Looking for the important ingredient for success? …it’s simple!
Have you noticed that people who are successful are not necessarily smarter or harder workers? This is something I observe over and over. I have known pizza delivery people, bicycle couriers, used bookstore clerks, and more (all with degrees). All could intellectualize their “superiors” under the table, any day of the week. I’ve known people with incredible ideas and powerful minds, doing all sorts of hard jobs that do not pay a living wage (if a living wage means you can live on 60% of the income, saving and investing the rest for retirement and emergencies.)
Do not be mistaken, I am not suggesting that making money is the only way to measure success. Obviously, some people choose to work certain jobs because they want the flexibility to pursue their passion, or they are living by a value system where money or material possessions aren’t the focus or any number of other valid reasons. To be clear, however you measure success, it is not necessarily correlated to the characteristics you would think.
Part of the recipe for success is just suiting up and showing up. Some people think about doing things while others just do it. Some feel afraid of making the next move and allow this to hold them back; others feel the fear and step forward anyway, thinking of the fear as excitement or something along the path they learn to tolerate.
Inspirational author, Joachim de Posada, in this entertaining TED video, introduces another compelling ingredient for success. In several studies, four-year-old children were given a marshmallow and told they would be left alone for fifteen minutes, and if afterward, the marshmallow was still intact, then they would be given a second marshmallow. Preschool-aged children and fifteen minutes alone with a sweet, tasty marshmallow. Needless to say, two out of three could not resist and ate the white, powdery treat almost immediately. One out of three was able to wait the whole time. What’s fascinating comes next…they did a follow-up study of these same children fifteen years later and found that of those who did not eat the marshmallow, one-hundred-percent of them were successful. They had good grades, were doing well in school, had good relationships with the teachers, etc.
So what did those children have as part of their temperament that made them different? They had the ability to delay gratification and to discipline themselves. They realized that waiting for something can increase the enjoyment…and the payoff.
One of the exciting things about having this information is that we can change; we can use this to make our lives more successful. Of course, shifting our patterns is not always simple and with any change, we can expect to feel some resistance. Sometimes we do things to reward ourselves because an area of our life is hard. Maybe, for example, you don’t like your job and so you over-shop to reward yourself for dealing with it. But what if the “rewards” are part of what’s keeping you stuck?
Regardless of what has happened in the past, regardless of our inclinations, we can begin again. We can create new patterns and clear space for new growth and success. Together we can break it down into step-by-step plans of action. So where in your life would you like to see more success? Where could you use more self-discipline, long-term vision, and the ability to wait for it? What are some concrete steps you are willing to commit to right now? And how will you track it and keep yourself accountable?
This is the most important ingredient for success.
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