Ever noticed that successful people are really good at finishing things? And that people who don’t achieve the results they want have a lot of half-finished tasks on their hands?
As a transformologist, I’ve found that people who are effective and productive just get things done. They finish the things they say they’ll do. They don’t have a hundred things half-started and half-completed. They have what I call ‘SCOPE’ and because of this, they have developed the successful habit of completion.
Whether you’re an employee or an employer, you’ve probably noticed that the main difference between the colleague who is always considered for promotion and the colleague who is left languishing at the same desk for years is, more often than not, reliability.
Although promotional desirability is multifactorial and not based on any single character trait, the successful colleague can nevertheless be relied upon to get things done. The other colleague, although well-meaning and polite, can’t be relied upon as readily.
It’s been said that being a success is as simple as just turning up. As Woody Allen is quoted as saying:
“Showing up is 80% of life.”
You could go one step further and say:
“Finishing is 80% of success“.
No publisher ever published a manuscript only half-written. They might have bought the rights to publish the uncompleted work, but they certainly didn’t ask the printer to run off a few thousand copies while they waited for the author to complete the book. No, the manuscript has to be finished before it can be published.
Most homebuyers aren’t allowed to move into (or wouldn’t want to move in to) their newly built house until the house is complete. There would be no point moving in without a roof, electricity, plumbing, or furnishings. No, the house has to be finished before you can move in.
You wouldn’t pay the taxi driver who stops halfway to your destination and then tells you you’ve got to walk the rest of the way. No, like any mode of transport, your fare covers you for the completion of the journey.
Integral to any success is therefore completion. Finishing the job. This goes not only for publishing, house building, and public transport, but for anything you do. This includes anything at work, at home, in your relationships, education, health and wellbeing, even your leisure and adventure activities.
Because if you have developed a habit of not finishing what you set out to do, you’re like a hot air balloon weighted down with sandbags unable to lift off and soar into the sky. All those half-completed and never-finished tasks hold you back. They are mental sandbags that weigh you down and prevent you from being the person you are capable of being. They prevent you from getting from where you are now to where you want to be.
But at least you have one thing that’s working in your favour—if you have a lot of half-completed tasks or endeavours, then this means that you have at least started. There are many reasons for non-achievement, but by far the biggest reason is the failure to begin.
The Chinese parable tells us that the journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step in the right direction. So at least you can get encouragement by knowing that you’ve at least started, which is actually the hardest step.
But if we get started but don’t finish, we need to think about what stops us along our journey. We need to think about why we put down our tools and walk away from the job.
Is it lack of commitment or motivation? Fear of failure? Self-criticism? Mental tiredness? Too much distraction? Lack of know-how? Overwhelmed?
All of the above?
There are many obstacles getting in the way of getting started, and just as many along the journey to completion. Yet there are generally 3 main reasons, and they are all wired into your neural circuitry, your brain. Which means you can actually do something about them:
- Your thoughts and beliefs
- Your emotions
- Your natural instincts
Earl Nightingale was a motivational speaker and bestselling author and is considered the father of modern-day personal development. In the 1950s he was one of the first authors to put his books to audiotape, selling millions of copies and thus creating the ‘learning through listening’ industry.
Among his many quotes, he said that as a 29-year-old after years of searching for the secret to success, he found it in the pages of Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich. Just a few words, six in fact, but enough to be life-changing.
“We become what we think about.”
For Nightingale, these words were prophetic. His years of research and reading had prepared his mind to receive this insight like a farmer’s toiled soil is prepared for the seed of his crop. This insight, Nightingale realised, wasn’t new. The notion that with your thoughts you create your world had been passed down for thousands of years through the words and writings of the prophets and philosophers:
“As ye think, so shall ye be.”
The Power of Thought
Your thoughts and beliefs are powerful. They are first cause: everything begins with your thoughts—first you think, then you feel, then you act. As such, they can either work for you or against you. They can either help you soar like a hot air balloon to the destination of your dreams, or weigh you down like sandbags.
You know this in your own experiences. Think of a time when you really wanted something. For example, a car, a house, a holiday, a course to further your education and job prospects. You had a vision of what you wanted, a goal you wanted to achieve.
You probably thought about that car, house, holiday, or course all the time. While you were at work, while you were at home. While you were even sleeping. You probably thought about how you were going to afford it. You probably thought of all the ways you could save the money or borrow the money, and then you worked out a plan to pay for it.
Then you did it. You got what you wanted; and you got it through constant thinking about it. Then getting motivated and enthusiastic about it, then taking action on getting it. That’s how it worked for you in the past, and that’s how it will work for you now and in the future.
But just as your thoughts got you what you wanted, they can also prevent you from getting what you want.
Imagine if instead of thinking about all ways you could save money or borrow money to pay for your car, house, holiday, or course, you spent all your time thinking about why you couldn’t get what you wanted. Imagine if all your thoughts focused on all the reasons why you couldn’t save money or borrow money. Imagine if all you thought about were the pathways that led you to failing to acquire the necessary funds to acquire what you wanted. How different would the result have been?
So it’s quite pertinent to remember what Henry Ford said about the power of your thoughts and beliefs:
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Likewise, your emotions can either help you along the path to success or failure. Your emotions can be the wind pushing your hot air balloon toward your destination, or anchor ropes tying you to the spot. Or worse, the flames that burn your balloon to the ground and all your hopes and dreams with it.
Enthusiasm is a positive emotion that can drive you toward success. Not every enthusiastic person finds success, but like any fuel, successful people have learned to use enthusiasm in the right manner to propel them forward in the direction they want to go.
Enthusiasm stems from the Greek meaning ‘to be filled with god’. It’s the energy and excitement of doing something that you love doing. It’s the emotion that drives you toward action, which is vital because without action you cannot succeed.
There are many other positive emotions that can power you to success: the love of what you do, the bliss of creating, being in ‘the flow’, harmony of self with what you’re doing and with your environment, peace of mind, the joy of being alive, the freedom of being without limitation, the awareness of abundance, and many more.
Yet just as negative thoughts can derail the best of your plans, so too can negative emotions. To harbour and encourage emotions such as fear, anger, hate, greed, idolatry, and pride—emotions that I term ‘The Six Thieves’—is to harbour and encourage failure.
In my own experience, the fear of failure and the fear of rejection caused me to procrastinate for 15 years before I started writing my first book, The Golden Chalice. As a 15-year-old high school student, I wanted to be a bestselling author like my heroes, Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, and John Irving.
But the fear of failure and rejection prevented me from even trying. For 15 years I told everyone who’d listen that I was going to write a book, but I didn’t. I procrastinated instead and made excuses.
It wasn’t until I was 30 that I overcame my fears and started writing. Procrastination had stolen 15 years of my life, but I console myself that at least it wasn’t 50 years, which it could well have been.
Reaction Vs Response
Your instinctive reactions also determine your levels of success and failure. How you react on impulse to people, events, ideas, and even yourself can either set you on the path to success and freedom, or imprison you behind the bars of limitation and thoughtlessness.
Successful people are response-able and respond with thoughtfulness. Unsuccessful people are reflexive and react unthinkingly.
In medicine, a reflex is an action that bypasses the higher centres of the brain. For instance, you might have seen video footage of a doctor tapping the knee of a patient with a patella hammer to check the patient’s knee reflex, or you might have even had a doctor do it to you.
When the patella (knee cap) tendon is tapped, the muscle spindle in the quadriceps muscle is stretched, which produces a signal that travels up to the spinal cord at the level of L3 that then returns the signal back to the quadriceps muscle, triggering a contraction—causing the foot to kick. This all happens independently of the brain.
Unfortunately, we can spend a great deal of our lives in such an unthinking, reflexive state. We can spend a lifetime reacting to the world independently of our brains.
Reacting to others, the world, and ourselves like a pinball ricocheting in every direction is not a strategy for success. A better strategy is to become response-able, and it works this way:
- When you are able to control your thoughts, you are able to control your emotions.
- When you are able to control your emotions, you are able to control your reactions.
- And when you are able to control your reactions, you are able to respond with appropriate action—you are response-able.
Only when you are response-able can you intentionally benefit the way you want to live and who you want to be. If you don’t, if you continue to be reflexive and reactive, you will remain where you are, unable to move forward, stuck in the same routine, unable to manifest the success you deserve.
Your Success Depends on Your SCOPE
Successful people are aware of the power of their thoughts, emotions, and instinctive reactions. They are also aware that their thoughts, emotions, and instincts can either work for them or work against them. But here is the key:
Successful people intentionally and purposefully direct the power of their thoughts, emotions, and instincts to their benefit.
They are deliberately thoughtful. They are emotionally centred. They are response-able.
They create a vision of who they want to be and what they want to achieve. They fire their enthusiasm and determination. They formulate a plan, are disciplined in sticking to that plan, and create habits of success.
But they don’t get to this point at a click of the fingers. As they say, overnight success takes 20 years to develop.
Rather, as Arnold Schwartzenneger advised, they create a vision of who they want to be and what they want to achieve, then grow into that vision as if it were already there.
It takes time. It takes intention. It takes vision. It takes SCOPE:
S: Self-assuredness and Self-belief—successful people do not allow self-consciousness or past failures to get in their way. They know that failures are just stepping stones to their success. They are secure in who they are, what they do, why they do it, and how they do it. They have unshakeable self-belief.
C: Courage and Confidence—successful people develop confidence in their abilities and character, and they build courage; they fight the good fight and take action in spite of any fears that assail them. They know that fears never go away, so they learn to face their fears and in doing so their courage and confidence grows.
O: Other People Thinking—successful people treat every moment as an opportunity to serve others and create value. Their ambition is to find out what other people need and then help them fill that need, irrespective of what outsiders say or general lack of encouragement. They have a win-win attitude, knowing that the hand that sows is the hand that reaps the harvest.
P: Planning, Preparation and Perseverance—successful people know that the process is more important than the result. Why? Because the process is the only thing that can be done in this moment and the result is still in the future: the process leads to the result. They know that if they take proper care in planning for what they want and preparing for any eventuality, the results will come. They know that to focus too much on the result is to lose sight of the path and thus lose their way.
E: Energy, Effort and Enthusiasm—successful people know that faith without works is dead, that success is a culmination of vision, planning and effort. They therefore focus on the things that will maintain their energy and enthusiasm. They exercise. They eat healthily and in moderation. They meditate and pray. They have an attitude of lifelong learning and deep respect for education. They keep their mind focused and active. They avoid toxic relationships and energy-sapping friendships. They look after their physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.
So increase your SCOPE and develop the success habit of completion.