By Amelia Bartlett

How to Succeed in Life


Get realistic about your idea of success and go after it with confidence.

Bet this blog title really caught your eye – are you looking for the success secret sauce? Well, I’m here to break to you the best news ever:

That sauce is already in your cabinet. You might have already tasted it, you probably just didn’t read the label.

The simple fact about success is that while it has key indicators and common patterns, success looks different on everyone. As an outsider looking in, we see success in others in the form of wealth, accomplishments, accolades, productivity, good luck, career advancement…you know the signs.

This is where it starts. So let’s take a step back and get acquainted with your views of success.

Visualization: What does success look like to you?

Find a quiet place to sit, or grab a pair of headphones. Turn on some light music – instrumental works best for this activity.

Set a timer and sit for 60 – 90 seconds and imagine success.

  • What does it look like to you?
  • What do you see when you think of success?
  • What do you feel as you imagine those glorious visuals?

After the timer stops, grab a pen and paper and jot down all that you visualized. Be as specific as you can be. If you saw specific people, role models from your childhood, or professionals you look up to in your company, write their names and what you imagine their lifestyles to entail. If you saw locations, activities, or hyper-specific images like numbers in a bank account or plaques on the wall, illustrate them clearly.

Now, what you imagine to be success may be super clear; or maybe you’re stumped.

Don’t worry. It’s just the first step. Your vision is going to evolve.

I asked some of my close friends to share what they imagined during this activity. This is what they shared:

  • Delivering their first child safely after three years of trying to start a family.
  • Being a guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday after publishing their book.
  • Paying the final payment on their mortgage 5 years early.
  • Taking a month off of their business after working 60-hour weeks for years.
  • Contributing to research of a viable treatment for Alzheimer’s.
  • Getting an A in their Public Speaking course, even though they’re deathly afraid of public speaking.
  • Earning their first million dollars in online sales.
  • Becoming the CFO after 20 years with their company.
  • Being elected to their local school board.

These answers are a lot more specific that what we typically imagine success to look like. They aren’t about million dollar homes or becoming famous necessarily; they are all about what the person is thinking about right now and what they hope to achieve in their lives. What they hope to be remembered for, or what they hope will get them there.

Not only are they on a slightly smaller scale than what we imagine when we think of the big word “success” but they are more attainable. They are more personal.

Second visualization: What does success look like FOR you?

Before you start your timer once more, consider your goals in life. While success may look like a famous person, a luxurious lifestyle, a number in your bank account, or a specific accomplishment, benchmarking success along your actual trajectory will automatically make it more available to you.

Consider your education, your career, your family, and your aspirations.

  • Do you dream of travel?
  • Of creating a work of art or a business that sustains your family?
  • Are you already in the thick of a major project, career path, or pursuit?

Imagine what the destination looks like at the completion of your big dreams.

Set your timer for 60 – 90 seconds and close your eyes: imagine your dreams coming true.

Just as before, grab a pen and paper and write candidly what you imagined. Write what your lifestyle might look like if you were successful in pursuit of your dreams, goals, and projects. What would it look like if you won the race? Grew a gorgeous family? Built an empire? Passed the class?

The beauty of success is that it is limited only by your imagination. You needn’t choose a single path down which you pursue the ultimate accomplishment. Instead, success becomes the way you see your investments in your future, and the way you determine your progress toward your best life.

Cultivating the success mindset

As you begin the process of understanding – and actualizing – what success looks like for you, it will become apparent that success does not lie in the incidentals.

There are specifics involved as you pursue what you believe will equate to successful life (or success in life), but those specifics do not initiate the full-body response that a true “successful” experience causes.

You see, when you meet a milestone that signifies success to you, you feel a certain way. But, if another person were to experience the same milestone, they might not notice it at all. The experience might just be yet another day to them; or even, a disappointment.

It is the unique perspective that you have – your mindset – that determines when you are “successful” or not.

In essence, you could see just about anything as a success: waking up on time and getting to work 5 minutes early as opposed to 5 minutes late could be a massive success to the chronically tardy employee. Just the same, getting a raise at work to achieve a six-figure salary may not be nearly enough for one employee, but a lifetime achievement for another.

We lose the opportunity to experience success whenever we fail to acknowledge ourselves.

Through the visualization activity, you’ve hopefully gained a bit of insight into what exactly success looks like for you. If you can see it, you can achieve it.

As you move through the rest of your days this week, imagine where else you can experience success, merely by acknowledging your desire for progress, growth, and achievement.

However, this article is titled how to succeed in life, so for the remainder of this exercise, let’s dream big.

Creating a roadmap to your unique impression of success:

Though the map points to a destination, you’re about to embark on a journey.

When working with dreams, aspirations, and anything in which you wish to achieve “success,” building a structure will help clarify exactly how to get there. This involves setting a goal that encapsulates your “destination.”

Let me be clear: “success” is not the destination.

Your destination is exactly what you visualized. You can create road maps for each of your visions of success, but focus on just one for the duration of this activity right now.

Imagine what you’ll feel when the world that you visualized is your everyday life. That feeling – accomplishment, satisfaction, fulfillment, completion; that feeling is a component of your unique impression of success.

Once you’ve chosen your destination – the imagined world you visualized – begin by structuring that destination as a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound goal.

Outline your milestones as “incremental successes.”

As with any goal, you’ll want to work backwards from your destination and outline the steps – or milestones – that are required to get you closer and closer to completion. It helps to see your journey as a pyramid, with your destination (goal) at the top.

At the stage just before you complete the journey, what will you need to have, do, learn, or complete? And in order to reach that stage, what steps will precede the latter until you’ve outlined each major step backwards to today. This moment. The first step.

Each of these stages will likely have a measurable accomplishment, like the completion of a project or task that moves you closer to the goal. By outlining each of these milestones, you’re strengthening your success mindset with “incremental successes.”

How you choose to celebrate these incremental successes is up to you. But, the hallmark of success is a feeling of accomplishment, completion, and satisfaction. As you plan your journey, imagine how best you exemplify those feelings and set yourself up to enjoy them fully. You’ve earned it!

Acknowledge your pitfalls, blind spots, and red flags.

As with any endeavor, pursuing the path of success will be riddled with pitfalls, blind spots, failures, setbacks, hiccups, barriers, and red flags. Anticipate them early.

  • Conduct informal interviews with trusted members of your network. Ask them what they see your blind spots and hiccups might be. Ask them how they’ve seen you respond to success and failure in the past. Ask for advice for overcoming your self-destructive or self-sabotaging patterns.
  • Record this information in a journal and keep it handy as you pursue your unique impression of success.
  • Connect with a loved one or mentor for help holding yourself accountable along this journey. Those who know you best will know when you are falling short, playing small, or procrastinating what you want most. They’ll help you find your way back to your road map and back on the road to your most successful life.

Why success is not one-size-fits-all

As easy as it might seem to adopt a general view of success and endeavor to apply it to your life, you’re inevitably selling your unique talents and aspirations short by way of conformity.

When you don’t have a specific destination in mind, you’ll never know when you’ve gotten there.

In doing the due diligence to identify and map out your unique impression of success, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance at finding true success in life. You’re giving your goals, dreams, aspirations, and desires the probability of becoming real.

Of course, your unique impression of success likely includes some financial, residential, familial, communal, or recognition-tied metrics that align with your dreams. That’s okay! When clearly identified and regularly revisited, these are the metrics upon which you can define and ultimately discover your success.

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’ll jump out at you once you’ve found it!

How to succeed in life every single day

Earlier, we touched on how the little instances of change, growth, development, and evolution in our lives are everyday opportunities to feel successful. Consider setting daily goals that are clear and relevant, such that each accomplishment is a moment (or more) of satisfaction.

Each time you set yourself up to take one more step toward your biggest aspirations – and your wildest visualizations – you can bask in the warmth of success on a daily basis. Just imagine how daily satisfaction, fulfillment, and accomplishment might impact your quality of life.