What if success is fundamentally different than what we’ve believed it to be?
We all define success differently but often, in a host of cultures, success is about attaining, increasing, decreasing, or changing something. In other words, having things be different than they are now.
To do that, we set goals, establish milestones, and focus effort on something that has yet to happen. We use our desire to fuel our fight, our push, and our determination to reach that goal. Then, when we do reach our goal, we probably celebrate, relish our victory for a short time, or even re-live it over and over again. But now, the attainment of that goal is in the past.
We contemplate this phenomenon in Chapter 14 of our book, Thriving in Business and Life where we make a distinction between two ways of achieving success: pushing toward a goal or being pulled or drawn by a vision. The difference couldn’t be more profound.
Pushing toward a goal is a traditional strategy, well described by the phrase, winners never quit. To generalize, this is an overtly masculine, left-brained approach. Conquer, overcome, muscle your way to success.
Being pulled or drawn requires a different force than your own willpower. It depends on the influence of a magnetic attractor of some kind. That’s the role of a well-articulated vision. But the vision-led journey isn’t a clear-cut A to B affair. There’s a flow, which is often considered to be a more right-brained or feminine way.
Push-mode is based on results that will be achieved later and focuses on making things happen in order to cross the finish line. Being drawn by a vision happens when we experience the feeling of those future results now—in the present—and then pay attention to the people, paths, and choices that naturally lead to that outcome.
How is this done?
Part of what makes this method work is to imagine ourselves in the future with the goal or vision already fulfilled. It requires a little practice, but as we develop this ability, we allow our brain, mind, and body to be so flooded with the imaginal realities of the future that they become visceral, cellularly encoded feelings. We then revisit them over and over, all along the way to achieving the actual goal.
Those feelings function like a compass; an intrinsic motivator that not only keeps us on track—and our brain’s inner mechanisms looking for the right moves and connections that will lead us to that future moment it has already experienced—our “future memories” also nourish our hearts and minds with the joy of success right now, especially during challenging times.
When we describe this process, some hard-driving types laugh and think it’s impractical.
No, we assure them, not in the least. It works. This method of imagining and experiencing the feeling of success now convinces your mind that it’s already happened. This exact method is what guides top athletes and high-performers in many fields. In fact, variations on this process have become standard practice for many successful leaders. It’s not a philosophy to muse on; it’s a practice that works.
So, what would you prefer: pushing hopefully toward a possible success at some later date (if you hit your target)? Or, experiencing feeling the rewards of success right now? Your body knows the answer; what’s it telling you?
In push mode, your mind and body are driven by implicit fear and concealed doubt… about something that has yet to be accomplished. Conversely, when your mind has already experienced a future success (remember the unconscious mind can’t distinguish between reality and a well imagined experience), a quiet confidence develops.
Your mind is no longer trying to determine if you’ll succeed. It’s fully engaged in experiencing our already-achieved success and making sure our decisions will keep that good feeling happening by guiding us step-by-step toward a special kind of fulfillment. It’s a moment along our space-time continuum when a deeply embedded future memory meets with its actual accomplishment. We refer to those moments as fusion—and they’re exhilarating.
Imagine changing your belief about what success is? Push toward a goal, or be drawn by the compelling attraction of your own vision? Strive for future achievement, or relish the feeling of success right now? Your choice.
This is much more than a mind trick. Of course, sleep-state programmers and researchers exploring the intersection between the mind and the material world might tell us that our minds are always playing tricks on us. In this case, though, we’re proposing that we enlist our own minds in a process they’re perfectly designed for; to discover and use a key to sustained happiness.
Researches tell us that sustained happiness arises from loving what we’re doing. When do we love what we’re doing? When we’re fully engaged, when we’ve lost ourselves in the moment.
We may very well have the goal in mind, in fact we may be sharply focused on an outcome, but that’s a background awareness; because we’re primarily attentive to the needs of the moment. In fact, our minds see each moment as something of a treasure hunt. We get to discover how we got from where we are now to that future success we’ve been experiencing as a feeling state.
Successful people know this and have been doing it for decades. While bystanders and wannabees push toward glory, those who actually generate success consistently allow that future-present feeling to enrich even the most arduous challenges.
Sustainable success requires a simultaneous focus on the future while being in the flow of the present. This re-definition of success positions the future goal inside and all along the timeline from start to finish, not just at the end of it.
Your clear vision of the goal provides a context for each moment's actions. By the way, this balances the masculine and feminine aspects—the left and the right brain. Neither is superior, both are required, working together as the natural way to succeed.
You need a goal, a vision of where you are going. You need to navigate your way. How do you avoid getting lost or stalling? By developing that vision into a living, compelling force that pulls you forward, especially through discouragement.
No living, compelling vision = no motivation. No attention to what you are faced with now = nice dreams, but no real progress. Both together, organized as stated? A future success that you’ll enjoy well before the desired physical outcome shows up.
What we call thriving success becomes a way of life to enjoy, rather than a goal to pursue. That’s the difference between thriving and surviving.
Here’s your thriving challenge for the week.
Think of a success you would like to achieve.
Imagine doing it. Identify the feeling you’ll have.
Embrace that feeling now and keep feeling it,
as you work towards that goal.
See if you can feel yourself
being pulled by that vision.
Christopher Harding and Will Wilkinson