• Barb Mayfield

6 Keys to Success – Part 1


A hand is drawing a line from start to finsh with a red marker.
How well do I start and finish?

Are you striving to achieve success? What does it take to be successful?


Many qualities contribute to success and I would like to propose six I believe are critical.

These qualities are ones I shared with Purdue students at the beginning of each semester, encouraging them to reflect on each one and rating their current status as well as how they would like to improve as they progressed through the course.


This post is the first in a series in which we will explore two keys to success in each post. In this post, we will answer the question: How well do I start and finish? Our goal is to reflect on what has helped us achieve success, and, consider what we can work on to take us even further in the direction we want to go.


Key to Success #1 is initiative.

Zig Ziglar left us a great quote about taking initiative and achieving success: “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”


The opposite of initiative is procrastination. Have you ever procrastinated on an important task? Yes, me too. Ben Franklin had this to say about procrastination: “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”


Obviously, getting started is essential to success! By taking even the smallest step you’re on your way to getting your work accomplished. Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”


An example I’ve shared with both students and clients is from a research study exploring approaches to help people begin a walking program. The researchers found that giving participants the simple step of putting on exercise clothes sometime each day got people walking even before being instructed to begin exercising. Sir Isaac Newton’s “First Law of Motion” applies to this: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion.” So, if you have something to do, start moving!


A good first step is to develop a “road map” for how and when you plan to complete any endeavor you have set out to do. Break big tasks down into manageable steps. If your task is writing, this can be as simple as opening up Word on your computer, creating a new document, and putting a descriptive heading at the top. How simple is that?! As Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”


Take a moment to reflect on your current level of initiative using the rating scale below. Read the descriptions below each number. Circle the number that corresponds to where you are now. Then put an X over the number that describes where you’d like your level of initiative to be. If you’re satisfied with your current level of initiative the circle and the X will be on the same number. Then take time to reflect on what you think blocks you from getting started on tasks.


Reflection: On the scale below, circle your current level of initiative and mark with an X where you’d like it to be:

If you struggle with initiative, list a few of the things you think block you from beginning tasks.



Key to Success #2 is perseverance. Starting is essential, but if you never finish you won’t succeed. Another word for perseverance is persistence. President Calvin Coolidge said: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”


Have you seen this to be true? Can you think of examples of talented, intelligent, highly-educated people who are not successful because they do not put forth the necessary effort? I have often quoted anonymous, who said: “The only place you’ll find success before work is in the dictionary.” Thomas Huxley put it this way, “Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.” And Thomas Edison quantified it: “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”


Are you persistent? Do you persevere? Or, do you have a tendency to give up? Rate yourself on this characteristic, using the same instructions as above. Then list what you think discourages or distracts you from completing tasks.

Reflection:

On the scale below, circle your current level of perseverance and mark with an X where you’d like it to be:

If you struggle with perseverance, list a few of the things you think block you from completing tasks. What discourages you? What distracts you?



Have you discovered the answer to “How well do I start and finish?” What are some steps you can take to improve your levels of taking initiative and persevering?


Part 2 in our 6 Keys to Success series answers the question, how do I view what I do? What two qualities do you think are the featured keys to success?



“Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.” ~ David Bly


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