THE BLOG
06/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

True Success in Times of Change

Is there wisdom for the way forward from where we are right now? How can we get from the mire of our current crises to the sort of sustainable future we all want? From the ancient Chinese and Greek philosophers, across cultures and through to the present day, the wisest people who have ever thought about positive achievement have left us bits and pieces of powerful advice for attaining true success in anything we do. I've put these ideas together into a simple framework of seven universal conditions. Let me lay them out briefly and we'll see what they mean.

The 7 Cs of Success

For the most deeply satisfying and sustainable forms of success, we need to bring into any challenge, opportunity, endeavor, or relationship:

(1) A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.

(2) A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain that goal.

(3) A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach the goal.

(4) A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.

(5) An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we're doing.

(6) A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.

(7) A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.

There are certainly other concepts often associated with success, but it's my belief that every other one is just a version or application of one of these in specific situations. The 7 Cs give us the most universal, logical, and comprehensive framework for success. We'll take just a moment to look at each. And we start with our need for a goal, or set of goals.

(1) A clear CONCEPTION of what we want, a vivid vision, a goal clearly imagined.

In any facet of our lives, we need to think through as clearly as possible what we want to accomplish, and what we'd like to see happen. True success starts with an inner vision, however incomplete it might be. The world as we find it is just the raw material for what we can make it. We are meant to be artists with our energies and our lives. And the only way to do that well is to structure our actions around clear goals.

(2) A strong CONFIDENCE that we can attain the goal.

Inner attitude is a key to outer results. Philosopher William James learned from an array of champions that proper confidence should be operative in all of our lives. In any new enterprise, we need upfront faith in what we're doing. Sometimes we may have to work hard to generate this attitude. But it's worth the work it takes, because it raises our prospects for success. The best confidence arises out of competence and then augments it. It's of course no guarantee of success. But it is among the chief contributors to it.

(3) A focused CONCENTRATION on what it takes to reach the goal.

Big dreams just lead to big disappointments when people don't learn how to chart their way forward. Success at anything challenging comes from planning your path and then putting that plan into action. Gestalt psychologists have taught us that a new mental focus generates new perceptual abilities. Concentrating your thought and energy in a new direction, toward a clear goal, you begin to see things that you might have missed before, and that relate to the goal you've set. This focus allows you to plan and then act, and adjust along the way. Even a flawed plan can start you off and lead you to where you can discover a better one. A focused concentration of thought and action is key.

(4) A stubborn CONSISTENCY in pursuing our vision.

The word 'consistency' comes from two Greek roots -- a verb meaning "to stand" and a particle meaning "together." Consistency is all about standing together. Do my actions stand together with my words? Do my reactions and emotions stand together with my deepest beliefs and values? Do the people I work with stand together? This is what consistency is all about. It's a matter of unifying your energy and efforts in a single direction. Inconsistency defuses power. Consistency moves us toward our goals.

(5) An emotional COMMITMENT to the importance of what we're doing.

Passion is the core of extraordinary success. It's a key to overcoming difficulties, seizing opportunities, and getting other people excited about your projects. Too much goal setting in the modern world has been an exercise of the intellect but not also of the heart. Philosophers appreciate the role of rationality in human life. But we know that it's not just the head, but also the heart, that can guide us on to the tasks right for us, and keep us functioning at our peak.

(6) A good CHARACTER to guide us and keep us on a proper course.

Character inspires trust. And trust is necessary for people to work together well. Good character is required for great collaboration. In a world in which innovative partnerships and collaborative synergies are increasingly important, the moral foundation for working well together matters more than ever before. And good character does a lot more than just provide for trust. It has an effect on each individual's own freedom and insight. Bad character not only corrupts, it blinds. A person whose perspective has been deeply skewed by selfishness or mendacity cannot understand the world in as perceptive a way as someone whose sensibilities are ethically well formed. Good character makes sustainable success more likely.

(7) A CAPACITY TO ENJOY the process along the way.

The more you can enjoy the process of what you're doing, the better the results tend to be. It's easier to set creative goals. Confidence will come more naturally. Your concentration can seem effortless. Consistency will not be a battle. The emotional commitment will flow. And issues of character will not be as difficult to manage. A capacity to enjoy the process is intertwined with every other facilitator of success in a great many ways.

These conditions of success are all intimately and deeply connected. They constitute a unified framework of tools with which we can work our way toward the most fulfilling forms of achievement in everything we do. They will help us to make our proper mark in the world. They will move us in the direction of sustainable and satisfying attainment. And as a philosopher, I have just one question: Why should we ever settle for anything less?