Achieving Lasting Success

By Pamela Ryan

Success. I believe you can achieve it - if you really want it. It's true that most of us will never achieve worldwide renown, nor will we receive an Olympic gold medal, an Academy Award or be listed in Who's Who in North America. But that doesn't mean we can't be successful, or won't be successful. Life is too short to squander it by just existing. How many women do you know who just take life as it comes? Are they successful? Are they fulfilled?

A successful woman has a strong sense of purpose. She knows what she wants, why she wants it and how she plans to achieve it. Successful women also have the habit of doing things they don't like to do so they can accomplish the purpose they have defined. Successful women also have a passion for excellence.

Excellence is the opposite of mediocrity! To excel means to surpass, transcend, exceed. In his book, A Passion for Excellence (Random House: 1985), Tom Peters says that doing better than average takes tenacious preparation. When you have a true passion for excellence and when you act on it, you will see things happen.

I believe that each of us possesses the ability to grow far beyond our present self-imposed limitations. And unfortunately, there is not one of us who will get through life without any conflicts or storms. But we must remember that there are no victories without conflicts and no rainbows without storms.

When I reflect on my own life, I thank God for how far I have come. I was sexually violated from the tender age of 3 to age 8 by an alcoholic father I loved and trusted. One of my brothers was killed on my birthday in an auto accident in 1982. He had been drinking and driving. My father passed away two years later. In 1988, my other brother died of AIDS.

But even though my home life was a classic example of dysfunction, my mother was an extreme optimist. She never stopped loving, believing, and dreaming. She always saw a bright side to any dark situation or circumstance. She passed away in 1992, but she left me an inheritance of belief in myself. She always told me, "There is absolutely nothing you cannot do or achieve." And I believed her.

When I was 19 years old, I set out to be and do my very best with the new opportunity of working for a company that was a conglomerate. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to attain the position of general manager for six of their companies a year later. And I was the director of the Arizona Counselling Association at the same time.

When you set out to do your best in whatever, you do, you can and will attain and achieve excellence in your life. That sets you apart from mediocrity. Success rarely arises out of the mediocre.

Inventory for Success

To achieve success that will last, you need to start right where you are. Take an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Where are you right now in every area of your life? Personally. Professionally. Spiritually. This is a moment of truth. Be honest with yourself about who you really are.

Begin with the physical. Rate yourself on appearance, exercise, weight control, and nutrition. How many of us have three different wardrobes in the closet? Small, medium and large.

What about your relationships? How well do you listen? Are you a good role model? Do you spend enough time with family and friends? How are your self-esteem and self-confidence? Do you have a positive attitude? Do you know how to laugh at yourself and at circumstances? Are you still learning or sharpening your skills?

What about your profession or career? Do you understand your position, your purpose? Are you competent in what you do? Are you effective?

And finally, where are you spiritually? Look beyond your activities to the reasons you do everything and the purpose they fulfill. What do you consider worthwhile in life? If you're not sure, just look at where you invest your time, energy and money. Is your goal in life to search for meaning or to search for God who gives you meaning?

As you take an honest look at the various areas of your life, it's vital that you know what you want in life.

What are your dreams? What do you, in the next year or in five years, want to contribute? achieve? experience? enjoy? Or possess? Make a list. Do you want to become an expert in your field? Travel internationally every three years? Transform a hobby into a home business? Run a marathon?

Whatever your objective might be, itemize only those things that you truly want to achieve. Be careful that you aren't aiming for something others expect you to do or to be. Be yourself!

Making It Happen

It is necessary to set goals that will bring you to your objective. One goal might be to eliminate that 'large' wardrobe in your closet and keep your weight between small and medium. Or, enroll in a course related to your job skills. If your axe is dull, sharpen it!

Be sure to set a date when you expect to reach your goals. Know in detail what you need to know or do to reach your objective. Make sure your short-range goals are consistent with your long-term goals and that you can still lead a balanced and flexible life. In other words, don't commit yourself to more than you can handle. You also need to know in detail what might keep you from your objective. Identify those obstacles. An obstacle is anything you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Fear of failure is one of the reasons most people don't even attempt to reach their goals. The only thing worse than a quitter is someone who is afraid to begin. Force yourself to try. And to try again. Failure is the ignition to all greatness. If we were successful at everything we tried, our lives would be shallow. We'd never have the opportunity to develop resiliency, perseverance, and character and experience the deep satisfaction that comes through the constant effort to improve.

Next, develop a plan of action and list the benefits you will have by attaining each goal. With a goal in mind, reaching your potential isn't so ominous and as you fulfill each goal, you're sure to achieve success-lasting success.

Eleanor Roosevelt understood the importance of maximizing her potential to influence the world around her. The wife of American president Franklin D. Roosevelt, she exercised her influence as a determined and relentless fighter for fairness and equality in human rights. Mrs. Roosevelt was a shy introvert, but she did not allow this to stop her from pursuing her purpose and mission in life.

Personal Potential

You have vast potential. Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don't. Don't treat life here on earth as if it goes on forever. And remember, your limitations are most likely not the things you want to do but can't. They are things you ought to do but don't.

People who maximize their potential stand out from the crowd. They possess the uncanny ability to make the most of themselves. We couldn't try to become something we are not.

One of the qualities people admire in former First Lady Barbara Bush is her acceptance of herself. Comparing herself to her predecessor, Mrs. Bush said: "Nancy Reagan adores her husband; I adore mine. She fights drugs; I fight illiteracy. She wears a size 3; so's my leg." That healthy, unapologetic attitude has allowed Mrs. Bush to make the most of who she is. She doesn't spend her time trying to be like someone else or acting in a manner inconsistent with the way she sees herself.

So, do you want to be successful? Do you want to achieve your potential and live a full life?

You are the key to your own success. You have potential. But you must choose. You can choose to live day by day and see what happens. Or you can think and dream about what you want to do with your life, and where you want to go with it. And then make a plan to get there.

TO HELP YOU START thinking about your life at present and what you'd like it to be, imagine that today is your 100th birthday. The local newspaper plans to print an extensive story outlining your personal and professional achievements.

Prepare your story as you would like to have it printed. How would you want them to describe what you had achieved? What would you want people to say about you? What would you tell the reporter was your primary purpose in life? What was really important in your life? In other words, what gave meaning to your daily activities? Turn that mental exercise into a statement expressing your supreme aim in life-your purpose.

Don't make it complicated or theoretical. Purpose describes the business our life is in and what we are living for. A meaningful purpose communicates what you want to accomplish and the contributions you want to make. In addition, your purpose will describe what you want to become-the person you desire to be and the character you desire to have.


Pamela Ryan is the owner and president of Commercial Ventures, a business brokerage company. She has over 20 years experience in marketing, public relations and selling businesses. Visit her website at:

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