You Want the Formula for Success? Here It Is

formula for success

Read Time: 8 mins

In my role as a personal trainer and motivational coach, I’m often asked questions that I categorise as clients asking for the formula for success.  I’m not saying that people use these exact words and the questions appear in many formats:

  • What’s the best way to lose weight or a few inches from my waist?
  • How can I have a better outlook on life, or get over a bad time?
  • What’s the best way to get fit?
  • How can I be better motivated to do well in my career/life/exams?

Sometimes the questions are a bit more insightful along the lines of how should I set a goal for myself?

All these questions have a few things in common. All are genuine questions from people who are looking at where they are in life and can envisage a better life in some form.

All are from people who have set, or are trying to set, a goal or target.  Most have committed, at least to some extent, to making changes in their lives and putting in some effort to achieve a better outcome.  All want to be successful in doing this.


The Formula for Success

First, I ensure the client has an idea of what they mean by success. I define it quite simply – it is achieving a goal you have set for yourself.

Set out your goal right from the start. You can always change it. And you should review it regularly and change it as required.

This makes sense. As you start along some course of action you learn more about yourself. As you do so, you are right to reassess any expectations you may have set at the start.

Of course, you don’t keep making the goal easier to reach just to ensure you reach it. That’s not being honest with yourself.

Answering these questions involves achieving a balance in a number of respects.

I need to show them that I will have a role in helping them, but that it is they who will determine what they achieve. There is no external solution to whatever deficiencies they perceive to exist in their lives.

I need to help them to set a realistic objective. If their expectation of what they can achieve is too low they will be demotivated. If it is too high they will fail.

I need to motivate them, but not drive them beyond their capability.

Above all, I need to get them to understand that they will need to accept certain limitations, while not giving them an excuse to settle for less than they can achieve.

In a recent article from the INLP Centre, Mike Bundrant broke the formula for success down into seeking the answer to two questions:

  1. What do you want?
  2. What stops you from getting it?

The article points out that people are designed to pursue goals to the extent that you can’t help but pursue them.  Therefore, problems you might experience in reaching your goals likely lie in finding answers to the second question.

I try to answer people who ask ‘formula for success’ questions by saying that there is a formula for success. But that it is only available to be used by them – not by me.

I structure my answer around the following formula:

formula for success

It works in an exercise regime. But this approach works well in many areas of life. So, let’s look at it a little closer.


Examining the Formula for Success

Where You are Starting From

The first part of the formula for success requires an honest assessment of where you are. This is crucial as it is the key input for forming realistic expectations.

I love exercising and keeping fit. (That’s just as well given my profession!). But, no matter how much I work out I will never play centre on a basketball team and I’ll never run 100 metres in under 10 seconds.

Neither will I ever win the Field’s Medal in Mathematics and it’s unlikely that I will be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

And it is highly unlikely that you will ever achieve any of these lofty heights either. 

These are extreme examples.  But they make the point that my expectations, and your expectations, must be based on an honest assessment of where you are before you begin.

So, your starting point, no matter what type of goal you wish to set, is a key determinant of that goal.

And importantly, this assessment can and should take place before you start out.

The Help You Will Have

Everyone will be able to access help from a range of sources.

Obviously, I, as the coach, have a central role in helping. But family and friends, other professionals, online information sources and role models are all sources of assistance.

There are two important points that I always stress.

The first is to identify possible sources of assistance at the start.  Decide who will, and who will not, be useful to you. Then try to assess the extent to which you will access and rely on those sources.

The second point it that once you decide to rely on assistance form a source, accept that assistance. Accept advice. Do not get into the habit of judging the advice provided by a source that you have decided is a source of help.

You are in no position to judge a coach or anyone else you have decided can be of assistance. Can you see the obvious conflict in that sort of mindset?

If you find that the source is not helping, then remove them as a source of assistance. Accept that you were wrong in your initial decision that they could help. You are not making any comment on them. You made the original decision and now that you have new information – that they are not helping you – you change your mind.

This point is important. You are taking responsibility for your decision. You are not finding a flaw in someone or something else.

The Effort You Put In

This is so obvious and clearly of importance. However, people have a human failing to fall into one of two groups if they don’t see the progress they expect.

One group may see this as the only factor that matters. And when things don’t go as well as they expect they beat themselves up over it. This happens even when the outcome is not because of any failing on their part.

They second, larger, group emphasises this factor when things are going well and downplays it when outcomes are not so good. They take the credit, but not the responsibility.

This is where a good exercise or motivational coach comes in. They ensure that the required input is made, but make sure that the client sees that the outcome is the result of a number of factors.

Unforeseen Events.

Life happens. We don’t have perfect foresight. Even if we did we cannot control all of our environment.

We had to accept our starting point because it is the product of our past, including our genetics.  We must also accept that we cannot control all that will happen in the future.

We commit to accepting that we will face situations and events that are not in our favour. We then proceed with following the rest of our formula.

formula for success

No one ever said that life was fair. Life will throw curve balls when you are not expecting them.  Some are good for you, many are not.

There is no rule that says that you will get the outcome you want just because you did the right thing. But it will be better than if you go about life the wrong way.


Much of it is Outside Your Control

You now know the formula for success. But you can do little or nothing to influence most of the factors in the formula.

You’ve no control over where you are starting, you’ve limited ability to control sources of help and you’ve no control over unforeseen live events.

That might seem a bit depressing. But the opposite is the case for two reasons.

First, while you cannot control these factors, you can control how they affect your chances of success. You assess your starting point and set realistic expectations and goals. You change these if life hits you in an unexpected manner. You take responsibility for the help you access. And you accept what you cannot control.

Which bring us to the second reason why it is a good thing that you cannot control all the factors. It means you can focus in on the one thing that you can control: the effort you make.

And that is why the formula will only work for you. It will not work for your coach or anyone else. Because the one input that can be controlled is under your control. No one else has much input.

You, and only you, can take responsibility for your success.

formula for success


It’s a Formula. It is Set in Stone!

It’s often said, and I’ve seen it many times on the internet that ‘anything is possible’ or that you should ‘follow your passion for success’.

Sure, anything is possible – but is it likely? And, certainly, being passionate about what you are doing will give you a head start.

But success, by which I mean achieving the goals you set, requires that you also do what is necessary.


Other Posts by this Author: