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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often do you define your elements of success?

Today is February 7 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you define your elements of success?” German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche observed “A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.”


Do you view your life as a series of experiments and questions to find out something? Does that something change over time? Today’s reflection reminds us that navigating the chaos requires one to have a deep understanding of what it means to succeed as well as the necessary elements involved. If you never stop to reflect upon what is important to you, then how would you know? The 2013 American Express Life Twist study identified ten elements of success commonly expressed by Americans:


1. Good health

2. Finding time for the important things in life

3. Having a good marriage/relationship

4. Knowing how to spend money well

5. Having a good work/personal life-balance

6. Having a job I love

7. Making the time to pursue your passions and interests

8. Being physically fit

9. Embracing new experiences/changes

10. Always trying to learn and do new things


Another element of success for many people is best described by author Stephen Covey "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." Taylor Hunt is one person who understands the meaning of scheduling priorities. A Way from Darkness is his unflinching and confessional story of Hunt's journey from addiction to health – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Bankrupt in every imaginable sense of the word, Taylor's journey was neither quick nor easy. He spent most of his 20s living basically on the streets and doing drugs almost every single day almost to the point of death. After learning about a 12-step meeting he realized he wanted something more out of life. A friend then introduced him to Ashtanga yoga and that allowed him to further his journey out of darkness. His story is more than just autobiography; it is an invitation to the reader to find healing alongside Taylor through community, Ashtanga yoga, and ultimately, acceptance. Hunt traveled out of the darkness and with the help of the 12-step process, coupled with Ashtanga yoga, he would eventually step away from addiction and towards sobriety. He made sobriety, a better life, and a better body his priorities.


Much like Taylor, U.S. soccer champion Abby Wambach understood her rules for success when she addressed the Barnard College Class of 2018, letting them in on her four secrets to success. First, failure is the highest-octane fuel so learn to make failure your fuel. Second, you're either a leader everywhere or nowhere so when you are benched, be a leader. Third, support other women and claim the success of one woman as a collective success for all women. Finally, be assertive and demand the ball, equal pay, the promotion, and the microphone.


In a June 29, 2018, Psychology Today article Shahram Heshmat defined "10 Key Elements of Successful Goal Achievement." As with any elements of success, do remind yourself each one should be customized to your given life situation. Upon reflection, you should create your own list. Doing so allows you to edit the list based on changes to your life situation. For Heshmat, these were his 10 elements of successful goal achievement:


1. Have specific goals to guide your choices.

2. Use motivation to drive you in the pursuit of your goals.

3. Maintain the self-confidence required to navigate obstacles.

4. Monitor your progress so you can stay focused on goal-relevant activities.

5. Balance the desirability of a goal with its feasibility. (ex: your goal is to learn piano but you only give yourself six months of random practice to achieve your goal – the desire is there but the feasibility is not)

6. Expect obstacles along the way.

7. Hold an unnerving belief in your ability to continuously improve.

8. Stay focused and develop a relationship with distractions.

9. Commit to small steps over a long period of time.

10. Anticipate regret and in so doing you will remind yourself of the adage “people seldom regret what they did; but they often regret what they did not try to do.”

  • How do you define your elements of success?

  • When you compare the list of 10 elements from the American Life Twist Study to Heshmat’s do you find any overlap?

  • Which of the elements from the American Life Twist Study do you practice?

  • Which of the elements from Heshmat’s do you practice?

  • Do you think the elements of success change over time? Why? Why not?

  • Why do you think it is so difficult for people to define their elements of success?

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