The Secret of My Success (the movie)
I grew up in the middle of nowhere. We got a few tv stations, and I think we had a promotional trial of HBO at some point in my teens. Life-changing!!! So when we found a movie that we liked, we'd record it and watch it over and over and over and over again. One of those movies etched in my brain is The Secret of My Success starring Michael J. Fox. I can still hear the background music, "...bow bow...chi, chi-ca-chi-ca, der, bow bow..." Michael J. Fox was a nobody who REALLY wanted to be a somebody in the corporate world. He knew that he wanted to be an executive, and he didn't take his eyes off the prize, even when slightly pulled away by a beautiful woman....because love will do that to you in the best way possible and makes for a great plot twist. Fox works as a mail clerk while simultaneously creating and executing a plan to make him an instant executive. I won't spoil it for you by giving away the ending, but let's just say that I wouldn't be using this as an example unless...you get the picture.
Defining Your Success
So, now let's look at you. What are you "succeeding" at in your life? Are you "succeeding" at being financially below where you'd like to be? Are you "succeeding" at being alone when you would give your left pinky toe to be in an amazing relationship? Are you succeeding at being overweight and pre-diabetic? Are you "succeeding" at allowing anxiety, stress, or depression to prevent you from the job or life experiences you occasionally let yourself dream about?
Okay, so you may be saying....but those things AREN'T my goals. In fact, they are the polar opposite of my goals. You are saying, "Dr. Kelly, I DON'T want to succeed at those things." I get that. But here's the thing...we become successful by thinking the thoughts and engaging in the behaviors that support the achievement of the experience that we define as success. For example, if you are constantly thinking about not having the kind of money you would like to have, then guess what, you are going to engage in behaviors that support that which makes you think the thoughts that go along with those behaviors that keep you small and poor. Same goes for wanting to lose weight and become healthier...Are you making excuses for why you don't have time to make eggs for breakfast and instead stop for a donut? Then you tell yourself that you are fat and won't ever be able to get fit...so bring on the second donut.
What we focus on grows. What we focus on becomes our target for success. Are you with me? And if you aren't consciously choosing a target goal that you define as success, then you will default to what is familiar and that becomes your accidental success goal...not...cool. Here's some steps to get your aim on a target that marks real success.
Steps to Align with Your Success Target
1. Take a good long look at your life and the behaviors or experiences that keep showing up for you, even if they aren't what you want. Are you dating the same emotionally inept person over and over again? Are you gaining weight and getting flabbier with every passing season? Are you in the same crappy job that makes going to the dentist seem appealing?
Once you call those things to mind, don't judge. Let me repeat...don't judge yourself. You didn't know better, so you couldn't DO better, but now you can. Acknowledge that you have been putting your time, attention, thoughts, and behaviors in a direction that is not supporting your optimal life. Then, like a helium balloon at a child's birthday party (can you tell where I've been spending my weekends???) and Elsa's claim to fame, LET. IT. GO. You have to let it go to make room for the good stuff.
2. This is the fun step. Identify what it is that you REALLY want. And don't hold back. You want to be at the Crossfit Regional competition next year (can you tell what my husband has been doing on his weekends???), then write that down. Do you want to have a kick-ass job that brings you joy and fulfillment, then write that down. Aim high. Dream big. And WRITE IT DOWN...preferably on real paper made from trees or bamboo or something physical like that.
3. Say thanks but no thanks to the impostor voice. It's about this time when the impostor voice gets mouthy with, "Who am I to do that? Why do I think I can achieve that when I barely make it to the gym now? I'm definitely not qualified for that job leading a non-profit and besides it won't pay enough anyway. Blah, Blah, Blah" Take a breath, and then calmly or not-so-calmly, tell that voice to STOP. Tell it that you know it is here because it is trying to protect you, but that you are a big girl/boy, and you've got this one. Read this to learn more about impostor syndrome and how to overcome it.
4. Make steps to move forward. Any steps. Even teeny, tiny, baby steps. Because guess what? Even teeny, tiny, baby steps move you TOWARD that thing that you have now declared to be your goal. These steps can be researching the company you want to work for (but don't get caught in the trap of researching without action), getting your hair cut so you feel more confident, meditating for 5 minutes, etc. My favorite quote on taking action is from Marie Forleo who says, "Clarity comes from engagement, not thought." This is my mantra whenever I come up with 16 excuses why I can't or shouldn't do X, Y, or Z (AKA, the very things that I need to do to move me out of my comfort zone closer to my success goal). Sometimes you won't know the next step until you start doing something, anything. Let me tell you this...the answers won't drop on your lap and doors won't appear and magically open sitting on your couch doing the same thing that you did today and yesterday and the day before that. I know that it can feel scary and hard, but DO IT ANYWAY. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
5. Write down your goal on an index card (yes, people still use them), and carry it with you or tape it to your computer, and read it every day. Yes, every day. Sick days. Holidays. Hard days, Fun days. Every day. This cements the goal in your brain. Repeating your goal to yourself aloud coordinates the neural pathways in your brain to work to make your goal happen. For reals. It works.
In addition to writing down your goal, write down some tangible steps that you can take even if they seem silly or little or trivial. Return to this list and edit as necessary.
If you've zoned out on the above paragraphs, because let's face it, that happens sometimes, remember this: If you don't have a goal to define what success means to you, you will succeed at not achieving that goal. Now go. You can do this. And you don't have to do this alone. We're not meant to be a lone wolf. Get help though resources like podcasts (Christine Hassler's Over it and On with It, Sean Croxton's Quote of the Day Show), books (Jen Sincero's You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life), magazines (Success Magazine or any inspirational magazine that aligns with your goals), or a therapist or coach.
If you have questions and need more direction, email me at DrKelly@everydaytherapist.com. And if you now someone who could benefit from this, please share it with them!