Skip to Main Content

Study Skills

What is Success?

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” - Helen Keller

Success. It’s a simple, yet complex word that has different meanings for different people from different walks of life. At the same time, success means the same thing for many others. For example, being a senior executive at a large corporation, having the biggest house in the neighborhood, or perhaps a certain social status in the community. The fact is, everyone views success through their own lens.

It is important to remember that success is not necessarily an outcome. Instead, it is an ongoing process. Better yet … success is a journey toward a destination, not the destination itself.

Close your eyes for a moment and ponder the following question: What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word “success”?

Next … dig deep into your thoughts, feelings, even your personal experience and ponder, even further, the following questions: How does your chosen word equate to success? Is it something societal? Maybe from your upbringing? Or is it just something you came up with on your own?

Okay … you’ve defined success in your own way and came up with your understanding of what it means to be successful. Now, let’s take it one step further. Ask yourself the following: Are you content with the level of success you’ve achieved thus far? If yes, think of three characteristics and/or behaviors that you’ve adopted to get where you are today. Is it sustainable? If not, what are three limiting beliefs that have hindered you from accomplishing and/or sustaining the success that you desire?

According to Goins (2015), you actually have more control over the outcome of your efforts than you think. The difficult part is finding the right path. Even more, you can succeed just as long as you’re willing to make some changes to your thought processes. Now, it can be a little frightening to step outside of your comfort zone. You might even fail a few times. Don’t worry … this is to be expected. In fact, Winston Churchill once said, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

The following are three ways to change the way you think about success (Goins, 2015):

1. If you don’t take yourself seriously, nobody else will.

People who carry act like amateurs are often treated as amateurs. On the other hand, people who act professional receive their due respect. If you act the part, then everything else will follow suit. In other words … Own your success. Start living in your new identity.

Food for Thought “Stop waiting for perfect. Take ownership today.” -Jeff Goins, Author, Art of Work

2. There will never be a better opportunity than today.

The simple fact is if you don’t start today, you probably never will. Just commit yourself to something actionable. You don’t have to finish what you start right away… you just have to begin. The purpose behind starting something is to create momentum. Momentum leads to accomplishment. Accomplishment then leads to success.

Food for Thought “The faster you get moving, the easier it will be to stay motivated.” -Jeff Goins, Author, Art of Work

3. Work smarter, not harder!

Quite often, we mistakenly believe that people who are more successful than us worked harder to get where they are today. That’s not necessarily true. In fact, truly successful people learn to work better … and to work smarter. Speaking of which, the same is true of intelligence. It’s not always the smartest people who necessarily succeed. Rather, its’s those who use what they have inside – that burning desire to the best job possible with what’s available to them – that creates the biggest impact.

Food for Thought “Success relies more on execution than intelligence.” -Jeff Goins, Author, Art of Work

Walt Disney once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” That said, if you’re one who has told yourself over and over again that success is out of reach, simply put, stop doing that. You have everything you need to get started toward not only success, but actually owning your success today. No one ever said success come easy … you have to put in the work. And it all starts with setting goals for yourself.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is a powerful process that involves creating a vision about your ideal future. Even more, it includes motivating yourself toward transitioning your vision of this future into reality. The process of setting goals essentially provides direction as to where you want to go in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you have to concentrate your efforts. At the same time, you can spot any distractions that can easily lead you astray.

It’s important to remember that once you set a goal, it should not only mean something, there needs to be value to achieving it. If the outcome is of little to no importance to you, then the chances of you working toward achieving that goal are practically non-existent. In fact, studies show that 93% of people are unable to effectively translate goals into actions if they feel the goals are not relevant to them (Hayzlett, 2017, April 14).

Studies show that people who set goals for themselves are more likely to:

  • Experience less stress and anxiety
  • Concentrate and remember more effectively
  • Demonstrate greater self-confidence
  • Perform better and achieve more
  • Be happier and more satisfied

According to Ward (2018 November 22), goal setting is one of the quickest routes to achievement. The benefit of setting goals lies in its ability to motivate us toward success. Therefore, to unlock our fullest potential to achieve success, we have to do three things:

  1. Let our goals challenge us in some way.
  2. Keep our goals in the forefront of our minds.
  3. Keep our goals consistent.

First, make sure you’re not shortchanging yourself when setting goals. If the goal is not challenging, there's no real point to pursuing it. In fact, it’s the challenge that keeps us interested. Second, stay focused your goals. With everything going in our daily lives – work, family, school, social functions, etc. – it’s easy for our goals to simply disappear into the background. Lastly, keep your goals consistent. In other words, make sure that none of your goals contradict (or undermine) each other. The simplest way to do this is to have a plan.


When setting goals, you need to be “smart” about it. A useful way of setting goals is to use the SMART mnemonic, which stands for the following (Rubin, 2002, April):

Specific (simple, sensible, significant).

Measurable (meaningful, motivating).

Achievable (agreed, attainable).

Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).

Time-bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive, trackable)


If your goal is not clear and specific, you may feel unmotivated or lose focus to achieve it. When preparing your goal, answer the following questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is this goal important?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where is it located?
  • Which resources or limits are involved?

In order to track your progress and stay motivated, it’s important to have measurable objectives. Assessing progress helps you to remain focused, meet your deadlines, and feel a sense of achievement that you’re working toward your goal. A measurable objective should address the following questions:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will I know when it is accomplished?

Your goal also attainable in order to be successful. In other words, to should motivate you to step outside of your comfort zone, even beyond your abilities, but still remain possible. By setting an achievable objective, you can identify previously overlooked opportunities or resources that can potentially bring you closer to accomplishing your goal. An achievable objective will answer the following questions:

  • How can I accomplish this goal?
  • How realistic is the goal based on other constraints (e.g., financial factors)?

Relevance is all about ensuring that your goal matters to you. It also requires making sure that it aligns with other relevant goals. While you may need support and assistance in achieving your goals, it’s vital to retain control over them. A relevant objective will answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match our other efforts/needs?
  • Am I the right person to reach this goal?
  • Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment?

Every goal needs a target date; therefore, you need to set a deadline to work toward. This purpose of this part of the SMART goal criteria is to prevent your everyday tasks (short-term goals) from taking precedence over your long-term goals. With this in mind, a time-bound objective will answer the following questions:

  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?



SMART is an effective tool that allows you to focus on what needs to be done to achieve your career goals. Even more, your ability to accomplish these goals can be achieved – thereby allowing you to take ownership of your own success –by encouraging you to define your objectives and set a completion date. Using the attached SMART Goals Worksheet, identify one career goal that you would like to accomplish. Include today’s date, the target date, start date, and date the goal was achieved. Remember to detail each objective of your SMART goal based on the previously discussed questions.


Goins, J. (2015). Art of work: A proven path to discovering what you were meant to do. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.

Hayzlett, J. (2017, April 14). The 5 golden rules of goal-setting. Retrieved from

Rubin, R. S. (2002, April). Will the real SMART goals please stand up? Retrieved from

Ward. S. (2018, November 22). Goal setting: your guide to setting goals. Retrieved from

Was this resource helpful?