4 Irreducible Components To Achieve Success

Enduring Success is getting what you want, sustaining it and having it produce rewards for you and those you care about. The emotional by-product is one of renewal, not anxiety, stress or depletion. Having tasted both enduring success and short-lived success, I know I definitely prefer the former and those closest to me are better served when I achieve it.

So is achieving enduring success simply a crap-shoot or is it something possible to intentionally pursue? Not only is it possible, it’s been studied by Nash and Stevenson. After reflecting on people who by just about anyones standards had achieved enduring success, they initially proposed the following 5 common characteristics:

  • High achievement
  • Multiple Goals
  • Ability to experience pleasure
  • Ability to create positive relationships
  • Valued accomplishments that endured

As it turned out, their initial guess was close. Following interviews with 150 successful professionals and top executives, over a dozen testing sessions of 50 – 110 executives from notable business organizations, and reviewing numerous data sources from the general population in every walk of life and at every stage, Nash and Stevenson arrived at the following 4 irreducible components of enduring success: 046 SuccessComponents2

  1. Happiness (feelings of pleasure or contentment about life)
  2. Achievement (accomplishments that compare favorably against goals others have striven to achieve)
  3. Significance (sense of making a positive impact on people you care about)
  4. Legacy (a way of establishing values or accomplishments to help others succeed)

These four components form the basic structure of what people seek to gain as they pursue “It All”. The problem is that even if you are successful in one area but neglect and lose perspective on any given component, then whatever you did loses some luster and no longer feels like true success; the satisfaction of your win, pleasure, accomplishment and altruistic effort fades almost as soon as it occurs. For example, if you continue growing a massive power base but lack being there for others or if you garner millions but take no time for pleasure then you aren’t going to experience success….a big black hole maybe, but not enduring success. Trying to compartmentalize these four components of enduring success into various aspects of your life doesn’t work either (i.e. achievement is for what you do at work, legacy with your family, or significance to relationships, etc.). In fact, people who fail to touch on all four categories at some point and in some form or fashion are served a helping of “wince factor” along with their success. The “wince factor” is defined as doing something you know is right but still feeling like you’ve had a loss. Been there and done that? I know I have, and I bet you have too. Ouch!

On the other hand, success that encompasses all four components is enriching, renewing and enduring……it fully satisfies. The interplay between these four components can occur in a single event, but more often than not it occurs across a variety of activities over time and over seasons in the whirlwind of life. Satisfaction and enduring success in a particular endeavor, activity or area of life is realized as you accomplish something distinctive in each of the four categories for what it is your doing or seeking to be. Because doing that typically takes awareness, intentionality, time, focus, and patience, it’s easy to see why so few people obtain enduring success. We arguably have more “stuff”…including education and opportunities…than any nation in the history of mankind yet have become less and less satisfied with our lives. What’s up with that?! More importantly, what do you do about it?

The first thing to do is ask “What’s Best Next?” for your own situation.  After that would be to leverage the following practical steps and seek to integrate the 4 components of enduring success in your pursuits:

  • Acknowledge there is no “Silver Bullet”- no 1 thing will yield it without a synergy of the 4 components
  • Understand and keep the 4 components top of mind- they can serve as a good diagnostic with difficult decisions
  • Be Aware- you have to know yourself, who you want to be and what you want to do
  • Plan and Prioritize- sometimes there are competing priorities and goals
  • Set your expectations- acknowledge it’s hard to touch on all 4 components with regularity
  • Categorize correctly- is it legacy or achievement you would expect from solving a perplexing problem? Set expectations accordingly
  • Keep your Principles, Values and Talents top of mind- The key to making tough individual decisions and sacrifices for the sake of the larger whole

While it may seem a bit trite and even presumptuous to boil things down to 4 components in regard to something as important and multifaceted as enduring success, it is arguably a great place to start.

What is and isn’t working for you? Please leave a comment, I would love to know more.