3 Valuable Lessons on Success and Motivation
2 years as a freelancer has shown me it’s not only about how much you know but about the power of showing up every day.
Did you know that, as hunters, tigers only have a ten percent success rate?
I was surprised when I heard this fact in David Attenborough’s Life in Colours. It amazed me how small their success rate is given that they’re often crowned as the jungle’s best hunters. And yet, tigers still insist on their search for prey, remaining resilient until they’re successful.
Learning this fact forced me to question my own pursuits. If I only had a ten percent success rate throughout my entire life, how would I act? Would I still uphold a strong identity as tigers do, living proudly and boldly despite their frequent failures? Or would I crumble in the face of adversity?
These observations forced me to call my own behaviors into question — particularly when dealing with setbacks. At times when I feel impatient about results, my ego nudges me. I want to arrive and skip all the steps to the destination. But where is the fun in that if I arrive everywhere quickly?
I don’t want to live my life in the pursuit of superficial outcomes and external victories. Above all, I want to succeed mentally. Why? Because mental toughness and resilience underpin everything we do, even outside of the realms of career success. Having strong mental health is the key to controlling emotions when we need to take calculated risks and face fear.
Perhaps that’s what keeps the tiger so driven and able to remain resilient in the face of failure. Not business books and videos but also mental strength.
So, with that in mind, what do we humans need to do to enjoy the path to success whilst winning mentally?
Act Like a Scientist
We all begin our journey with a destination in mind. This shapes the next steps for our goals, to which we inevitably become attached. And it gets difficult to give up on the things we put so much effort into when we come up against failure.
So how do we then change direction when things don’t go the way we expected?
Most of us think that non-attachment is only essential for relationships or material things we own. But, as psychologist Adam Grant suggests, non-attachment is also helpful when it comes to our goals. When we have an idea, we shouldn’t let that become our identity. Doing so will only result in disappointment and dependency on the way we work.
Instead, we should think and act like scientists and consider our plan as an experiment. And we should be able to pivot when our hypothesis doesn’t work.
After all, we all fall victim to limiting mental patterns based on our backgrounds and external environments. That’s why it’s important to be flexible and open to new ways that our consciousness cannot comprehend instantly.
It was like the time when I was looking for studios to teach yoga three years ago. As the competition in finding studios was high in where I lived I couldn’t teach yoga as often as I planned. These limited possibilities forced me to find other ways of sharing my passion for wellbeing with others. And I decided to start a meditation podcast to achieve my goal. But it didn’t end there. As I was preparing intros for each theme we meditated about, I noticed I was struggling to keep my opinion short. This challenge inspired me to come up with a better way to share my passion with others, that is writing.
I wouldn’t connect with my passion for writing if I didn’t have the ability to pivot when my plans didn’t go the way I expected. So, stay resilient like a tiger when you cannot see why things don’t work out the way you planned. Only with that attitude, we can arrive where we’re supposed to be.
As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
You Don’t Need Every Feedback
When my plans didn’t turn out the way I wished, I used to seek advice from everyone I knew. And I wasn’t asking for help in a healthy way. I used to ignore my gut feeling and gave other people’s opinions more credibility than my own.
Sure, there is a lot of value in listening to the advice of others. That is, consulting someone we can genuinely count on to guide us to where we want to reach. But that should be the limit. Asking for help is one thing, but silencing our own voice in favor of others is both unhealthy and unsustainable. We shouldn’t seek help from everyone, and more, we should recognize that not all feedback will be genuinely useful.
Imagine if we listened to every opinion we heard. I’ve been to that chaos before. I remember the last time I had feelings about a guy that gave me confusing signs. I consulted all my friends for the sake of knowing the reasons for his behavior. What did I end up having? I didn’t have any clarity of what I should do. Instead, I ended up having 5–6 different opinions that confused me even more than before.
It’s because listening to lots of different voices often only clouds our judgment and makes it even more difficult to make a decision.
So what do we do? Should we refrain from asking anybody for advice? That would be too blind. There’s always space to get better at what we do and who we are. But we can do it by not giving power to other people all the time. One way to achieve a sense of trust in self and not others is to invest more in learning and specializing in what we do.
But does it end with knowledge? How do we hear that wise voice within us?
Larina Kase, PsyD, MBA says that we should focus on being a human being rather than a human doing. We should regularly find moments of stillness in activities that help us notice our thinking and feeling. It can be meditation, going for a mindful walk, or taking a shower. Whatever you do, spend time connecting with your instincts to get better at trusting your decisions.
Keep Yourself Accountable
How do you respond when you perform a task and it doesn’t go well?
Before I was as mindful as I am today, I used to be uncomfortable seeing my mistakes. I would try to justify my low performance with things that might look like excuses to others. This is, of course, something most of us tend to do. When we don’t receive a good result from a test or a business meeting, we blame the failure on our outer circumstances.
But a story is never one-sided. When we don’t achieve our fitness goals, it’s not our trainer’s fault. It’s most likely that we also weren’t as dedicated to the goal as we should have been.
Do you see where I’m going? Nobody does the work for us if we aren’t willing to put in our best. Nobody can convince us that we’ll be successful if we don’t believe in ourselves.
So what’s the solution? Well, it’s as simple as it might be initially uncomfortable. Ask yourself, “What would I advise to others when they want to achieve a goal?” “How would I support others so they feel resilient even when they haven’t succeeded yet?”
Often we advise others with more compassion when they fail or don’t show results in their goals yet. We tell them stories from successful people who went through a similar path. We encourage them to celebrate where they’re now. Do the same for yourself too.
When you fail to believe that you can achieve, look for inspiration around. Keep yourself accountable by finding people who can inspire you to move forward. I didn’t have anyone in real life who went through the same things as me so I found them online. My Instagram account is full of people who chose to live different lives than the majority in society.
And when I don’t think I’m doing enough, I look back and reflect on how far I’ve come. I find small wins every day even if it’s ticking two tasks done before 12 pm. The two Nobel Prize Winners describe this behavior as making progress in meaningful work. Why do we need to focus on such progress? Because it boosts our motivation and controls our emotions throughout the day. And the more we feel the sense of progress — even with small wins every day — the more likely we’re to be creatively productive in the long run.
So observe in what areas you need development in your goals and find ways that work for you — perhaps inspiration from a stranger or celebrating a small task done.
When we don’t see results in our long-term goals, our ego tries to sneak in and wants us to arrive as soon as possible. Because of impatience, we believe that giving up is a better option for us rather than staying resilient on the way to success.
But does a tiger give up because he couldn’t hunt his prey last time, or does he embrace the challenges he faces until he wins?
If you choose to stay resilient and motivated like the jungle’s best hunter, follow my tips.
- Pivot when things don’t work. By being flexible we can arrive at our destination easier than we assume.
- Listen to your gut feeling and specialize in what you do so you don’t always look for answers outside yourself.
- Take responsibility for your own success and find ways to keep yourself accountable.