The stories of people achieving unusual success despite all manner of handicaps never fail to capture our attention. They’re inspirational to be sure. But they’re much more than that if we study them closely.
The boy whose legs were terribly burned and who was told he’d be lucky to ever walk again becomes a champion track star. The woman blind and deaf from infancy becomes one of the most inspirational figures of the century. And the poor children who rise to fame and fortune have nearly become commonplace.
In this age of unprecedented immigration, we see examples of people who start off in this world with virtually nothing and within a surprisingly short time have become wonderfully successful.
What sets these people apart, people with vast handicaps such as not knowing the language, not knowing the right people, not having any money? What drives the boy with the burned legs who becomes the champion runner or a Helen Keller, blind and deaf who becomes one of the most inspirational figures of our time? The answer, if fully understood, will bring you and me anything and everything we truly want, and it’s deceptively simple. Perhaps it’s too simple.
The people we’ve talked about here and the thousands currently doing the same thing all over the world are in possession of something the average person doesn’t have. They have goals. They have a burning desire to succeed despite all obstacles and handicaps. They know exactly what they want; they think about it every day of their lives. It gets them up in the morning, and it keeps them giving their very best all day long. It’s the last thing they think about before dropping off to sleep at night. They have a vision of exactly what they want to do, and that vision carries them over every obstacle.
This vision, this dream, this goal, invisible to all the world except the person holding it, is responsible for perhaps every great advance and achievement of humankind. It’s the underlying motive for just about everything we see about us. Everything worthwhile achieved by men and women is a dream come true, a goal reached. It’s been said that what the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.
It’s the fine building where before there was an empty lot or an old eyesore. It’s the bridge spanning the bay. It’s landing on the moon. And it’s that little convenience store in Midtown Manhattan. It’s the lovely home on a tree-shaded street and the young person accepting the diploma. It’s a low golf handicap and a position reached in the world of business. It’s a certain income attained or amount of money invested. What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.
We become what we think about. And when we’re possessed by an exciting goal, we reach it. That’s why it’s been said, “Be choosy, therefore, of what you set your heart upon. For if you want it strongly enough, you’ll get it.”
Americans can have anything they want. The trouble is they don’t know what they want. Oh, they want little things. They want a new car; they get it. They want a new refrigerator; they get it. They want a new home and they get it. The system never fails for them, but they don’t seem to understand that it is a system. Nor that if it’ll work for a refrigerator or a new car, it will work for anything else they want very much, just as well.
Goals are the very basis of any success. It is in fact the definition of success. The best definition of success I’ve ever found goes like this, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.” Or in some cases the pursuit of a worthy “ideal.” It’s a beautiful definition of success. It means that anyone who’s on course toward the fulfillment of a goal is successful.
Now, success doesn’t lie in the achievement of a goal, although that’s what the world considers success; it lies in the journey toward the goal. We’re successful as long as we’re working toward something we want to bring about in our lives. That’s when the human being is at his or her best. That’s what Cervantes meant when he wrote, “The road is better than the inn.” We’re at our best when we’re climbing, thinking, planning, working. When we’re on the road toward something we want to bring about.
With our definition, success being the progressive realization of a worthy goal, we cover all the bases. The young person working to finish school is as successful as any person on earth. The person working toward a particular position with his or her company is just as successful.
If you have a goal that you find worthy of you as a person, a goal that fills you with joy at the thought of it, believe me, you’ll reach it. But as you draw near and see that the goal will soon be achieved, begin to think ahead to the next goal you’re going to set. It often happens that a writer halfway through a book will hit upon the idea for his next one and begin making notes or ideas for a title even while he’s finishing work on the one in progress. That’s the way it should be.
It’s estimated that about 5% of the population achieves unusual success. For the rest, average seems to be good enough. Most seem to just drift along, taking circumstances as they come, and perhaps hoping from time to time that things will get better.
I like to compare human beings with ships, as Carlyle used to do. It’s estimated that about 95 percent can be compared to ships without rudders, subject to every shift of wind and tide. They’re helplessly adrift, and while they fondly hope that they will one day drift into some rich and bustling port, for every narrow harbor entrance, there are 1,000 miles of rocky coastline.
The chances of their drifting into port are 1,000 to 1 against them. Our state lottery is a tax on such people. So are the slot machines in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Someone wins from time to time to be sure, but the odds are still there … stacked steeply against them.
But the 5 percent who have taken the time and exercised the discipline to climb into the driver’s seat of their lives, who’ve decided upon a challenging goal to reach and have fully committed themselves to reaching it, sail straight and far across the deep oceans of life, reaching one port after another and accomplishing more in just a few years than the rest accomplish in a lifetime.
If you should visit a ship in port and ask the captain for his next port of call, he’ll tell you in a single sentence. Even though the captain cannot see his port, his destination for fully 99% of the voyage, he knows it’s there. And then, barring an unforeseen and highly unlikely catastrophe, he’ll reach it. If someone asks you for your next port of call, your goal, could you tell him?
Is your goal clean and concise in your mind? Do you have it written down? It’s a good idea. We need reminding, reinforcement. If you can get a picture of your goal and stick it to your bathroom mirror, it’s an excellent idea to do so. Thousands of successful people carry their goals written on a card in their wallets or purses.
When you ask people what they’re working for, chances are they’ll answer in vague generalities. They might say, “Oh, good health or happiness or lots of money.” That’s not good enough. Good health should be a universal goal. We all want that, and do our best to achieve and maintain it.
Happiness is a byproduct of something else. And lots of money is much too vague. It might work, but I think it’s better to choose a particular sum of money. The better, the clearer our goal is defined, the more real it becomes to us, and before long, the more attainable. Happiness comes from the direction in which we’re moving.
Children are happier on Christmas morning before opening their presents than they are Christmas afternoon. No matter how wonderful their presents may be, it’s after Christmas. They’ll enjoy their gifts, to be sure, but we often find them querulous and irritable Christmas afternoon. We’re happier on our way out to dinner than we are on the way home. We’re happier going on vacation than we are coming home from it. And we’re happier moving toward our goals than even after they’ve been accomplished, believe it or not.
Life plays no favorites. Yet of one thing you may be sure, you will become what you think about. If your thinking is circular and chaotic, your life will reflect that chaos. But if your thinking is orderly and clear, if you have a goal that’s important for you to reach, then reach it you will.
One goal at a time. That’s important. That’s where most people unwittingly make their mistake. They don’t concentrate on a single goal long enough to reach it before they’re off on another track, then another, with the result that they achieve nothing. Nothing but confusion and excuses.
By thinking every morning, every night, and as many times during the day as you can about this exciting single goal you’ve established for yourself, you actually begin moving toward it and bringing it toward you. When you concentrate your thinking, it’s like taking a river that’s twisting and turning and meandering all over the countryside and putting it into a straight, smooth channel. Now it has power, direction, economy, speed.
So decide upon your goal. Insist upon it. Demand it! Look at your goal card every morning and night and as many times during the day as you conveniently can. By so doing, you will insinuate your goal into your subconscious mind. You’ll see yourself as having already attained your goal, and do that every day without fail, and it will become a habit before you realize it. A habit that will take you from one success to another all the years of your life. For that is the secret of success, the door to everything you will ever have or be.
You are now and you most certainly will become … what you think about.
Learn more about Earl Nightingale and his all-time bestselling programs The Strangest Secret and Lead the Field.