Many search for success, but never find it. What determines achievement or failure?
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People often find it difficult to push themselves to achieve short-term goals, let alone lifelong dreams. Perhaps it is learning a new skill, such as woodworking, speaking a second language or sewing. Or using the skates, skis or snowboard that sit idly in the house alongside unfinished projects. Not to mention the treadmill bought last winter that collects dust in the basement, while dreams of six-pack abdominal muscles and a marathon-race physique fade with the personal fitness goals that accompany them.
Whether it is a job, athletics or a personal hobby, many never reach the goals they set out to achieve. Disheartened and unfulfilled, they become disinterested and allow modern distractions to kidnap their focus. Attempting to explain the cause of unrealized health goals, McMaster University exercise psychology professor Kathleen Martin Ginis said that people “often start for the wrong reasons, and never found a good reason to continue” (Maclean’s).
This concept can also apply to other goals left unachieved throughout a lifetime. The Miami Herald reported that as many as 45 percent of people use New Year’s Day to make resolutions and set goals—yet 97 percent never reach them. Of the 45 percent, research shows that 75 percent continue with their resolutions beyond the first week; of that number, only 46 percent make it past six months.
In an age in which opportunities abound, and there is access to near-limitless knowledge and technological advancement, what holds people back?
An examination of the workplace reveals underlying problems: lack of motivation and unwillingness of employees to apply themselves wholeheartedly.
This is evidenced by the number of workers who mindlessly surf the Web or conduct personal business, via computer, during office hours. A 2005 Websense Inc. study reported that workplace Internet misuse cost American companies “more than $178 billion annually in lost productivity.” According to the study, most of this time was spent reading news, checking personal email, completing online banking, exploring travel sites and shopping.
In addition, a 2009 Telegraph survey revealed that approximately $2.25 billion dollars are wasted yearly in Britain because of employee time on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. More than half of those surveyed spent an average of 40 minutes daily on these sites at work—a total of one week per employee, per year! When added together, this amounts to over one-tenth of all employee time and salaries being stolen by those who cannot remain focused on the very jobs for which they are being paid!
“We are a kind of a generation who takes the easy way out unless it’s something we are really working towards,” one graduating Canadian student told her university newspaper, The Daily Planet. “For instance, I’m more likely to slack at my part time job where it’s just temporary, and apply myself whole heartedly when it matters, like my current internship.”
Some experts believe this thinking can be defeated by self-control.
“Learning self-control produces a wide range of positive outcomes,” Florida State University psychology professor Roy Baumeister said in The New York Times. “Kids do better in school, people do better at work. Look at just about any major category of problem that people are suffering from and odds are pretty good that self-control is implicated in some way.”
If the problem is self-control, do people today have less of it than years ago?
“There is research that shows people still have the same self-control as in decades past, but we are bombarded more and more with temptations,” University of Minnesota professor Kathleen Vohs stated in an editorial titled “Pumping Up the Self-Control in the Age of Temptations.” “Our psychological system is not set up to deal with all the potential immediate gratification.”
Others suggest that some people are just “born to be great” and therefore possess the ability to accomplish their goals, while others do not. Is this true?
In 1879, John D. Rockefeller, at the age of 40, controlled 90 percent of the world’s oil refining industry. Later, he founded Standard Oil, one of the world’s largest oil companies before the United States Supreme Court mandated its dissolution in 1911. By the time of his death, in 1937, Rockefeller’s estimated net worth was approximately $1.4 billion—which would be about $21 billion today.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone by age 29, in 1876, and later formed Bell Telephone Company. His scientific interest drove him to tackle other projects for airplanes, artificial respiration, desalinization and water distillation.
Pitching great Nolan Ryan wowed Major League Baseball fans with his blistering 100-mph fastball for a record 27 seasons. A World Series champion by age 22, he still holds the record for being the all-time leader in strikeouts and no-hitters.
Are such men genetically “destined for success”—or is there something more in their character that pushes them toward achievement?
Several researchers attempted to discover the answer. After studying the lives of 210 graduates from Hunter College Elementary School, an institution for intellectually gifted children, Rena Subotnik noticed that by “middle age they had become happy, prosperous, community-minded citizens. But they hadn’t aspired to achieve great things.” She concluded, “If we do want greatness, IQ is clearly not sufficient” (Maclean’s).
According to Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence, by the time Harvard students from the 1940s reached middle age, “…the men with the highest test scores in college were not particularly successful compared to their lower-scoring peers in terms of salary, productivity, or status in their field. Nor did they have the greatest life satisfaction, nor the most happiness with friendships, family, and romantic relationships.”
Researchers have also discovered that success is not tied to natural talent. The results of a broad-based study that appeared in Fortune magazine covering topics ranging from athletics to music showed, “The evidence we have surveyed...does not support the [notion that] excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.”
If not raw ability or natural intelligence, then what essential trait leads to success?
Accomplishing goals means being motivated beyond a desire to simply achieve. It requires developing the will to do it—and the character necessary to carry them out.
Consider. It is willpower that propels one to go to the gym after a full day’s work, or to get up every morning before sunrise and run two miles. It takes real inner strength to extinguish a highly addictive smoking habit.
Without drive, there would be no Nolan Ryans, Alexander Graham Bells, or John D. Rockefellers.
Yet willpower—drive—does not develop on its own. Similar to a muscle, willpower will atrophy and deteriorate if left unused. It must be exercised regularly to increase its strength. As with training a muscle, one cannot start by lifting heavy weights. Instead, he must gradually build up strength little by little through various exercises.
John D. Rockefeller stated in his book Random Reminiscences of Men and Events, “The man who starts out simply with the idea of getting rich won’t succeed; you must have a larger ambition.” He realized that succeeding in his goals could only happen through good old-fashioned hard work and a focused, burning desire to learn, grow and achieve—which requires drive.
What is drive? Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “an impelling culturally acquired concern, interest, or longing.” Any individual who wants to achieve success must drive himself forward and never give up.
But if drive is so crucial to achieving success, where can one turn to learn how to develop such a powerful force?
The majority of people are unaware that there is a specific formula for success—and an instruction manual that teaches it—the Bible. Those willing to read it reap a wealth of information about how to achieve true, lasting success.
Solomon, the wisest and perhaps wealthiest man who ever lived, recorded many verses in the Bible about drive. If applied, these will yield lasting results.
Proverbs 10:4 states, “He becomes poor that deals with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” No one would ever accuse John Rockefeller of being lazy. After all, how many self-made rich men increased their wealth without getting sweat on their brows?
Consider another: “See you a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings…” (Prov. 22:29). After his long illustrious career, Nolan Ryan was personally invited to join the U.S. president’s council on fitness and sports. His hard work caused others to take notice.
“The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul…” (Prov. 13:19). Imagine how Alexander Bell felt when he heard a voice come through a telephone receiver for the first time. Certainly, the feeling of accomplishment must have been sweet.
No doubt, achieving success is hard work. It takes willpower and motivation to accomplish goals.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 states, “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.”
Take time now to make the most of each opportunity. Determine to stay focused. Whether in a career, a personal hobby, or simply fixing a broken sink handle, true success can be achieved!
Even though drive is essential, it is just one of seven principles needed to have true success. To learn the other six—including the one overarching principle upon which the others are founded—read David C. Pack’s booklet The Laws to Success.