By Susan Ford Collins
While I was shadowing highly successful people (HSPs) for more than 20 years, I discovered they were using 10 Success Skills consistently. The first and most important is Success Filing.
HSPs made time each day to acknowledge themselves for what they were accomplishing, time to build their Self-Confidence (their faith in themselves, in their ability to change their lives and world) so they didn’t have to rely on others to praise or agree with them… so they didn't need Other-Confidence.
Most HSPs Success Filed once a day. Others filed more often. Some wrote their successes on paper. Others created a Success File on their computer or cell phone. Some simply wrote them in memory. HSPs told me they had been Success Filing for years and they were surprised to realize other people didn't do it!
Success Filing is the key to building Self-Confidence, the confidence you need to lead yourself and others through the periods of doubt, confusion and disagreement that are a inevitable part of creating anything new, anything disagreed with, anything impossible. (Keep in mind, impossible probably just means it hasn't been done before, by you or anyone else… like electricity, cell phones or amazon.com! Jeff Bezos left his job, sold everything he owned and moved his family across the country to start amazon.com. Some people thought he was crazy. Yeah, crazy like a foxy creator!)
Success Filing will give you the Self-Confidence you need to start dreaming again, not stingy, little, "been there and done that" dreams, but big, juicy, exciting dreams like those you had as a child, dreams that wake you up in the night excited, and propel you out of bed eager for your day.
How, and when, to Success File
Pick a time of day that works for you—in a car or train, at dinnertime or bedtime. When and where you Success File is up to you. Who you Success File with is up to you too. (Make sure that person is a Codreamer!) What’s important is regularity. Build the habit. Do it every day!
Rewind your "inner recording" to when you woke up, when you started thinking and doing, and ask yourself this question: What successes did I have today?
But wait! To Success File skillfully… to get the greatest benefit… you need to be clear about what success is, and it isn’t. And never will. (* When I coach people one to one, I start each session by Success Filing to accelerate the growth of this essential habit. And to clarify how to apply it in their lives, and their children's lives.)
Some people mistakenly Failure File at the end of the day, thinking about what they didn't do, couldn't do, what they don't want to happen. Affirming that things never turn out for them. But they can.
What is success… really? How are you defining it?
One of my most cherished memories is of Marjorie, an elegant, slightly built, sixty-something woman who attended one of my early seminars. She had been sitting quietly listening to a hundred or so people sharing their successes when she abruptly raised her hand and stood up. With tears streaming down her face, she blurted out, "You've all had lots of successes, but I've never had any. I was never an A student, I’ve never had a job, I’ve never made money or won prizes or earned bonuses or plaques." Then she sobbed openly.
As I asked questions to discover more about Marjorie's life, she told us she had raised six highly successful children... teachers, lawyers, writers, even an inventor. And her children were raising successful families as well. Marjorie happily listed her children and grandchildren’s prizes and achievements, but she didn't see how their accomplishments had any relevance to her. All her life she had felt like a failure. In fact, that was the reason she was attending my seminar: Her HSP kids had sent her!
During breaks I watched to see how Marjorie was doing and saw her in the hall with people all around her talking and sharing. They were relating to Marjorie’s story, to her lifelong struggle to feel confident and successful. The next day was the same and the next. Finally on the last day of the seminar Marjorie raised her hand again. This time she stood up proudly and spoke, "I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. I came here a failure. But I leave here a success. My new thinking about success has changed my life forever!"
Here’s what Marjorie learned in my seminar.
Success has three essential parts…
1- Success is Completion
Success is being able to complete what you have in mind. Getting up early. Lacing your sneakers and running your route. Emptying the trash. Eating a healthy breakfast. Calling your child's spelling words. Getting gas in your car. Returning phone calls. Completing items on your to do list. Following through with salad for lunch instead of your usual pasta. Speaking out about a concern you have with a project or timeframe. Stopping to pick up groceries and dry cleaning on the way home. Reading your child the story you promised. Sharing your day with your mate.
Without daily successes, your life falls apart. Your body gets out of shape. You run out of gas and arrive late for your meeting. Your clients abandon you and find others who can serve them more skillfully. Your boss constantly points out your lack of follow through. There's no food in the refrigerator. Your trash is piling up. There's no clean underwear in the drawer. Your electricity is turned off. Your car isn't running right. Your child is upset and insecure, hostile and acting out.
Without daily successes your Self-Confidence falls apart too, because completions like these are what the life experience is all about. Long term goals are realized in tiny daily steps. Long term relationships are enjoyed in daily conversations. Long term careers are the result of day to day completions. Long term dreams come true because you take steps each day with those dreams clearly in mind.
Marjorie, you are indeed successful... Highly Successful in fact! Lifelong parenting, like yours, requires years and years of daily completions… whether you feel like doing them or not! Remember all those sleepless nights you spent taking care of sick kids, and all those times you had to help your teens do projects and assignments they'd left till the last minute?
2- Success is also Deletion
But defining success as only completion sets us up to be "productive robots" always needing to do more and have more. Higher scores, higher profits, more exciting sex and adventures. Faster cars, planes, bodies, lives. Bigger TVs or far smaller ones. Higher mountains to climb, deeper space to explore. Always desiring and aiming at but never there. Never satisfied. Never feeling Success-Full and whole.
Any skillful gardener will tell you that a healthy tree needs regular pruning. That's true of success too. Success is also cutting out, down or back. Like completions, deletions release energy—energy you’ve had tied up and unavailable for years—so you can begin using it to create the experiences you want. So you can enjoy a healthy, balanced, fulfilling life.
Deletion Successes include: Being able to eliminate old habits, outgrown ways of thinking and reacting that no longer work for you. Letting go of an outgrown relationship you’ve tried everything to improve. Or a well-paying job you’ve done too many times to enjoy. Success is quitting smoking, drugs, sugar, wheat, caffeine or whatever else you choose. Or it's rethinking your society-rewarded addiction to long hours, money and power.
Remember this: Each time you acknowledge that you complete or delete a creation cycle ( I want to... I do... I experience) a new quantum of energy is released for your use now.
3- Success is Creation… and ultimately creating your own life
The most joyous part of success is also the most challenging. To stop looking back, to what others did and didn’t do and start looking ahead to creating what you want moment-to-moment. What do I want to eat today for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? What kind of exercise would work best for my body? Do I want to go to that noon meeting or have lunch with my friend? Do I want to stop to handle this phone call now or respond to a message later? Do I have the time and energy to take on a new project, or do I want to tell its creator, No I can't do it now? Do I want to go out to dinner with friends or stay home to rebalance? To plan and dream my life?
The new parent, new manager dilemma
New mothers (and fathers) face a success crisis at the birth of their child. Suddenly, instead of enjoying the successes they’re used to... getting up and exercising, taking a shower, heading to work, staying late if they need to, going out in the evening—they are at a loss for success as they’ve known it. Sleep deprived, shower deprived, independence deprived, or home on maternity leave, they are hard pressed to Success File. After a few weeks, they feel down not just because of hormonal changes but because of success changes as well.
As parents we need to realize that what we can include in our Success Files has multiplied. Not only can we file all the new successes we are having as parents—preparing food, changing diapers, giving baths, smiling and cooing back, making our baby feel safe and acknowledged, making our child’s needs a higher priority than our own. But we can also file all the successes our child is having—the first time she grips our hand with those tiny, perfectly formed fingers; the first time he looks us straight in the eye and smiles knowingly; the first time she sits up or crawls or walks or rides a bike or sings or reads, or does any of these activities a little better; the first time he sleeps without a pacifier, rides without training wheels, or crosses a street without holding your hand.
Yes, as parents, our children’s successes are our successes too. But ultimately, our greatest successes will be supporting our children as they differentiate between our ideas about success, their society’s ideas, and their own. Our greatest successes will be living and modeling the skills they will need to lead their own lives.
Top producers experience a similar success crisis when they step up into management. Suddenly the criterion for their success changes from what they are able to do all by themselves… to what everyone they are managing is able to do. Suddenly there is the opportunity to jump from satisfaction, which comes as a result of our own efforts, to fulfillment, “to realize all one's potentialities as a person” (New Webster’s Dictionary) which comes as the result of our leadership.
We humans are like seeds that produce plants that produce seeds that produce hundreds and thousands and millions and billions of plants and seeds more. Make sure you file not just your successes but the successes of all those you lead at home, at school, at work, in your community and world. ... including those that may appear to threaten your current view of the world. The very ideas that could transform your life, our children's lives and their children's lives...!
How successful do you feel? That depends on two essential things: How you define success and how willing you are to make time to Success File. Success is not just aimed at or desired. Success is feeling satisfied and fulfilled by what you choose to do, and be, on a daily basis.
Marjorie, my dear, creating a successful family requires millions and even billions of daily completions, deletions and creations. So now that you know, you can feel as Highly Success-Full as your kids do!
When your Success File is low, you feel dependent and needy.
When your Success File is full, you feel Success-Full and confident...
ready and able to lead your life, your way.
(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email firstname.lastname@example.org
* For more on the 1st Success Skill, read The Joy of Success and Our Children Are Watching.
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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins