When hearing about outstanding success stories, one can’t help but wonder what it takes for a person to accomplish such high levels of achievement over time. Is it talent? Practice? Certain training methods? Structure or rituals? Parental/family support? Coach/mentor guidance? The right opportunities? The right connections? Inspiration? Motivation? Luck? All of the above?

Different stories shed light from different perspectives on what it takes to be a standout athlete, business person, artist, professional, leader, etc. A little bit (or a lot) of this, a little (or a lot) of that, and there you have a star. Invariably, you will identify various factors that contributed to any one person’s success story. Some factors play a more important role than others when it comes to any one individual’s case. However, if you distill everything down, chances within every success story, you will find one thing in common – a sustained, persistent and focused effort.

Sure, someone might have a flash of brilliance that leads to success, but without continual hard work, that success is likely to be fleeting. Long term success is never a fluke. It usually requires countless hours of behind-the-scenes drudgery and sacrifice. Only those willing to persevere get the brass ring.

Then there are the decisions about how one guide one’s efforts. The path to success is not typically a clear or straight one – it requires navigating the forks in the road, dealing with obstacles, resilience, and making good choices. How one directs one’s efforts and manages the terrain are part of the story. The best stories are made all the more poignant when there has been adversity to overcome.

Then there are life’s distractions, setbacks, injuries, illness, rejection, family obligations, unfortunate circumstances, unhealthy relationships, financial constraints, and loss of motivation to contend with. Something as minor as the siren call of the television can stand between a person and his/her success. I’m sure we can all think of both mundane and significant interferences that could foil one’s road to achieving desired goals.

Of course, no one and no environment is perfect, even for the most gifted and fortunate. So we aim for the best we can do at the time, with the information and resources we have at the time. This is a good, realistic and healthy perspective when striving to achieve goals. It allows for the possibility of some shortcoming without excusing them. Only when we have the potential and room to fail can we really succeed, as no one succeeds without taking a risk. Of course, some risks are wiser than others, and being able to make good choices in this regard is very instrumental. Calculated risks are the best ones to take.

If you have goals for yourself, whether they are personal or professional, it always helps to have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish from the beginning. Start with the end in mind. Of course, you may find surprises along the way, and those detours may be the right ones to take. But you have to start somewhere! Then there is a well-thought-out plan to devise. You need a roadmap. This is also subject to change, but having some structure as you proceed is very conducive to generating focused, concerted effort. Then comes the key – working your plan. Without sustained and purposeful work, ideas remain dreams. It is the doing that makes all the difference.

When you find yourself confused, discouraged, frustrated and/or worn out, there are various strategies to help rejuvenate the mind and body. Here is where taking breaks and taking care of yourself comes in. No one is a machine. Whether it be a vacation, spa treatment or psychological/cognitive therapy, we all need downtime, space for reflection, personal connection and recreation to remain at our peak and be ready to jump into the fray yet again. Success is far sweeter if happiness and enjoyment coincide with it.

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