Chasing Success

What have you achieved in life? What would you like to achieve? And how will you get there?

These are questions that everyone has to grapple with, and building success isn’t easy. You’ll face challenges and roadblocks, distractions and despair. You have plenty to do, say, and overcome before you reach the success you crave.

So how can you do it? What are the best ways to chase down success, and how can people stay healthy and sane while they’re on a quest to accomplish great things? The best way to learn the answers to these questions may be to look at the lives and deeds of the people who have already achieved the sort of success that most people can only dream of. Here’s what looking at those success stories reveals.

Believe and dream — but plan, too

Dream big. Believe in yourself. Visualize success. If you’ve ever sought advice on accomplishing great things, you’ve probably heard tips like this 1,000 times. And these ideas are well-intentioned, and even good. It’s certainly true that confidence and belief will help you persevere through tough times and rally others to your cause. But it’s also true that these sorts of tips are a bit fuzzy on the details. We don’t get things in life just because we wish for them.

So while you’re dreaming and believing, don’t forget to plan. When you visualize success, know exactly what you’re visualizing. Create a five-year plan for yourself, and nail down the details and the strategies that you’ll use to get from point A to point B. Remember: It doesn’t matter how hard you push or how much you believe in yourself if you’re not moving in the right direction.

Use your money to make money

Financial success is an important part of professional and material success. While money may not be everything, it certainly factors into what most people consider to be “success.” Making it big requires succeeding in your professional life, but it’s also important to remember that people don’t buy sports cars and homes of distinction on their salaries alone — not usually, anyway. It’s vital that you use the money that you earn wisely.

To maximize your net worth and craft the financial future that you want, you need to spend less than you earn, pocket the difference, and then (this part is important) use those savings to make even more money. Invest your savings in stocks, bonds, or real estate holdings that will grow in value over time. Keep saving and investing steadily, and remember that every dollar you don’t spend will be worth much more than $1 if you keep it invested for decades.

Work-life balance, values, and your mental health

Success is a tricky thing. For some people, professional and financial success can make personal success — the beautiful emotions that make life worth living — impossible. From long working hours to selfishness and greed, the fallout from an all-consuming quest for material success can be devastating.

That’s why true success requires that you keep your perspective. Remember that material success can take the form not just of salary increases, but of improved work-life balance perks, too; an extra couple vacation days can be a mark of your professional success just as easily as a few more dollars on your paycheck can, and the former is much more personally rewarding than the latter.

And don’t forget your values, either. Howard Fensterman is a massively successful financial and medical malpractice attorney, but he hasn’t focused on hoarding his wealth. On the contrary, his financial success has made it possible for him to become a philanthropist. True success may mean for you what it does for Fensterman: The chance to live a moral and rewarding life in comfort.

So define your own success, and then seek it. Plan, take care with your money, and achieve the position that lets you live your life in the way that makes you happiest and leaves you feeling as if you’ve done good in this world.

Adam Hansen