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If you were pushed, what would you say is the single characteristic that gives successful people their edge?
The search to identify the key to success has driven many writers and researchers. And the answer they found? The key to success is consistency.
Recent attention on some high profile individuals, such as Steve Jobs and Donald Trump, has suggested that being mercurial, ever changing, and unpredictable is a successful strategy in life.
Maybe for some. But these individual are the exceptions.
There is no single inherent characteristic or starting point that leads to success.
It is not that successful people are the smartest, or had outstanding education or started out rich. All these would help and many of the most successful people certainly benefited from these and other obvious beneficial attributes.
But it’s not what you start with, it’s what you do with your abilities that matters.
And what matters most is that you approach decision making in a consistent manner.
This means prior planning, having a plan and sticking to it.
There’s more. It means being able to implement the plan. And this is where the consistency really matters.
Achieving consistency is not about learning more technical material or having more information. You need all this but it’s the way that you use what you have that is at issue.
This requires emotional consistency. And the big enemy of emotional consistency is stress.
Because your surroundings are always changing you are reacting to a changing environment. You must react to what you see, but you must do so consistently.
If stress takes over you become unpredictable and reactive to other forces, most notably emotions such as fear, anger, regret or greed that are likely the source of the stress.
If you have a plan you trust and act according to your plan then decision making is actually kept to a minimum. You are following your process.
When decisions are required they are made according to a process that is laid out in your plan.
The only inputs into the decisions are the rules of the plan and information on the surroundings that determine the context for your decisions.
Neither of these changes in any way depending on the level of stress you are feeling. So the outcome of your decisions should not be affected.
Achieving Emotional Consistency
If you achieve a state of emotional consistency you will be:
- Emotionally stable, perhaps even neutral. Your emotional state will not change and your decisions will not be unduly affected by unrelated life events. If this is the case then you have a good chance of being in tune with your plan and with your objectives.
- Able to see that attaching feelings of happiness or pride to winning is just as harmful as attaching feelings of sadness or anxiety to losing. Feeling satisfied at a job well done is a very different matter.
- Focused on your objectives. Your objectives should be already well defined and they can be envisaged in a manner that links them to your decisions.
- Focused on the available information, not on what ‘should’ be happening or might be desirable. Totally accepting what is, in present time, puts you in tune with the context for any decision.
- Able to set objectives and maintain focus and mental stamina until the objective is reached. It’s no good getting most of the way there and then letting it all slip.
- Able to accept that you are not perfect. If you are wrong, then that’s all there is to it. Act accordingly. If you have made mistakes you will not correct them if you don’t admit them to yourself. And if you are not correcting them you are repeating them.
- Able to accept information and not try to control it. You react to your surroundings, you cannot control most of it or know what is going to happen next.
- Solution seeking. Not everything will go right. Only you are responsible for putting things right. There is no outside ‘higher power’ to look to.
Psychology Really Matters
The psychological aspects of decision making are just as important as ability and information.
In this respect, business is similar to competitive sports. Practices such as mindfulness can play a very beneficial role here.
For example, Michael Chaskalson’s book ‘The Mindful Workplace’ identified that employees who engaged in mindfulness exercises showed signs of:
- improved attention, job performance, productivity and satisfaction;
- reduced experience of psychological distress and neuroticism;
- greater well-being and satisfaction;
- increased blood flow with reduced blood pressure;
- improved social skills;
- increased self-awareness;
- higher success in achieving academic and personal goals;
- greater awareness, understanding and acceptance of their emotions and quicker recovery from bad moods;
- less frequent negative thoughts with improved self-esteem and reduced dependence on external validation;
- reduced defensiveness and aggressiveness when threatened;
- enhanced ability to manage internal thoughts and feelings and resist acting on impulse;
- fewer hospital admissions for heart disease, cancer and infectious diseases; and
- a reduction in addictive behaviors.
That’s quite a list and I’m not saying you will experience all these benefits.
But the evidence indicates that practices such as mindfulness offer a way to consistency by improving concentration, awareness and objectivity while underpinning calmness under pressure.
Improvements in these areas will certainly improve your ability to implement your plan consistently. The consistent implementation of a good plan is the key to success.
Other Posts by this Author:
- Making Mindful Decisions
- Looking Within Yourself on the Yellow Brick Road
- Never Give Up. Persist, but Resist
While working in a corporate environment, Aedie saw that many people lose track of who they are as they go about their jobs and building their careers. This is not good for their personal development, their careers or how well they do their jobs. She writes and teaches on how to reconnect with your own self and the world while continuing to meet the demands of modern living.