The True Success Formula: 3 Strategies for Achieving Your Goals

UPDATED: May 22, 2024
PUBLISHED: December 20, 2019
The True Success Formula for Achieving Your Goals

January 17: The day most people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions

As the new year—and new decade!—quickly approach, you might be considering what goals you would like to achieve. But how can you make progress and not become a sad statistic, succumbing to the January 17 “Give Up Day”?

Success in any field, in any area of your life, starts from the inside out. Whatever changes you want to see in your life (relationships, health, business), you must first begin with what you are saying to yourself. Your internal dialogue will always determine your external success. Thoughts such as, I am stuck in this bad situation, for example, will elicit not only feelings of helplessness but also an avoidance of taking any steps to make changes.

Luckily you can govern what goes in inside your mind. Rest assured, I am not talking about superficial affirmations. I mean, have you ever tried to convince yourself something like, I can do this or I believe in myself, only to have your inner critic tell you, “BS!”?

Having said that, controlling your internal environment allows you to transform your external world. And one way to do that is by applying the True Success Formula.

The True Success Formula is something I devised after working with clients for over two decades. As a psychologist and coach who works with executives, entrepreneurs and sports figures, my clients tend to be successful “on paper” and yet they feel like they are missing something. Sure, they have created a significant amount of wealth and they have achieved impressive milestones, but when asked if they are successful, they point to needing to accomplish more before feeling fulfilled.

Related: What Is Success?

That is where the True Success Formula comes in. It entails three pillars that are paramount to creating and enjoying real success in your life:

  1. Passion: positive energy even during tough times
  2. Purpose: having meaning in your life
  3. People: optimizing your relationships

How can the True Success Formula help you with your goals?

Passion: Boosting Your Positive Energy

When I say passion, I’m not talking about romantic love. I’m talking about positive energy: being in a place of gratitude for what’s going on, while at the same time being excited to make positive changes in your life. When you are motivated by passion, you are appreciative for what is happening and empowered to make things even better.

This is in sharp contrast to victimhood. When we are in a place of victimhood, we feel helpless to make changes. Victimhood can come in many forms: blaming external circumstances (if only I didn’t have so much work), other people (if only my partner were more supportive), and the past (I tried in the past and it didn’t work, so I am stuck). While we cannot always change the situation, we can always change our reaction to it.

Fear in the form of perfectionism (it needs to be perfect or else why bother) and procrastination (it will be horrible to do, so I am going to put it off) can also rob us of our passion.

One way to apply passion in your life to help you achieve your goals is to stop beating yourself up. Consider how often you replay over and over again mistakes you made. Maybe you gave a presentation and flubbed over your words. Or maybe you had a heated conversation with someone and, afterwards, you thought of a great comment you should have made. How often are you berating yourself for the past?

An executive coaching client of mine wanted to be a better leader—at the office and at home. When he was stressed, he had a tendency to be short-tempered and irritable with those around him. “My father was like this, too. It’s in my genes,” he told me. (Hear the victim mentality?) When we explored how he might be able to achieve his goal, the topic of meditation came up. “I tried that before; it didn’t work.” His frustration with the past “failures” was preventing him from continuing to press forward to make positive changes.

I have a saying: “It’s not failure; it’s data.” By data, I mean information you can use to learn and grow. In theory, meditation can be a great way to reduce stress and irritability, stay focused, and be more optimistic. However, his past attempts had not yielded the results he wanted. So, rather than beat himself up, I recommended we look at what went into the outcome of not sticking with it.

The major obstacles that we uncovered included time and getting bored. To address these, we scheduled in his calendar daily five-minute breaks where he would meditate, and we downloaded an app on his phone that provide guided meditations that were more interesting to him.

How can you learn from your past to make positive changes today and in the future?

Purpose: Finding Your ‘Why’

It is often easy to be motivated when you start out. The “rah-rah” of achieving your goal is high. If you have ever gone to the gym during the first few weeks of January, you know what I mean.

What happens, though, when the honeymoon of making a resolution wears off? That is, when life “gets in the way”? That’s when mindsets of I’m too busy, there’s not enough time, or I can never really do that can take over.

Purpose can prevent this from happening. Your purpose is your “why,” or the meaning behind the changes you want to make. We have all heard the stories about grandmothers who lifted a car off their grandchild after they unexpectedly got caught underneath it. While those are extreme cases, they are a great reminder of the power of purpose.

Hopefully you will never be put in such a dire situation. However, focusing on your “why” can help you be a superhero in your own life.

A client of mine was told by her doctor that she was nearing the criteria for obesity with a BMI approaching 30. She decided to focus on working out, but as time progressed, she came up with multiple reasons why she could not get to the gym.

When I asked her why she wanted to lose weight, she said, “Because I don’t want to be fat.” When I asked her to explore that desire even more, she came to the realization that, “What I really want is to be a good role model for my children.” Her kiddos were showing signs of following in her mother’s footsteps. 

This mother’s purpose—be a positive role model for her children so they would develop lasting healthy habits—was a strong motivator to her and propelled her to stick with her exercise program. The result? She achieved and ultimately maintained a healthy weight. Something that, when she focused on “not wanting to be fat,” she was not able to achieve.

What is your “why”? It is usually something deeper than “more money” or “looking good.” While there is nothing wrong with either of those things, a motivating purpose is often something more profound and meaningful.

People: Getting Great People Around You

We are social beings. As such, optimizing your relationships with others is an important component of True Success. When it comes to achieving your goals, this pillar is a great opportunity to elicit assistance. This could mean making sure your partner is willing to support your desired change, having an accountability partner, hiring a coach or joining a group of like-minded individuals.

We are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. If you are hanging out with Negative Nellys (people who have every reason in the book as to why they cannot achieve their goals, those who focus on the past as a reason for their current situation), you are more likely to be in a state of victimhood. The result of this is not achieving your goals and maintaining the status quo.

Unfortunately, maintaining the status quo can often lead to more problems. One client of mine wanted to get ahold of her finances, but her husband was encouraging her to “enjoy life.” Of course, one can enjoy life without spending a dime, but that was not how her partner defined this state.

Not only did his discouragement stop her from implementing smart saving principles, it also resulted in them both spending a lot more money than they had. The result? When it came time for her oldest to go to college, they could not afford to pay for it. While this is not the end of the world (many families cannot afford the astronomical tuition fees), had they been wiser in their saving, their son would have had more options when it came to this next chapter of his life. It also resulted in stress and tension between my client and her husband.

Find people in your life who can support you—the best version of you. Seek them out as friends, colleagues, co-workers and community members. It does not mean you have to get rid of all non-supportive people in your life. While it may be helpful, that is not always feasible. So look for ways to create a network that helps empower you—and where you may empower others. 

What is the cost to you if you don’t make your desired change? Whose support can you elicit to make that change?

Use the True Success Formula to help you make the changes you want to make this year, this decade and forever.

Related: 4 Tips for Setting Powerful Goals

Image by Boszud / Shutterstock

Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., is a wealth psychologist helping entrepreneurs get out of their own way so they can have the successful businesses they want. Her newest book Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love is now available. How can you crush your inner critic? Learn more at