What exactly is the right attitude for success? Is there a formula?

Can you picture yourself living your dream? Some people will tell you that getting a clear vision of your success is all you need to do to realize it. By now, you probably know there’s a lot more to it. Jim Rohn, the great business philosopher, said, “You must either modify your dreams or magnify your skills.” If you’re not advancing toward your goals as quickly or as easily as you’d hoped, it’s time to address your skill set. This might mean your industry skills, but real advancement more likely requires you to sharpen your self-discipline and to focus on your personal development. From productivity tips to leadership styles, how are you supposed to know which skills you should improve and which will lead you down the path of success? This is an important question to answer correctly because the wrong answer could send you down a rabbit hole of useless suggestions and pie-in-the-sky promises.

The Luck Myth

Before you can answer the question of which skills need improvement, you’ve got to stop telling yourself that success is impossible. There’s a pervading belief that success happens for others but not for us. Maybe it’s the idea of luck: Some people are just lucky and some people aren’t, right? Wrong. When it comes to executing a strategy with consistency and the right attitude, luck has no part in the plan. That’s good news because it means that if you create the right map, pack the right gear, and set out with the right pair of binoculars, you’re sure to discover the journey of your dreams. Luck isn’t about a random set of circumstances that make or break your destiny. Instead, luck is what you make of the things life throws at you. It’s the idea that if you really put your mind to something, you can achieve it. That might sound simplistic, but any kind of success starts with this fundamental belief that success is possible—for you. Without this essential belief, you’ll get stuck. You might already feel stuck. When we’re stuck, we have a constant, nagging voice in our heads telling us that we’re not far enough, fast enough, or good enough. There’s a daily regret at not tending to the important things. There’s a recurring feeling of dashed hopes and frustrated dreams. Being stuck feels like being so close to failure that you’re about to fall off the edge. Every time we think of the life we could have—that life where we’ve met our goals and have set even higher ones—we feel defeated and a little more hopeless. That’s the danger of believing in luck. If you’re unlucky, you think, “Why bother?” If you’re unlucky, you feel like a failure before you even start. So you don’t start. It’s time to set aside the myth of luck. Bad luck is not the root of your frustration or failure. Good luck isn’t something that only a few receive. Instead, your approach to your dreams and the choices you make along the way are the determining factors in whether or not those dreams are possible.

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An Attitude of Success

No matter what skills you need to sharpen to move ahead toward your vision, the first skill most people need to hone is attitude. You can call it perspective, approach, or mindset—but it all comes down to the same concept. How you think about your life and your business is the first essential part of success. And yes, the right attitude for success is a skill. Developing the right attitude for success might seem simple, but it’s a lifetime endeavor. Why? Because each new challenge, every setback, and any roadblock can blast away your positive attitude and replace it with dread, depression, or defeatism. “The worst thing one can do is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized – never knowing,” Rohn said. That sad outcome is one too many people are familiar with – you likely know someone who didn’t pursue their greatest dream and regretted it deeply. You don’t have to go down that road. Instead, you can pick up the essential tool of a success attitude and choose a brighter path. To develop your own attitude of success, you’ve got to determine what success means for you. Ask yourself:

  • What makes life valuable?
  • What makes life worthwhile?
  • What makes life work well in all areas?

The answers to these questions will help you define success for yourself. It might look like travel with your family, financial freedom, your own business or a certain promotion, robust health, and a sense of peace and well-being. Try to be specific as you consider the successful life you’d like to lead.

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Related: Jim Rohn’s Guide to Goal SettingThe next step is considering what thoughts, ideas, and beliefs will support this life. For example, if your family and friends make life worthwhile, then you need an idea on how to spend more time with them. You need the daily thought of your family’s well-being, and you need the core belief that family obligations are more important than professional ones. Without that, all the calendar reminders in the world won’t get you home in time for dinner with your spouse and children. Your attitude, or as Rohn called it, your personal philosophy, is the first step toward success on any path. “While there are many puzzle pieces for success,” Rohn said, “without developing a sound personal philosophy, the other pieces are of little value.”

Responsibility Thinking

The sound philosophy Rohn refers to is the attitude of success you build through the right thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. When you take such an attitude, the other pieces of your success plan function at a much higher level. Your future is within reach when you have a firm foundation on which to build and maintain it. Taking responsibility for your attitude is the first step. Most people hand over the responsibility for their attitude in the following ways:

  • They point to personal circumstances as the reason for their attitude.
  • They point to other people’s actions (or inactions) as the reason for their attitude.
  • They point to luck (or lack of it) as the reason for their attitude.
  • They point to their own flaws or failures as the reason for their attitude.
  • They point to the world at large as the reason for their attitude.

None of these are suitable excuses to have a poor attitude. Sure, things happen in life you can’t control, but as Rohn says, “You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.”

Consistent Learning

The difference between someone who has a difficult youth, a career full of failures, and a personal life that’s in shambles versus a person who has the same difficult youth, career full of failures, and personal life that’s in shambles but has an attitude for success to go with all that is massive. That one ingredient—the right attitude—can make or break us. Because the right attitude for success says, sure, we had a rough start in life, but we aren’t going to sit around blaming others’ actions for our choices. Instead, we’re going to start shedding old ideas and adopting new beliefs to grow beyond the painful past. The right attitude for success says, ‘Wow, we failed a lot in our professional life but what we learned from those failures will propel us even further next time we try!’ And the right attitude for success says, ‘Relationships are hard sometimes and we all lose people we care about, but now we can take what we’ve experienced and apply it so we’re the best versions of ourselves.’ Rather than spend idle time wondering why we have it so rough, an attitude of success inspires us to look back only to see what lessons we can take with us as we charge into the future. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to help us get there, but if we end up in a positive place of gratitude, even after difficulty, we know we have the right attitude for success.

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Your Personal Development Plan

Once you’ve stepped back from your challenges and looked at things with a new view, you might feel like it is smooth sailing from here on out. Well, probably not. Every path has its highs and lows. In fact, the most difficult thing you face might be maintaining that positive attitude. It’s a daily discipline to keep your personal philosophy at the forefront of your mind. Everything else in your world will battle for prominence, from the news to your complaining neighbor. You might feel pumped up at the thought of your impending success, but without the right attitude to keep your mindset on track, your plan is likely to fail. You need to adopt a personal development plan that helps you on a both a daily and weekly basis. Reading, writing, talking with other success-minded folks, and learning from a mentor are all part of a solid personal development plan. The idea is to control what your mind dwells on and how you see the world. If you leave this vital component of your life to anyone else—whether that’s your boss or the local news anchor—you’re likely to be disappointed. “If you don’t design your own life plan,” Rohn said, “chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”


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