Secrets to Success

In the spirit of getting the most out of our shiny new year, I would like to share some wisdom from Dr. Robert Sternberg, eminent psychologist and expert on giftedness. In his book, “Successful Intelligence: How Practical and Creative Intelligence Determine Success in Life.” Dr. Sternberg lists twenty characteristics and attributes that successful, intelligent people share. I have paraphrased his list below:

  1. Successful people are self motivated, even if their environment doesn’t provide many external motivators. Parents often make mistakes in trying to motivate their children. They push too hard, do too much for them, or try to steer them down paths that more closely resemble the parents’ dreams.
  2. Successful people learn to channel their impulses into productive problem solving and decision making. Those of us who live with gifted children often wonder if our children will ever learn to control their impulses; but with continued practice and first-hand consequences, they can learn to think before they act.
  3. Successful people know when to persevere. They have learned when it is prudent to try, try, again and when to cut their losses and look for another solution.
  4. Successful people know how to make the best of their abilities. They can make an honest self-appraisal, acknowledge their weaknesses, and capitalize on their strengths and passions.
  5. Successful people act on their ideas and they aren’t afraid of hard work. Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspirationOpportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
  6. Successful people are product oriented. Our schools use a consumer model for the majority of instruction. Students spend their days consuming prepared information and produce work that simply proves they have consumed the expected information. Although most of our society is equally consumer oriented, successful people focus on producing rather than consuming.
  7. Successful people follow through. They break big projects into manageable tasks and finish each task until the whole project is complete.  
  8. Successful people are initiators. They don’t wait to be told what needs to be done. They look for opportunities, they make things happen, they build relationships, and they act on possibilities.
  9. Successful people are not afraid of failure. They realize that failure is an integral part of ultimate success.
  10. Successful people don’t procrastinate. They learn to manage their time to ensure things get done and done well.
  11. Successful people accept fair blame for their actions. They step up to the plate and take responsibility for their mistakes; but also know how to stand up for themselves when they are unfairly blamed.
  12. Successful people don’t feel sorry for themselves. If they feel they have been wronged, they try to remedy the situation, not wallow in self pity.
  13. Successful people are independent. They rely primarily on themselves. As my husband’s Grandma used to say, “The best helping hand is at the end of  your own arm.”
  14. Successful people surmount personal difficulties. They keep life in perspective and realize that everyone has problems. Overcoming problems is part of life.
  15. Successful people focus on their goals. They concentrate on what needs to be done and create the circumstances needed to achieve their goals.
  16. Successful people don’t spread themselves too thin. They have a good idea of how much they can take on at any given time and still be successful.
  17. Successful people can delay gratification. They don’t need short term rewards to see the big picture and they can wait a long time, if needs be, for their ultimate reward.
  18. Successful people see the big picture. They can see the forest and the trees. They can focus on the details without losing sight of the ultimate goal.
  19. Successful people have a reasonable level of self confidence. They know what they can and can’t do. They aren’t afraid to say what they can take on or when they need help.
  20. Successful people balance their analytical, creative, and practical thinking. They adapt their thinking in each situation to best utilize their whole brain.

We all want our children to achieve their full potential and I believe Dr. Sternberg has given us a comprehensive list of what it takes to turn potential into reality. Here’s wishing all of you a happy, healthy, and successful New Year.