How to Be Successful: Tips to Help You Succeed in 2021

Before you can define success, you should make a list of what success looks like to you. This list should include definitions, examples, goals (both tangible and non-tangible), and steps you can take to realize these goals. 

This article will break all of this down for you because it can become quite overwhelming.

Remember that this is personal. Your definition of success should be unique to you because YOU are unique.

And there is nothing wrong with being unique.

What Does it Mean to Be Successful?

Success is and should be extremely personal. Do not choose a particular definition or vision of success because it looks cool in an Instagram video (it was probably a paid ad taken in a rented Ferrari). 

There is no right or wrong way to define success and, similarly, there is no right or wrong way to go about achieving that success for yourself. The more personalized your goals, the more personalized your action plan will need to be.

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How to Achieve Success in Life

Another interesting thing about success is that it isn’t a goal or destination — it’s a MINDSETyou take on to achieve your goals. 

It’s also a process or a set of steps you take to achieve your goals. (Trust the process — right?!)

And like all other mindsets and processes, you don’t just drop it once you achieve your goals. Instead, you adopt it so you can carry it with you forever.

Successful people don’t just quit and drop out of life once they’ve achieved a goal say to become a New York Times bestselling author. (Hint: Ramit has and he’s still going)

Unfortunately, success isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. This is why Ramit wants to help you rewire how you think about success and help you break down the barriers to success once and for all.

Set a Realistic Goal

How often have you set a New Year’s Resolution — and have it completely fail by the end of the year (actually, fail by the end of February)?

Maybe you set a vague goal like, “I’m going to get healthy this year!” Of course, at first, the idea of getting healthier is quite exciting.

Then a few days go by, and you still haven’t bought a gym membership. And you just couldn’t pass up the buy-one-get-one-free Doritos promotion at your local grocery store.

This is the issue with goal setting: the goals many people set for themselves are simply too broad or too vague — and you have no idea where to start. So when you set a goal like, “I want to get healthy,” you end up spinning your wheels.

Of course, you do want to get out of your comfort zone, but you also want your objectives to lead to success.

This is why Ramit is a big proponent of SMART objectives.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-oriented. And with each element in SMART objectives, you’re going to want to ask yourself a set of questions that’ll help you develop a goal that you can realistically achieve.

  • SpecificWhat is the precise outcome I’m looking for?
  • MeasurableHow will I know when I’ve accomplished the goal? What does success look like?
  • Attainable. Is the goal realistic? Do I need to lean on outside help or resources (a personal trainer, a financial advisor, a dietitian, etc.) in order to achieve this goal? 
  • RelevantWhy am I doing this? Do I really WANT to do this? Is it a priority in my life right now?
  • Time-orientedWhat is the deadline? Will I know in a few weeks if I’m on the right track?

Knowing this, we can reframe the “I want to be healthy” goal into something much more specific and actionable such as, “I want to eat three vegetarian meals per week and go to the gym two times a week for 30 minutes.”

Do you see how much better the SMART objective is than just vague goal setting?

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Find a Reliable Mentor

With so much choice and so many potential outcomes, it can all seem quite overwhelming. 

To overcome this “paradox of choice,” Ramit suggests finding someone who’s been there already: a mentor. A mentor is a person who’s going to help you through the tough decisions and guide you on the path to success.

This itself can be a tough decision: How do you choose? 

It can be a friend or family member — you can even find a mentor in someone you NEVER meet face-to-face through books or blogs you read.

Be wary of “mentors” who promise untold riches or success with nothing to show for it. In fact, you might wish to find someone who doesn’t specifically present themselves as a mentor for hire — someone who might be a bit more modest but who can also advise you properly while helping you keep track of your goals. 

Working with a mentor may end up being a business relationship, but remember that if they are going to be providing you value, you will need to provide value back to them in return.

If money is tight, consider bartering for services. Perhaps you agree to ensure that their PC and other devices are updated with the latest versions of software and are running smoothly in exchange for financial advice. 

Start Taking Action

True success lies in the work that you put in. We’d all love to have a nice body or a career that we love — but are we willing to put in the sweat equity for it?

For many people interested in making change, the answer — duh — is, Yes.

This is more than just starting to take on some good habits and adopting a positive mental attitude with the hope that change will naturally occur.

Instead, imagine being able to systematically focus on doing just 10 high-impact actions a year. How do you think your results would compare to someone doing 100 different things?

This is called disproportionate impact — and it’s not simple. Most people have an ordinary impact on the world. They lead ordinary jobs, spend and save ordinary amounts of money, and when they work, they affect an ordinary number of people.

Many people are content living ordinary lives (yikes… let that set in).

What you need to do to be successful is to strive to not be ordinary and take action that ordinary people would not do.

Here is an example Ramit points to of disproportionate impact, in the area of getting an extraordinary raise:

What most people do: Wing it. They make a list of the reasons why they should get a raise — why they deserve it — and then they practice what they’re going to say in their heads a few times. They think the fact that they’ve done great work will be enough.

What SUCCESSFUL people do: They study salary negotiation, the mistakes most people make when trying to negotiate, and how to crack the negotiation code. They make a list of all the reasons they’ve EARNED a raise and they create a strategy for addressing the objections their boss might throw at them. Then they rehearse their pitch 100 times. They practice in front of a mirror, with their friends, and with strangers on the street. 

And they get results like Andrew who doubled his salary to nearly six figures.

Common Barriers to Success

While you might want to start on the road to success right this instant, it’s important to think about some of the barriers to success; those dark moments which can hinder our ability to truly achieve our goals.

Success Barrier #1: Chasing Magic Bullets

A magic bullet is the “ONE THING you NEED to become successful.”

We’ve all chased — or rather, bought — them at some point in our lives:

  • The one study guide that was going to help us ace the SATs
  • The pre-workout supplement that was going to burn more fat
  • The winning investment strategy that was going to double our money in one year

Unfortunately, after several attempts, we come to the difficult conclusion that magic bullets don’t exist. 

Whether you’re trying to start a business, find a job, or improve your fitness, there is no single piece of advice, over-the-counter supplement, or YouTube video that is going to change your life overnight. 

This is often a bitter pill to swallow — perhaps literally and figuratively — because we are bombarded every day with stories and images of people especially on social media who seemingly achieved success by using that magic bullet. We need to separate the fact from the fiction and come to the realization that a range of strategies will bring us success, tailor-made for us and by us after much trial and error.

Success Barrier #2: Fearing Failure 

Fear of failure is a very real and incredibly debilitating barrier holding a lot of us back from winning.

For example:

  • We don’t apply for that job because we’re sure there’s no way we can get it.
  • We don’t talk to that cute girl or guy because we think they’re “way out of our league.”
  • We don’t speak up for ourselves at work for fear that the boss or client won’t like it, and we’ll get fired.
  • We refuse to take that course that could potentially change our lives because we think “what if it doesn’t work for me?”

Ramit admits that he’s felt the very same fears and negative thoughts before.

Fear of failure happens when you live in the future rather than the present.

Rather than fear failure, it’s time to change your mindset to one that embraces growth rather than one that’s fixed. 

The fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence and ability are fixed traits set in stone at birth that cannot be changed. Individuals with a fixed mindset are generally consumed — or even obsessed — with placing themselves in situations where they are either rewarded for what they know, or where they avoid risk and failure.

Those with the growth mindset have no hangups or inadequacies about their IQ. They believe that they will naturally grow and change through experience, and that failure is not truly a failure, but simply an opportunity to learn.

Once you adopt a growth mindset, you stop fearing failure and start embracing the moment. Then, any “failure” you do encounter as a source of feedback and an avenue to succeed the next time you try. 

Failure is NOT a reason to give something up.

Success Barrier #3: Letting Guilt Control You

How often have you talked to a friend about working out, saving money, or studying for school and heard them say something like, “Yeah, I know I really should be doing that but…” followed by some lame-brained excuse as to why they’ve decided not to? 

“I know I really should be doing that” is just code for “I’m not going to do that at all.”

It’s the same with people who have credit card debt — many don’t even know how much debt they truly owe. Rather than address the issue, they’d rather bury their head in the sand than face the reality of how much they owe.

Being honest with yourself and holding yourself accountable does not mean that you should feel incredibly guilty for the things you’re not doing.

And when you DO feel guilty, don’t run away from it. Instead, first, acknowledge the situation and then ask yourself several whys: Why do I feel guilty? Why haven’t I accomplished ____? 

Write it all down, or keep it in a task or to-do app on your phone. 

Sooner or later you will get to the root of the issue and suddenly realize that tackling the issue is really just a matter of taking several small steps to set you on the path to accomplishing your goal. 

You’ll also be improving your mental health along the way — a fantastic bonus.

How to be successful in life

Success isn’t about being catapulted into the stratosphere overnight. It’s about taking consistent action, testing different options, and seeing the results. Fortunately and unfortunately, to be successful, you have to work on it every day…  and every day, you might not see a reward.

That’s OK. 

In fact, you can start implementing some life-changing tactics in your life today.

Ramit created a free guide on How to follow through on anything. If you follow through on this advice, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a success — How to Stop Being Lazy: 6 Powerful Strategies for 2021

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