One of the better definitions of success that I’ve come across is “the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal”. I first heard that particular definition in a recording of Earl Nightingale, a famous speaker and educator. According to this way of thinking, success has at least something to do with progress.

Of course there are many variables associated with success. For example, there is a significant body of research that tells us about the importance of goal setting to achievement and success. Having specific, written goals is one key to success. You dramatically increase your probability of success to the extent you have specific goals, and that you write them down and review them regularly.

Another element of success is visualization. If you can hold a clear picture in your mind of the “success” you desire, especially one that is vivid and has emotion and affect attached to it, you also increase your probability of succeeding.

In addition, by turning your goals into actions that can be mainstreamed into your daily life/routine (e.g. adding specific reflection time into the calendar you regularly use to manage your day and time), you can also increase your probability of success. Progress toward worthy goals is often short circuited because of faulty or half-hearted execution. You are far more likely to execute well if you can integrate goal-oriented actions into your natural operating style, rhythm and characteristic routines. Now, it may be that these same routines are the very things that need must changing for you to be successful. Even if that’s true, be realistic. You are not going to completely make yourself over. You must try to leverage as much of your natural self as possible.

And, speaking of leverage, you must also leverage your network, the broad resource of people around you and the people they know. Without going too far, you can probably find the expertise, capital and complementary talents you need to achieve the success you imagine.

From my personal vantage point, I think three words are critical when talking about success: focus, discipline and persistence. This may sound too general, but think about it. To be successful, you need A focus and TO focus. Without having a focus, you are probably too scattered and fractured in your thinking to be fully successful. Having a focus allows you to channel energy and resources in a way that produces progress. Likewise, if you are unable TO focus, then you cannot sustain that picture of success and your attention gets continually diverted away from goal-oriented behavior.

Discipline is the energy to sustain your focus. It allows you to structure your system, your personal infrastructure, to support the process of pursuing your goals. Persistence is the energy to sustain your activity level.