Rarely do you find the words simple and success in the same sentence. Those who have set out on a journey of building a business or achieving a significant goal soon run into unexpected obstacles and learn the necessity of perseverance. But this famous quote by Henry David Thoreau helps me to simplify success down to the lowest common denominator when the way gets complicated.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.*
Beyond being inspirational, I want to break this sentence down to capture a few necessary steps to simplify how we think about success. Take a few seconds and re-read the quote above… Now let’s dive in.
7 Steps to Simplify Success
How many times does this little word stop you in your tracks? What if I can’t afford this? What if I can’t learn this? What if I don’t meet (someone’s) expectations? What if I make a fool out of myself?
I started keeping a “What if…?” journal at the beginning of this year. I write down ideas — crazy ideas — I’d hardly think possible except my first entry was “What if nothing is impossible?” I then answered it with Luke 1:37 — “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Writing down this starting point has altered my whole approach to believing for greater destinations and achievements.
- If nothing is impossible with God, why not go for it?
- Why not have fun and laugh instead of doubting?
- Why not obey the Holy Spirit quickly instead of wondering how He could suggest such a thing?
The Power of Decision
Every if in your life demands a decision, one way or the other. Tony Robbins clearly explains the importance of making a decision in Awaken the Giant Within. “The word ‘decision’ comes from the Latin root de, which means ‘from,’ and caedere, which means ‘to cut.’ Making a true decision means committing to achieving a result, and then cutting yourself off from any other possibility.”
What’s that one thing you know you’ve been putting off but are called to do? That one goal you will regret not pursuing? That one topic you think about after the lights go out at night? Make a decision to move forward and cut off all other possibilities. No goal is ever successful without a commitment to move forward.
2. “one will advance confidently”
Yep, each step forward is necessary. You can’t keep your ideas bottled up in your thoughts any longer. You must move. You must advance. You must begin building.
I’ve gotten stuck between 1 and 2 many times. When I didn’t know what I should do next, I found myself in an uncomfortable and paralyzing neutral. By looking for the whole picture up front, I couldn’t seem to allow myself to take one step at a time and trust God to lead.
Extend grace to yourself. You’ll never know beforehand everything that’s either necessary or possible in this adventure. That’s what makes it an adventure. Start walking and see what the next step opens up. Each step comes with new questions and new answers. Enjoy the unfolding. Stay confident in the confidence of the Holy Spirit as He leads you.
3. “in the direction of one’s dreams,”
This is where a vision statement shows its worth. The more murky your goal, the more murky your path. You can’t reach success if you don’t know what you’re actually reaching for.
I hung a quote by Havilah Cunnington over my desk: “You have to have a clear yes or your no’s will be very confusing.” I glance at it a few times every day, reminding myself that I must know my vision, know my plan, and put the goal always before me or I’ll easily turn to the side and get distracted.
A fraction of ambiguity will lead you down a road you didn’t intend to travel. Take inventory often. Make sure you’re going in the direction of your dream.You have to have a clear yes or your no's will be very confusing. @mrshavilah Click To Tweet
4. “and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined,”
To really move forward, you have to step past your current perspective. This begins with the way you think. Don’t believe the idea that everything has to be perfect before you start living out your dream. Look for an open window to take a step forward. Believe that each step carries value.
If you want to be a writer, start writing. If you want to live in a foreign country, learn the language. If you want to get married and have a family, start thinking and acting like you have a spouse and kids. These small steps will focus you and build your capacity to live it out fully when the time comes.
Take time to get a revelation of what God sees for you down the road, and begin to live like you’re already there.
5. “he will meet with success”
Success started the moment you made a decision to pursue a goal and it continues in many varied ways with each new day. My husband, Matt, has often encouraged me: The only way to lose is to stop. Our world thinks true success is only found when you get what you want. Winston Churchill had a different take on the topic.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
This makes me smile because I’ve been there, fighting to keep up my enthusiasm. No, I don’t think success is always equal to failure, but I do believe success is most often found in the simple details.
Every step contains a measure of success if you choose to mine it out. Whether it’s a chosen course correction or a discovery of what you hoped for, success is possible at any moment if you don’t give up.#Success is most often found in the simple details. #emptynest Click To Tweet
Expectation is one of the most powerful choices you can make. Isaiah 30:18 declares us to be blessed when we wait expectantly for God’s presence and favor. I’m constantly encouraging myself and others to live in a mindset of expectation.
But there are always unexpected victories along the way. Perhaps a connection with a new mentor or a valuable piece of information. Maybe you reach a milestone sooner than expected or realize you’re capable of more than you thought. Whatever the “unexpected” success, take time to savor. Take time to celebrate. The more you learn to appreciate unexpected success, the more you will recognize it.#Expectation is a powerful choice. #choosewisely Click To Tweet
7. “in common hours.”
Every hour is common, every day one more on a calendar, until you choose to make it a celebration. If you label life as “boring” and stop looking for change, you may miss it when it comes.
I wrote this poem in college about finding joy in common details.
a little town on the edge of nowhere
nothing but groceries and gas
he sat on the steps
for a breeze
or a stray dog
or a new face
was this the week for the Pepsi man?
and then it came
a little at first — just to those who were expecting
a slow, quiet hum of leaves
the dust in the corners danced
he listened to the songlet
over and over again
he walked home
his mind full of music
Oh, how much we miss when we exalt success to some unattainable level. Some might say I’m lowering the bar and stripping success of its real value. But I believe the more we see the value of each step, each moment, each up and down, the more likely we are to reach the final destination with joy.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your comment below on how you’re overcoming stumbling blocks and simplifying your path to success.