How Serious Are You About Achieving Success?

An excerpt from my best-selling book, Reinvent Yourself

I have coached many professionals, at various levels and stages in their careers, including entry-level and mid-level supervisors and managers, officers up to and including vice presidents, senior VPs, chiefs, and CEOs. And I often ask them how they define success in their lives. Consistently, their definitions have varied based on gender, age, ethnicity, and their stage in life. But there are some commonalities. Here are a few examples of some of the most common responses I hear.

Some say that success is about having a great job and making good money. Some say their fulfillment lies in their personal relationship with their spouse or their significant other and with their children. Some feel that success is being personally wealthy and being able to buy anything they want. It’s having the car of their dreams. It’s winning the lottery. Some even tell me that success is being spiritually grounded in their faith, having good health, and living a long life. For others, success is retiring and being able to travel around the world.

I’m sure that many of these definitions resonate with you, as they do with most Americans. Statistics confirm that 40 to 45 percent of Americans—that’s nearly 100 million Americans—make New Year’s Day resolutions and set goals under the premise that their lives will be better off and more successful if they accomplish these new goals. The most common New Year’s resolutions include losing weight and getting healthier, finding a new job, spending more time with loved ones and friends, quitting smoking, and getting out of debt. Even so, according to a recent USA Today article, nearly 50 percent of those goals are abandoned by the end of January, and only 40 percent of them are maintained beyond six months.

Where Do You Invest Your Time, Talent, and Treasure?How Serious Are You About Achieving Success?

One way I encourage my clients to consider how they define success is to have them look at how and where they invest their mental, emotional, financial, spiritual, and physical energy. If I were coaching you, I’d want to know what you really spend the majority of your time doing and thinking about, and planning for and working toward. If I looked at your daily planner and your checkbook, and at your debit and credit card statements, what would it tell me about what’s most important to you?

I’m a big believer that where one invests one’s time, talent, and treasure is a clear demonstration of where one’s heart is committed. Where you commit your resources and energy says a lot about who you are and where you’re going, where you’ve been and what you believe, and what legacy you will leave. One of my favorite authors, John Maxwell, has written a number of great books on success and leadership (How Successful People Think; The Difference Maker; 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, to name a few). He describes success as a journey. It’s like a cross-country trip—just use your imagination and envision such a trip with me. It’s a trip that’s filled with beautiful scenic views and signs and guideposts. But also along the way, the trip comes up against rocky roads, hills, valleys, mountains, and deserts. So in order to get to the right destination, you have to have a roadmap or a navigation system. Unfortunately, too many people take trips without using a roadmap and refuse even to ask for directions when they get lost.  In other words, success doesn’t just happen. Like most things, it requires that you go through a process or a journey in order to achieve it. You may ultimately reach your destination, but along the way you will experience some peaks and some valleys. Successful people know this, and they’re willing to take this journey.

They actively invest in themselves. They require constant self-discovery. They’re growing and developing new knowledge, skills, attitudes, and perspectives. Plus, they’re meeting new people and expanding their network, and doing things that benefit others as well as their society.

Unfortunately, most of us are not making the right investment of our time; we are not doing things that lead to success. Research tells us that the average American spends 20 to 28 hours a week—that’s three to four hours a day!—watching television, when we could be using that time developing fresh skills or learning something new. The Consumer Expenditure Report published in 2011 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that individual consumers only spent $945 on education for the year. (This includes personal development activities such as attending a seminar/workshop, taking a college course, learning a new language, etc.) And purchasing reading materials made up only 0.2 percent of the average consumer’s income, which equates to about $118 a year. This means the average consumer spent only $9.83 a month on reading materials—Yes, that’s correct: only $9.83 a month!

A Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted in October 2013 revealed that 28 percent of Americans haven’t read a book in the past year. And, what’s even more shocking, the Consumer Expenditures Report for 2011 mentioned above revealed that the average consumer spent nearly $2,700 on entertainment, almost $500 on alcoholic beverages, $323 on tobacco products, $588 on personal care products, and over $1,800 on clothing.

Wow! I don’t know about you, but the message is clear. If I were to look at the average American’s bank statements and credit card bills and daily planners and see where they’re investing most of their time and their money, I’d likely see time spent at the movies, video stores, concerts, shopping malls, liquor stores, restaurants, hair care product and nail salons, day spas, and other personal care shops. But I wouldn’t see much time spent at the library or buying a book from the local bookstore, or attending a seminar at the local college, or even listening to motivational CDs or DVDs or MP3s—and I certainly wouldn’t see time spent enrolling in a career or professional development program.

If you’re one of those consumers who finds him or herself spending frivolously and wastefully without anything to show for it at the end of the year, or at the end of each month, now is the time to redefine what success means to you.

Is success for you a repeat of that vicious cycle of dressing up outward appearances and having a short-lived good time on the weekend, only to wake up every day trying to fill a void and facing an emptiness caused by a lack of fulfillment? Do you want to enjoy life or endure life? Do you want success in every area of your life? If so, it’s time to Reinvent Yourself. And what better time than now to set forth a new direction and make the necessary investments towards your success. As 2014 comes to a close in less than 45 days and 2015 arrives, start by investing in your personal growth and development.

Remember, success starts with oneself, and it works its way outward—not the opposite. And when you have true success, when you have true fulfillment, it flows through every area of your life.

Dr. Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CSP, is President of SDS Global Enterprises, a strategic development solutions firm that specializes in Global Talent Management strategies. She is an accomplished corporate executive, a certified senior Global HR and Talent Management expert, a success coach, and a Master of Reinvention.


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