I’m sure you’ve heard it before: One person argues that the reason this or that individual is such a success (or failure) in sports, wealth accumulation, academics or whatever is because she was born with superior (or inferior) genes while the other person contends that it is not any result of being born that way but the environment she was nurtured in. It’s the whole nature vs. nurture argument.

So which is it then? Are you a product of nature (your genes) or of nurture (your upbringing and environmental conditions)?

Actually neither. You are a product of choice.

Now obviously I’m not suggesting that our conditioning or the conditions surrounding us have no influence in our lives, but to say that we are determined by them, is to say we have no control over that influence.

The thing is, every self-made successful person (successful people in the truest sense of the word are all self-made) has come to the realization that they have the power to direct their own lives; And they let that realization power them through the struggles and challenges that they face on the road to their success. They’ve learned that their lives are not a function of their conditions but rather, a function of their decisions.

There are many examples of people who have risen above genetics or environment to become a tremendous success. One such example is Christopher Gardner, whose life inspired the film “The Pursuit of Happyness (actual spelling).” Gardner became a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, motivational speaker and philanthropist despite struggling with homelessness while raising his toddler son.

Gardner often scrambled to place his child in daycare, stood in soup lines, and slept wherever he and his son could find safety: in his office after hours, at flophouses, at parks, and even in a locked bathroom at the Bay Area Rapid Transit station in San Francisco. All-the-while, Gardner worked as a trainee for Bear Stearns, struggling to make ends meet with the hope of one day achieving his dream in becoming a successful stock broker. This he did, eventually establishing the brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co, in Chicago, Illinois and becoming a multi-millionaire.

The greatest example of someone who overcame their conditions and conditioning can be found in the life of former Nazi death camp survivor Viktor Frankl. In that place of endless suffering, where all earthly possessions were stripped away, and being left with only his bare body, Frankl discovered something very profound. He realized that their captors may have had the power to take away all that he owned — even his liberty — but they weren’t able to take away the last of his human freedoms: his ability to choose how he would respond to his circumstances. Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

Within this purely human endowment — the power to choose your response and direct your life — you will find the real key to success.

In conclusion, success is not determined by your genetic make-up or where and how you were raised but is entirely based upon how you respond to those influences and the decisions you make as a result.

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For most of us, goal setting is just that: goal setting. We all know how to set goals, but when it comes to achieving them we often fall short.

In this post, I’ll explain how you can go beyond just setting your goals to where you can start achieving them. Everyone that has achieved their goals, have consciously or unconsciously followed seven distinct steps which led them to that achievement.

By learning about and following these seven steps, achieving your goals is a guarantee. Sound too easy? Well, I never said these steps will be easy but they’ll definitely be worth it.

Step 1: Observe

Before you even set a goal, and long before you can even move toward achieving it, the first stage you have to go through is observation. As you go about your day-to-day living, you are constantly observing things that you like and dislike about things with yourself and around you. This establishes and develops your preferences and takes you closer to the next step…

Oftentimes, people who are at this step will say the words, “I wish…” Wishes come out of our observations, but in and of themselves they have no power to achieve what it is that you wish for.

Step 2: Desire

As you dwell and focus upon the preferences you have regarding yourself and your environment, desire will begin to swell within you. Real desire is a crucial step in achieving any goal.

Although most people would think of desire as the first step, it actually follows observation. Without first recognizing that something is different, there is no way to know that things could be different and therefore you would not have any preferences.

Desire is more than a mere wish. For, desire provides the fuel for later action.

Step 3: Believe

The stronger this desire becomes, the more you’ll begin to see ways of achieving it; And as these ways open up before you, you begin to enter the level of belief.

Real desire combined with belief is what leads us to take action. A wish is not something you truly believe will ever take place, but desire, when enlarged, leads one to really believe achieving it is possible.

Step 4: Set Goals

As your belief grows because you are now seeing how you can achieve it, the next natural step in the continuum is to make goals. A goal is essentially putting a date on your desire.

If possible, the more public you can make your goals the better. What this does is it creates accountability. The more people who know about it, the more “pressure” you’ll feel in wanting to achieve it. I personally find this works really well with me. For example, I did a ten-day experiment with the Master Cleanse where I didn’t eat or drink anything except for a specially made lemonade drink. I knew that by making this experiment public it would give me more incentive to accomplish it. During the times when I was struggling to get through, I knew that I had to finish because other people were watching me.

Goal setting is ultimately just ONE of the important steps to achieving them.

Step 5: Plan

Now that you have made your goal and have a specific timeline, then next step is to plan the steps in-between. Planning allows you to map out the journey towards your end goal. Like any mountain-climber knows, it is not enough to know where you want to go. The route that you choose to take is just as important as the peak that you intend to reach.

Step 6: Take Action

At this point, you’ve discovered what you like; This preference has grown within you to the point where it is now truly a desire; Your desire has opened your eyes up to ways that you can accomplish it, creating belief; You have created a goal to achieve it; And you’ve got the plan to reach the goal. Now it’s time to break a sweat and take some action.

This step is the process whereby you act out your plan. The more detailed your plan, the easier it is to take action.

Not all action is necessarily physical though. A huge part of achieving your goals is a mental process. For example, this step would include the processes behind The Law of Attraction and visualization.

In summary, action is using your plan to act on your belief. Action takes the formless (your idea and plan) and brings it to life in the physical world (the manifestation of your idea and plan).

Step 7: Evaluate & Fine Tune

Throughout exercising your plan, there will — out of necessity — come a time where you need to check in to see how your progress is coming. I typically dedicate one day per week in this exercise. On Sunday evenings, I’ll take a look at where I am and see where I’m going and discover where I can improve as well as determine if I’ve veered off course of my intended goal. Regular “check-ins” like these will keep you heading in the right direction.

Airplane pilots know this concept very well. Before they fly from one city to the next they establish a flight plan. However, because of turbulence, wind, weather, and other factors, their flight is actually off-course most of the time. But because they receive continual feedback from their instruments, the control tower, other planes etc, they continually readjust their course to return to their original plan. This is what allows them to reach their destination. The same is true with your goals and plans.

Part of evaluation and fine tuning is realizing that what you’re doing is no longer in-line with your long-term goals or values. Sometimes, because of new knowledge, you decide to move onto something better. This is a natural part of life. In your evaluation meetings with yourself, you may discover that you are no longer interested in carrying on with something. Knowing when to change course altogether is just as important as staying on course.

You may discover that as you go through this evaluation step, that you begin going through each of the seven steps again — in essence cycling through them. This is completely normal and intended. For example, you might notice something that you want to change, a new desire or a modified desire will form into belief causing you to refine your goal, re-plan the steps, and act on those new steps leading you again to evaluate and cause you to go through the same process again and again…

You’ve Achieved it, Now What?

Well as they say, “Rinse, Recycle, and Repeat.” Now that you’ve got a taste of this process, use this same seven-step process to work on another cycle with another goal. Getting into the habit of using this seven-step cycle will bring a whole new level of personal development and achievement into your life.

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