Napoleon Hill’s 17 Principles of Personal Achievement are a good place to start.
Lesson 1: Definiteness of Purpose
Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. Without a purpose and a plan, people drift aimlessly through life.
Having a lack of clarity is why so many people settle for less than their dreams. You want clarity so badly that you’re willing to settle for lesser goals, simply because the path to getting your true goal is less obvious.
When you’re trying to accomplish something big, you have the why but rarely the how. The path to achieving your goals is far from obvious. You have no clue how you’re going to do what you want to do.
Fear of the unknown might be the foundation of all other fears. In order to avoid the unknown, most people bail on their dreams. Which is why you’ve got to find clarity and understanding to achieve your biggest goals.
When it comes to setting and achieving goals, it’s often helpful to look how plants do it. In Chinese Five Element philosophy, all plant life is encompassed in the concept of the wood element. Each element has a connection with a certain sense organ; wood relates to the eyes and the vision that’s instrumental in setting a goal and making a plan.
If you’re interested in becoming more effective at making your goals a reality, first develop a clear vision of how you’d like your life to look. It needs to be a vision that hasn’t been dictated by your family or community, but comes instead from your own values and purpose, from what inspires and delights you.
In terms of the wood metaphor, this vision is something like the phenomenon of phototropism: the ability of plants to sense light and grow toward it. And it’s the vision born in every seed knowing where it’s headed (the sun) and the plan to get there. Plants are rooted in the earth and grow upward toward the sun; their lives abide by this plan and never waver. Human lives aren’t much different: We’re grounded in our bodies, our tangible surroundings and our material needs. And yet we grow and aspire toward something less tangible, toward our own source of light and accomplishment. That’s our version of following the plan.
Evolution has provided humans with a number of incredible algorithms that have turned us into the most dominant lifeform this planet has ever seen. But evolution has also snuck in some programming that makes us act like idiots. Our job is to figure out which is which, and turn up our reliance on the ones that help and entirely mute the ones that hold us back.
The trick is knowing how to assess what’s helping and what’s hurting. For me, the answer is very simple: Do and believe that which moves you toward your goals. Everything emanates from there.
Once you know which algorithms to run and which to terminate, the question becomes how to actually stop the original program from running. The answer is… you don’t. Nature is far too clever to let her algorithms be turned on and off so easily. They’re buried deep in our hardwiring. But although you can’t turn them off (at least not quickly), you can use them as the trigger to run the new, more useful one that you want to take its place.
Your attitude determines the state of the world you live in. It is the foundation for every success and every failure you have had and will have. It will make you or break you.
Your attitude controls your life. But the good news? You control your attitude.
Attitude creates the way you feel about people and situations. Your actions are a result of your attitude—which in turn creates a reaction from others.
It is your attitude toward others and the universe that determines the resulting attitude toward you. Have a positive, joyful attitude and you’ll have positive, joyful results. Put out a bad, negative attitude and you’ve failed before you begin.
Basically, what you think is you get.
Necessity is the emotional drive that makes great performance a must instead of a preference. Unlike weaker desires that make you want to do something, necessity demands you take action.
When you feel necessity, you don’t sit around hoping for success. You get things done. Because you have to. There’s not much choice; your heart, soul and the needs of the moment are telling you to act. And if you didn’t take action, you’d feel as though you weren’t living up to your standards, meeting your obligations or fulfilling your duties or your destiny. Necessity inspires a higher sense of motivation than desire because personal identity is engaged, creating a sense of urgency to act.
Daily interruptions are inevitable. Acting on a fear of missing out, we allow the beeps, dings and vibrations to interject, to assure us that we’re connected, and subconsciously we tell ourselves that that constant connection has no impact on the amount of work we can accomplish. But, in reality, we’re so bombarded with outside noise, it becomes almost impossible to avoid—and our productivity suffers because of it.
It takes a real effort—a conscious choice—to separate ourselves from that mindset. But when you adopt and practice the disciplines of high achievers, you will be better equipped to set goals and go get them, without losing focus or direction.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt
The degree of our success is directly related to the degree in which we excel in and balance certain segments, or principles, of our life.
9. Be patient.
Coach John Wooden viewed patience as a trait that is essential in achieving success. “Good things take time,” he explained.
He was quick to acknowledge the reality of life, however, that we rarely want to wait for the necessary progress to reach the end result. This impatience is something that is often tempered by maturity and wisdom. On the other hand, there is often a complacency that comes with age that can stifle potential growth.
Coach remarked that young people “seem to want things to happen too quickly. They think all change is progress, but sometimes, as we get older, many of us are satisfied with the status quo. We forget that there is no progress without change. There is an even spot there somewhere. We must realize both. There is no progress without change, but not all change is progress.”