At the start of a new year, it is a common practice to review the past one, think about the future and map out a path to success.
Successful people, we are told, are ambitious and driven, fully focused on achieving their goals.
Ambitious people are usually perceived as smart, ruthless, striving, and single-minded.
The late Lou Tice in his book, Personal Coaching for Success, How to Mentor and Inspire Others to Amazing Growth (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), offers another definition.
He characterizes ambition simply as “having goals and taking them seriously.”
This distinction is important.
In my coaching practice, I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of people in visioning, goal-setting, and evaluating success.
In my experience, people don’t really have to be particularly smart, assertive, or ruthless in order to be successful. They simply need to take themselves, their ideas, and their goals seriously.
While many people have goals, not many truly take them seriously.
One of the key questions I ask clients, if they are experiencing barriers to achieving what they say they want, is: how badly do you want it?
Most of us will only put our time, money, or energy into something we honestly want. If you’re not doing that, then there may be more profound issues at play.
What you think you want may not be in alignment with your deeper longings. You may be setting goals based on the expectations of other people, or outside influences. Or, even more simply, you actually don’t want whatever it is, all that bad.
Perhaps your life is quite satisfactory. If so, take ownership of what’s already working and focus on sustaining it rather than adding new initiatives into the mix.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle, boss, crush, and slay culture, afraid that you may fall behind if you’re not setting substantive annual goals.
It is also possible that you simply don’t take yourself seriously. Sometimes, this is an issue that is rooted in a lack of self-esteem, or past trauma.
On an unconscious level, you don’t believe you truly deserve success, so, therefore, it’s hard to achieve your goals.
If you find yourself living in a constant state of dissatisfaction, or unable to get traction in your business, career or personal life, it may be time to take a look at what’s in the way.
Rather than come up with a set of unattainable goals, look at the barrier itself.
Professional counselling or therapy can be useful in these cases and is itself a worthy goal.
Often, the paradigm we hold about success also discourages us from pursuing it.
Who wants to be perceived as ruthless, pushy, or striving?
By defining success on your own terms, you can set goals that are genuinely meaningful and based on a true alignment with who you are.
Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant.