6 Steps to a Successful Future

By | 2018-02-20T17:24:26+00:00 March 10th, 2016|Categories: Advice|Tags: |

Success comes in many forms, but getting there requires certain behavioural changes. Luckily, these are all changes that can be made almost immediately and, with a little planning, success will come.

1. Dress the part

smarten upKnown as ‘enclothed cognition‘, wearing certain clothes has many benefits, from making a good first impression to improved mental agility.

Experiments have concluded that test subjects who simply wore a lab coat over their normal attire made half as many mistakes when performing tests of mental agility.

Even the name given to certain clothes (or how we describe them) can affect how we work. Subjects who were told that they were wearing a painter’s smock performed mental challenges poorly, compared to those who were told they were wearing a doctor’s overcoat – even though both sets of clothing were identical.

If you dress the part of the person you want to be, and the type of person you would like others to perceive you as, you’ll instinctively start to perform certain tasks better and your mindset will benefit considerably.

How you feel about what you’re wearing changes your behaviour. For example, if you’re wearing a new fitted suit you’ll feel confident and ready to tackle daily challenges. Wearing glasses not only makes many others perceive you as intelligent, but also make you feel more intelligent.

It’s not just what we wear that can affect our behaviour – attitude and demeanor, certain environmental factors (and how we physically interact with them), can also have similar effects.
Embodied cognition‘ research suggests that it’s not just our brains that control our bodies, our bodies can also have subconscious effects on our minds too.

A few examples are (from Scientific American):

  • Thinking about the future caused participants to lean slightly forward, while thinking about the past caused participants to lean slightly backwards. The future is ahead.
  • Squeezing a soft ball influenced subjects to perceive gender neutral faces as female, while squeezing a hard ball influenced subjects to perceive gender neutral faces as male. Females are the softer sex.
  • Those who held heavier clipboards judged currencies to be more valuable and their opinions and leaders to be more important. Importance is heavy.
  • Subjects asked to think about a moral transgression, like cheating on a test, were more likely to request an antiseptic cloth after the experiment than those who had thought about good deeds. Morality is purity.

As this research continues to uncover the influences our actions have on the mind, it may become common practice to perform certain actions prior to an important meeting, interview or presentation, in order to steer our mind and increase confidence, creativity or improve our general attitude.

For instance, adopting a ‘power pose‘ (like a superhero) for 30 seconds is reported to increase confidence.

2. Change your attitude

When working, having the right attitude not only puts you in the right frame of mind to succeed yourself, but will also encourage those around you to do the same.
The right attitude can differ dependent upon the environment you’re in while at work, but will usually manifest itself as one of the following:

  • Positivity
  • Optimism
  • Creativity
  • Happiness
  • Encouragement
  • Motivation

It’s easy to see how displaying any of the these traits can benefit your career and wellbeing, but also how you’ll be a positive influence on those around you.
Being seen as someone who is passionate, driven and can motivate others, will invariably lead to career progression opportunities.

attitudeChanging our attitude may well go against that of the general company population, but as long as the change is positive, it will be noticed by others and may well be mimicked. People naturally conform to the behaviour of others, whether consciously or not. This happens all the time, for example in job interviews, where you might inadvertently adopt the same body language as the person opposite you.

If you behave in a certain way around people for any length of time, then certain traits that you’re exhibiting will start to transfer between your colleagues and spread more positive behaviour.

Great leaders display an attitude that others strive for, which is why they happily follow that person.

There is even evidence to suggest that positive thinking can affect the physical world around us. The following experiment is detailed on The Mind Unleashed website:

The rice experiment is another famous Emoto demonstration of the power of negative thinking (and, conversely, the power of positive thinking).
Dr Emoto placed portions of cooked rice into two containers. On one container he wrote “thank you” and on the other “you fool”.
He then instructed school children to say the labels on the jars out loud everyday when they passed them by.

After 30 days, the rice in the container with positive thoughts had barely changed, while the other was mouldy and rotten.

As you can see, attitude is a powerful tool.

3. Get organised

One crucial success factor is how organised and ‘on top’ of things you are. Constantly playing catch up, rushing tasks, missing deadlines and general forgetfulness, can all be avoided through planning and self-discipline.

organise your careerThere are countless ways to carve up your day and assign time to tasks, from simply writing a to-do list to techniques such as Pomodoro and time boxing. The trick is to find a method that suits you and how you work.

Just writing things down as you go is often sufficient to create a list of your priorities, whether this is ad-hoc or during a dedicated time slot on your commute.

Richard Branson himself has written about the importance of taking notes on LinkedIn.

“Note-taking is one of my favourite pastimes. I can’t tell you where I’d be if I hadn’t had a pen on hand to write down my ideas (or more importantly, other people’s) as soon as they came to me. Some of Virgin’s most successful companies have been born from random moments – if we hadn’t opened our notebooks, they would never have happened.”

Self-discipline will also help you to keep your workload manageable and, if needed, say ‘no’. We all want to be able to help everyone and receive the gratitude of others, but an essential element in sustaining a high level of quality in our work is knowing our own limits. A byproduct of visualising your time is that you can instantly see where you’re over-stretching yourself.

4. Show appreciation

Giving thanks where thanks is due has many benefits; people are naturally inclined to give back the kind of treatment they have received from you. By virtue of the rule of reciprocity, they feel obligated to do so.

If you’re very specific about what is is that you’re thanking someone for, then you positively affect their attitude. You also encourage them to help again in the future, as well as giving yourself a little boost for sharing your gratitude.

You’ll also start to learn what’s important to that person and gain valuable insight into how you can best work with or lead them, moving forward.

show appreciationShowing appreciation draws people to you and improves their perception of you as a person and as a colleague. If you put a lot of time into a task for someone else and receive no thanks for it, then you’re less likely to help again in the future.
If, on the other hand, you complete a task and receive a genuine ‘thank you’ from that person, then you’ll be happy to assist again if asked.

It’s important that when giving praise you’re authentic and specific. Detailing why a task was done well, the particular sacrifice that was made by a colleague to help you, or the results of the actions of others, will help to add meaning and demonstrate your genuine gratitude.

It’s not just the recipient of gratitude that benefits, you will too. Research is discovering that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
  • Higher levels of positive emotions
  • More joy, optimism and happiness
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated

5. Do something you believe in

In order to show passion, be motivated and strive for success, you need to believe in what you’re doing on a daily basis. You don’t have to turn a hobby into a business to believe in what you do, you just need to be aligned to what it is that the business stands for and what it is trying to achieve.

passionate about jobAn important part of employer branding and talent attraction is building an employee base who appreciate and agree with your brand’s goals, vision and message.

When furthering your career and searching for a new employer, ensure that you understand and agree with what it is that they provide and are trying to accomplish as a business. If you fit into this culture and belief, then you’ll make an engaged and productive employee (and brands know this!).

It may be that the thing you want to do is entirely different from the role you’re currently in. If this is the case, then you need to consider a number of factors:

  • The role you want may not (immediately) match your current salary
  • You may need to retrain
  • It may not be all it’s cracked up to be (although you’ll never know unless you try)
  • Is there an opportunity to change career within the same company?

If you’re constantly day-dreaming about what you would like to be doing as a career, then the chances are you’re not being as productive as you could be in your current one.

6. Have a plan

You need a plan. Whether this is 6 months or 10 years, you need a plan. Setting benchmarks, and a means by which to identify achievements, will provide much-needed encouragement to continually do better and reach the next goal.

Having a plan will also help you to research certain stages of your career journey and prepare ahead of time.

An extract from the Victorian Government careers website reads:

A great career strategy relies on strong foundations. The form of your career strategy will depend on the kind of person you are.
It may be very structured, or you may just need a few notes in each area, such as knowledge, skills and qualities, what you like doing and the type of jobs that interest you.

  1. Self-assessment helps you understand your personal and career goals, your interests, preferences, strengths and weaknesses
  2. Consider your career options and identify which available roles fit your interests and abilities
  3. Decide on your career goals
  4. Develop and implement a career strategy
  5. Review and adjust your career strategy