How to be successful & know when you’ve made it
Success is such an interesting concept.
Everyone wants to figure out how to know if you’re successful because we base so much of your self-worth on it but the thing is, it’s kind of inconsequential, isn’t it?
I’ve been doing a ton of thinking about how to know if you’re successful lately and what really defines “success” in the first place.
At 25-years-old, it’s easy for me to think I should be successful by now. I’m in my mid-20s, have a solid job, rent a house with my dog and cat.
Is that being successful?
Or is that simply a step toward getting there?
If you’re like me, which you probably are if you’re reading this, you’re curious about success and are probably stuck with figuring out if you’re successful in life…
Or if you’re simply letting life go by.
I’m here to help with that. While I don’t have all the answers, I think my unique life has set me up to better understand the concept of success, and I’m gonna break it down for you best I can.
Here’s what I’ll cover for how to be successful:
- What is success?
- The key to success
- How successful people think
- Success without college
- How to be successful
- How to maintain success in life
What is Success?
The definition of “successful” is: having achieved popularity, profit, or distinction.
The “having achieved” makes me picture a very significant moment in our lives that’ll somehow make us successful.
But that’s just…not a reality.
Because what this makes us do is compare our own success to some influencer we follow on Instagram or to some standard our parents or grandparents set.
Which is awful because Instagram, or any social media really, is such a fucked up, curated display of someone’s life and just doesn’t show the real shit it took to make that feed what it is.
A lot of people might look at my life from the outside and see it as successful. Especially when you take a look at my past and childhood.
I come from a family of 6 kids (8 in the summers and holidays with step siblings). It was hectic. There was a lot of yelling, not to mention the drinking and other shit that contributed to the trauma.
It wasn’t exactly a …traditional family. I didn’t go to college.
And by those measures, people might look at what I’ve done with my life, created a career for myself, making nearly 6 figures at 25, and say that’s successful.
My own measure? It’s much less relaxed than that.
I couldn’t figure out what success meant to me. But I certainly didn’t feel successful. So I had to do some digging and really sit myself down and figure out what success means to me.
But success is so much more than a singular moment.
In fact, I personally believe success is more about your journey and overall life than it is any single achievement.
A friend of mine wrote an article about how he defines success and it really got me thinking about it for myself. I hadn’t really thought about if I thought my life was successful much until I read his own thoughts on the matter.
Then it got me wondering about how to know if you’re successful. What moment in your life helps you determine if you’ve found success or not?
Instead of digging through the chaos of my brain and trying to divulge the very moments that contributed to my potential success, I decided to think about what success is and how I’d personally define it.
Because at the end of the day, your own definition of success is what matters.
And this is what I came up with for me.
(If you’re following along, comment some of your definitions of success and what you agree/disagree with!)
The Key to Success
If you’re here for a “quick” win…aka: a key, there simply isn’t one.
“But Bella! You have a section titled the ‘key’ to success!”
Yeah yeah, I’m aware. And I do have a very important key piece of advice in this regard. Something that’s going to change how you read the rest of this article, and hopefully every other piece of “success” advice…
The key to success is simple…
There is no singular thing you can do, be, or say in order to be successful. It’s not a formula someone can take and replicate in order to magically become successful the next day…
How Successful People Think
There’s just something about successful people and the way they think that puts them a step above others at times.
What is really on their minds?
We can ask them all we want but the truth is, some successful people don’t even know what makes them unique.
Instead, we’ve got to look at them from afar and determine what those key qualities are. You can watch all the Gary V videos and listen to all his podcasts but the truth is, even Gary V doesn’t really know what makes him tick.
(I personally think Gary V has a complex created as a young child, being an immigrant, trying to fit in. It instills this “winning” mindset and attitude he talks about so much, but we’ll save that psychoanalysis for another time.)
I’ve been following “successful” people for a long time.
Here are a few key qualities I’ve seen in them that I think sets them apart. Understanding these things can help us adopt them and tailor them for ourselves, even.
Again, these aren’t “necessary” in order to be successful, but they sure help a hell of a lot.
1. Know what you want
I think one of the biggest flaws in the U.S. education system is that we don’t prioritize teaching children how to think for themselves, develop their own opinions, and formulate what you want in life.
School and our childhoods are so deeply built around getting good grades and going to college that most people I talk to have no idea what they want.
How can you work toward being successful if you don’t know what you’re even working toward?
The first thing you have to change is how you think about your life.
What are areas you’re working to improve? What is it do you really want by doing that?
Let’s use working out as an example. Firstly, do you want to work out? Why does doing that make you successful? And what is the result you want out of working out?
Because without knowing those details, you can’t measure your true “success” in the area.
If I want to work out in order to get shredded, my measure of success will be so different than if I just want to exercise to nurture my body.
The former will require a much higher level of commitment, hard work, and alterations to other areas of my life—like my diet, everyday habits, and more.
Whereas simply working out to nurture my body really only requires being active and pushing my body.
So you have to know what you really want and think about that often, as it can evolve overtime—and if you don’t change your habits with it, you’ll wake up and find that you just…don’t feel successful.
2. Have a great support system
This can be hard.
Some people are born with a great support system. Not all of us can be so lucky, and we usually end up with friends who also fall short in this department.
“Friends,” I should say.
But the truth is, a solid support system can completely change you.
In a good way! And I know what you’re probably thinking, “Yeah yeah, Bella. Cut out the toxic people, we know.”
But it’s not just that. The little stat about you being the sum of the people ou spend the most time with is so true. I’ve experienced it, and here’s how it changed me…
I joined Self-Publishing School for work in June 2018, working part time to start, full-time come the following January 2019.
I really wanted this job. I really really wanted it. I worked my ass of on those interviews and made sure to stand out. And I got a job!
I really didn’t know what I was in for.
The team at Self-Publishing School is comprised of high achievers, positivity, and people focused on bettering the world and themselves. As you can imagine, working with those people and in that environment 5 days of the week really changes you.
There’s never been a time where I was so happy and fulfilled and working toward bettering my life, even more.
Since joining that job, I ended a relationship that was long overdue for it, lived 6 months in Florida (from Wisconsin!), moved to Colorado (where I am now!), have made more progress toward bettering my life from a mental and physical standpoint than ever before.
And it’s because of the support and environment I’ve been in.
This doesn’t mean you have to ditch all your friends and revamp your support system. It could be great already. Maybe all you need is to have a conversation with a close friend or family member about being there for you more.
But sometimes, you do have to make a major, painful change.
It’s worth it.
3. Ignore what people think
This is probably the hardest part of success—and really happiness—in life.
We’ve been so hardwired to care what people think that when the time comes to actually be yourself and go after what you want, we’re plagued with thoughts about what everyone else will think about it and us.
Even as I’m writing this, I’m insecure about building my social following because I don’t want people to think I’m trying to be an “influencer” on Instagram or any of that.
But the thing is…
Why shouldn’t that be the goal? That’s what I want, right? To influence people in a positive way. And that means growing my following.
So why does what other people think even matter?
In short, it doesn’t.
Humans are designed to care about what people think. We’re pack animals. We want to fit in and have a place and therefore, we have to think about other people.
At least we used to have to be this way.
That was thousands of years ago when we were evolving and needed to stick in a pack to survive.
But times have changed and now, more than ever, caring about what other people think of your goals and aspirations is toxic…and killing your chances of success (but really, of happiness as a whole).
Successful people? They don’t give a shit about what people think…
At least not what people they don’t know or care about think. Because let’s be real, what your family and close friends think is important to a point.
But the fact is: you have to ignore what other people think and focus on why you’re doing what you’re doing. Remembering your why will always point you to the right move, regardless of what other people think.
4. Know your why
Speaking of whys! This is so so so important!
What is the reason you’re doing what you’re doing?
And I mean the real reason, the one that matters. Because honestly, I could say that I started this blog to make some extra income. Which isn’t untrue…but the real reason I do this is…
I didn’t have this type of guidance when I was younger, and I worked really hard to figure a lot of this stuff out by myself.
I just wanted this to be a place other people can learn and grow from, a place where they can get the guidance I never had in order to change their life for the better sooner.
And if I’m being really honest…I want my little sisters to change their lives from this.
If you live with constant reminders of your why, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to keep going, even when times get tough.
I personally have my whys printed and framed next to my desk, so I can’t really forget on a day to day basis.
5. Work to be better
Not to be the best.
This is the difference. Some people try to be the best and this usually results in a short period of a ton of success, followed by unhappiness and self-loathing.
Because they’re constantly comparing themselves to whoever they see as “the best” currently.
And that’s no way to live.
So I challenge you to adopt the mentality of truly successful people and focus on being better, not to be the best.
And the only person you should be comparing yourself to is…
6. Only compare yourself with past you
I do want to caution that doing this too much can form unhealthy mindset related to your own self-confidence.
But the only person you should be comparing yourself to is the you from yesterday.
This is also a great way to stop caring about what other people think because you’re not thinking about them. You’re thinking about you.
How can you be better today than you were yesterday?
What is a goal today to help you reach that?
Where do you want to be in 3 years, 5, 10, and more? And how can you work to be better than you were before in order to get there?
These questions can seem simple, and I know you already know that you should only compare yourself to who you were yesterday, but it’s often harder than we think.
Even as I write this, I’m thinking of all the other sites and people trying to do what I am here, and it makes me feel kind of shitty.
They already have an established audience, website authority, and even products.
But the truth is…none of them is me. None of them have my experience to draw from in order to help or to write. And that’s what I focus on.
How can I use my past in order to help and better my future?
That’s what you should focus on as well, if you want to be successful in life, that is.
How to be Successful: Setting Your Life Up To Get It Right
So…I don’t have all the answers. I’ll make that plan and simple right now.
But I did go from a traumatic childhood to a happy, healthy, and successful life by my measures.
It wasn’t easy, but I’ve learned a lot in the past 5 years as I’ve grown into who I am and what I want in life.
And I’m sharing those things with you now.
Here’s how to be successful…
1. Have a purpose
I was always the kid who would sit around thinking about the meaning and purpose of life.
Why are we even here? What are we supposed to be doing?
These questions used to bother me into depression. I never had the answers and the more I thought about it, the more confusing it all became.
But then I had sort of a…revelation of sorts. While high on marijuana, of course. Because that shit is so useful for open-mindedness and conceptual thinking.
What I realized is that it’s your job to discover why you’re here.
There is no answer unless you create what. Which means life is really up to you and what you want. Your “success” in life is dependent on what you define your life to be.
Which means you have to think of a purpose. What is your reason for being and living this life of yours?
For me, it’s to help people. Which sounds broad, because it is. I enjoy helping people in really any way, and doing so makes me happy and feel successful.
But as I write this, my definition has expanded to helping people who have suffered as a child or have been held back by their childhood.
That to me means everything.
What is it for you?
I know this is a huge question, and you likely won’t have the answer in a split second, but you’ll get there.
Here are some questions to discover what that means for you:
- When do you feel most fulfilled?
- What setting or environment often offers you peace?
- What’s something you wish people remember about you when you’re gone?
- If you could leave your children or family members with one lesson learned by you, what would it be?
- What comes to mind when you think of a moment that made you proud of yourself?
Take the time to write those answers down and you’ll likely discover there’s a pattern to them. This is likely your purpose.
And that purpose can become more clear and “sharper” as you discover and develop it.
2. Start every day new
I’m used to be probably one of the worst people with this.
It used to be so hard for me to forget yesterday and start today like it’s brand new. But you need to.
But if you want to be successful in life, you have to start letting go of past grievances, embarrassment, an anxieties that follow you around.
Because whatever happened before shouldn’t dictate today.
It’s easier said than done, but what’s helpful for me is just writing the shit down at night. I have a journal that I just write stream-of-conscious style before bed.
It allows me to get out frustrations and anxieties quickly and in a way that shows me how silly they can be sometimes.
This isn’t to say your concerns and worries aren’t valid, but it’s to say that sometimes, our own perspective can be toxic and by writing it down, you can get a new view of a situation.
That can allow you to let it go and start fresh the next day.
3. Know what you want…and why
As I mentioned above, knowing what you want is so important in order to know if you’re successful in life.
Otherwise, it’s like trying to measure something without any scale.
Imagine if someone told you to define their success in life. What would you need to know?
You’d need to know what they want, why, and what their measure for that success is. Without that information, you’re simply judging based off of your definition and that doesn’t work for other people.
So know what you want in life. Just remember that this is evolving, which means it’s a conversation you have to have with yourself often.
Check in with your desires. What is it that you want out of life and is that lining up with your current actions?
And most importantly, why is this what you want? What area does it fulfill and how is this shaping the life you want to live?
These are important questions, but remember they’re not something you need to answer right this second, but rather, you should continuously be defining them.
4. Make a plan
Goals are crucial for not only a happy and successful life, but for a healthy mindset as well.
I never used to have goals. Really. It’s just something that I wasn’t really taught or held accountable for when I was young. Therefore, I had no idea how to set good ones and how to actually work to achieve them.
Since joining Self-Publishing School as a job, I’ve been groomed to do this and do it well.
I’ll write a blog post on this (and film a video!), but here are the bullet points for how to make a plan and set goals you can and will stick to:
- Define your “why” and have it visible
- Write your goals down
- Work backward from your desired result to a monthly, weekly, and daily action-item to make it happen
- Set a deadline for yourself
- Review your goals daily
- Have someone who can help keep you accountable (accountabilibuddy!)
- Find a system that works for you
- Read Atomic Habits
[planner affiliate images/resources]
5. Take action
If we don’t act, life passes us by. The thing is, the time will go by whether you’re doing nothing or working toward your goals and aspirations.
It’s up to you to decide how far along you’ll be as time goes.
But the point is that you can’t just sit here and read this and then do nothing…and continue to complain about the success (or lack thereof) in your life.
You actually have to do something from here.
I’m aware that whenever I say “write this down,” you’re not likely to do it. But even saying that phrase will force you to picture it, and sometimes that can be effective, but not nearly as.
The point is that if you want to make a change, if you really want to get your shit together, you have to do something today. Not tomorrow. Not Monday. Not at the turn of the new year.
Start now, and you’ll already be another step closer.
6. Record your progress
One of the best things to keep you moving when things get hard is to keep track of the progress you’ve made.
There’s a reason people tell you to snap before and after shots when you’re trying to lose weight or get more fit. It’s so you can refer back to them and compare your progress.
Progress is what keeps you going.
Think about how hard it is to keep doing anything if you can’t see the real results of your efforts. It feels pointless, right? Because you can’t see the impact you’re having.
By keeping track of your goals and their progress, you’ll be re-motivated to keep going whenever you look back at it. And this can do a lot for you over time.
Think about this:
If every time you wanted to stop you picked up your progress tracker and kept going…what would that look like?
How much more would you get done and how much more successful would you be in your endeavors?
Trust me…you’ll be a lot more successful.
I personally do this with my Full Focus Planner and habit tracking sheet I got on Amazon. It’s super simple, is visible daily, and you can visually see the progress stacking up as you go.
I also recommend getting or printing a year-view of your habit tracker so you can see month-by-month progress as well.
Here are a few favorites that can help with this:
[planner/goal tracker affiliates]
7. Make it fun
Rewards for progress are the best.
For me, when I hit my gym days per month goal, I get to order some AlaniNu energy drinks (which are THE BEST).
But that’s just one example.
The point is to make working toward your goals and success fun! It doesn’t have to be this arduous journey filled with nothing but hard work.
Work hard, play hard, right?
So choose milestones and rewards for reaching them. These can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, even for the whole year. Whatever works for you.
I actually like the fact that the planner I use (the Full Focus Planner), has areas for rewards so you can actually figure those out ahead of time. Which means you’ll be more excited to work toward them.
If your why doesn’t keep you going, rewarding yourself just might! Plus, you deserve good shit for working toward a life you really want. That’s impressive and something you should be proud of.
How to Remain Successful Throughout Life
“Success” is such a bad word.
It’s arbitrary, really. There shouldn’t be a singular definition for it because it changes depending on who you are and what you seek in life.
Instead of asking yourself if you’re successful, start replacing that word with “happy.”
Are you happy in life? Are you happy in your job? Are you happy with your finances?
That word is far more important and impacts your life so much more than “success” does. So next time you find yourself questioning your own success, flip that question and put the word “happy” in its place.
This will give you a true measure of your life.
Once you know the answer to that question, you can start to work on the areas of your life that don’t get a “yes.”
Which begs the question, which areas of your life are you happy in and what areas are you not?
Comment them down below and let’s figure out how we can get you there.