Adam Grant. Wharton professor. Best-selling author. Host of the superb podcast WorkLife. Co-founder of Givitas. Organizational psychologist extraordinaire. A must-follow on Twitter. (And a guy kind enough to provide a blurb for my book.)
What does he say is the best way to understand success?
According to Adam, don't look for clues in the final product.
As Adam says, "The seeds of greatness are planted in the daily grind."
To understand success, focus less on the final product and more on the mundane process.-- Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant) December 30, 2018
It's way more fun to read Harry Potter or see Hamilton than it would be to watch @jk_rowling or @Lin_Manuel write.
But the seeds of greatness are planted in the daily grind.#SundayThoughts pic.twitter.com/b5FTdVN25B
Everyone has dreams -- but everyone doesn't achieve their dreams. So what's the "secret"?
People who achieve huge goals have dreams, but, more important, they create processes. They build systems. They consistently take the right steps that, over time, ensure they reach their ultimate goal.
And here's the thing: They don't obsess over their goals. They obsess over their processes, because greatness is the result not just of inspiration but of a relentless daily grind.
To turn your dreams into a reality, and achieve the success you want to achieve:
1. Start with an extremely specific goal.
Say you want to get in better shape. "Get in better shape" is an admirable notion, but what does it mean? Nothing; it's just a wish.
"Lose 10 pounds in 30 days" is a specific, measurable, objective goal. Not only do you know what you want to accomplish, but setting a goal that way also allows you to create a process guaranteed to get you there: You can set up your workout schedule and your diet plan, and then all you have to do is follow the plan.
Another example: "Grow my business" sounds great but is also meaningless. "Land five new clients a month," on the other hand, allows you to determine what you need to do to land those clients.
Make sure you set a goal that allows you to work backward to create a process designed to achieve it.
It's impossible to know exactly what to do when you don't know exactly what you want to achieve.
2. Make your goal extremely meaningful.
If you want to get in better shape so other people will think you look better at the beach this summer, you're unlikely to follow through. Ultimately, who cares what other people think? And besides, you can just stay covered up (or avoid the beach altogether).
But if you want to get in better shape because you want to feel better (and feel better about yourself), or to set an example for your kids, or to prove something to yourself, then you're much more likely to stick with it.
Why? Because now your goal has meaning -- not to your doctor, not to strangers on the beach, but to you.
That's true even if it's a silly goal, like when I did 100,000 pushups in a year. You could say that's a meaningless goal, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could stick with something hard. That goal meant something to me, because it made a difference in how I saw myself -- which made it a lot easier to stay the course.
3. Make your goal extremely positive.
"Stop smoking" is a great goal, but it's a negative goal. It's a lot harder to give up or stop doing something than it is to embrace a new and positive challenge.
Plus, setting a goal like "stop eating sweets" means you constantly have to choose to avoid temptation -- and since willpower is often a finite resource (although there are ways to develop greater determination and willpower), why put yourself in a position of constantly needing to choose?
Always pick positive goals -- that way you'll be working to become something new (and awesome), rather than to avoid being something you no longer wish to be.
4. Set your specific, meaningful, positive goal, and then forget your goal.
I know: Everyone says we need to maintain a relentless focus on our goals.
Yet one of the biggest reasons people give up on huge goals is the distance between here, where you are today, and there, where you someday hope to be. If today you're able to run only a mile, and your goal is to run a marathon, the distance between here and there seems insurmountable.
So you give up, because there's no way you'll get from here to there.
That's why almost all incredibly successful people set a goal, and then focus all their attention on the process necessary to achieve that goal. Sure, the goal is still out there. But what they care about most is what they need to do today -- and when they accomplish that, they feel happy about today. They feel good about today.
And they feel good about themselves, because they've accomplished what they set out to do today. And that sense of accomplishment gives them all the motivation they need to do what they need to do when tomorrow comes -- because success, even tiny, incremental success, is the best motivation of all.
When you savor the small victories, you get to feel good about yourself every day, because you no longer feel compelled to compare the distance between here and there. You don't have to wait for "someday" to feel good about yourself; if you do what you planned to do today, you're a winner.
And that's why the most important step is to ...
5. Focus not on your goal, but on your process.
The key is to create a process that guarantees a series of small improvements. Usually that means that what you do won't be that different from what other successful people do. (That's why one of the chapters in my book is called "Do What the Pros Do"; I show you how to choose the right person to emulate -- and even how to connect with that person.)
Pick someone who has achieved something you want to achieve. Deconstruct his or her process. Then follow it.
Along the way, you might make small corrections as you learn what works best for you, but never start by doing what you want to do, or what feels good, or what you think might work.
Do what is proven to work.
Otherwise, you'll give up, because the process you create won't yield those small successes that keep you motivated -- and feeling good about yourself.
And isn't feeling good about yourself a great way to define "success"?