First presented at the 2010 Annual Meeting.
I have studied the world’s great thinkers to find the answer to one question: Is there a universal framework for success? Here are the seven universal conditions of true, satisfying and sustainable success I have discovered:
- Clear goals. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested that success requires a clear conception of what we want. Vague thoughts cannot motivate specific behavior. A powerful goal-setter must also “know thyself,” meaning he must understand his strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.
- Positive attitude. A person’s attitude is more important than his circumstances in determining success. What sports champions share in common is a belief in themselves, a precursory faith — faith despite evidence that suggests otherwise. Have upfront confidence, even if you fail a lot.
- Focus. Concentration is an essential condition of success. Focus on what it takes to achieve a goal and to break a large goal into smaller ones. Divide, and then conquer.
- Stubborn consistency. Failure is self-sabotage, or behaving in a way that is inconsistent with your goals and values. Remain stubbornly consistent in pursuing a vision, which Chinese philosophers illustrate with the image of water moving under, over and around the sides of rocks. As you move toward your vision, be like water by finding ways around challenges.
- Emotional commitment. Emotions move the will. Success requires an emotional commitment to the importance of your goal. When you show that you care and are committed to a goal, others will reciprocate. People are attracted to people who care.
- Character. The great philosophers maintained that unethical success is self-destructive, while good character will guide you toward your goal. According to Aristotle, with good character comes the ability to persuade others. People are persuaded by people they trust.
- Capacity to enjoy. Learn to enjoy the process of working toward your vision. When you survey the history of human excellence, you find people who loved what they were doing. As you reflect on your personal and professional goals, use the wisdom of the great philosophers who have come before us.
Tom Morris, Ph.D., is chairman of the Morris Institute for Human Values. An active public philosopher known for bringing the wisdom of the past into challenges of the present, Morris holds a Ph.D. in both philosophy and religious studies from Yale University.