.
  • Realistic – Think big, but keep it in the realm of "rational." An unrealistic goal is destined to fail. (Talmud – Yoma 80a)
  • Time – Set a specific deadline. Otherwise, the timetable gets pushed further and further… until you've run out of time.

Next, close your eyes. Imagine that your plans, and all the elements of success, have fallen into place. You are now in the win-state, standing at the top of the mountain.

Notice the details. How does it feel? The clearer you paint a picture of how this looks, the better your ability to "project" into this state of success.

4. "One Big Thing"

Next, begin a process of reverse-engineering. What series of steps will leverage your current reality and move you progressively to the mountaintop?

One domino can knock down another domino 50% larger than the first.

Consider the powerful law of physics, where a single strategic effort can trigger an enormous chain reaction. For example, one domino can knock down another domino 50% larger than the first. By starting with one regular domino and making each subsequent domino 50% larger, the 11th domino will be the size of a person. With another 16 dominoes you could knock over a 100-story building.

Though it's impossible to predict so many dominoes into the future, by viewing your goal as a series of progressive steps, you can laser-focus on the next single step, that "one big thing" that most strongly impacts your progress.

For now, focus on your first domino and break that into small, incremental steps. Create a to-do list with one action step every day. Like dripping water, one step after another, this leads to your grand destination.

5. Supportive environment

Every person reflects the sum total of those we're closest with – family, colleagues, roommates. To succeed, we need to be in a supportive environment where we can share our dreams and receive positive encouragement. Everyone needs to hear the words, "I support you. You can do it. Go for it!"

Any important work is by definition "disruptive" and will be criticized.

This support network is vital because any important work you do is by definition "disruptive" and thus will be criticized. That’s guaranteed.

We need friends who will advocate and support our fight to overcome those threats. The wise King Solomon wrote: "Two are better than one… for if one falls, the other will lift him up." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Imagine someone who works as a chimney-sweep. Exposed to a constant barrage of dirt, he might begin to doubt his true essence. That is the power of "common-unity," a supportive safe haven where one can "clean up," rejuvenate, and realign perspective.

Every human has greatness lurking inside. Discover your unique life mission and experience the most enthralling, energizing, meaningful life ever. You have the power; make a commitment to use it!

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