how to be successful - 10 keys

How To Be Successful In Life – 10 Powerful Keys

Do you know what leads one person to achieve success in life over another? After doing much research, we’ve developed 10 Keys to Success. Success is within reach if you are willing to put in the work. But in order to do the right work, you must first learn how to be successful.

Here at Finally Family Homes, it’s our mission to help youth who have the odds stacked against them to beat the odds and succeed in life. So, what is the secret sauce of success? We’ll fill you in below. We’ve also provided some success quotes to inspire and motivate you.

How to Be Successful – Defining Success In Life

How do you define success in life? Most people consider success as having a great career, wealth, and respect from peers. But don’t overlook goals that will support a happier life. Prioritizing relationships, physical health, safety, contributing to others, and creative expression have been shown to improve feelings of happiness.

However, don’t confuse the feeling of happiness with success. You could be quite happy eating Cheetos in your parents’ basement while you watch TV. That doesn’t make you a success. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well-lived.” 

Success in life means attaining your vision of a good life. It means achieving specific goals that result in the future you have planned for yourself. Success in life is defined by the individual. Your vision of success looks different than someone else’s.

If you are looking for the key to success in business vs the key to success in a relationship, your strategies and efforts are going to be quite different.

It’s also important to take care that you don’t let someone else dictate what a successful life for you looks like. You only have so much time in life, so make sure you create a holistic picture for yourself.

a key with a tag that says success as in how to be successful in life

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The hilariously talented Ken Jeong was raised to pursue medicine, and even though he was a successful physician, it wasn’t what he really wanted. Later, he found his way into acting and comedy, and to the delight of audiences everywhere, he is now living out his vision of success.

As Thomas Merton put it, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” Don’t put your ladder against the wrong wall! If you are meant to be a yoga teacher, you won’t feel successful as a “successful” investment banker.

People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”

Thomas Merton

10 Keys To Success

So now that you know what success is, how do you get there? Believe it or not, although success may look different for everyone, there is a common list of strategies or keys to achieving that success. And here’s the good news: once you learn how to succeed, you can apply these tools to succeed in multiple areas of your life.

These keys or tools listed below will help you unlock success in your life. They are strategies used by successful athletes, businessmen, and artists. Make sure you have a clear vision of a successful life in front of you as you work through them.

The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.”

Brian Tracy

1st Key: Make A Plan

The very first key to success is to make a plan. This means having a clear picture of what a successful life looks like to you and putting together a well-defined set of goals to get you to that life.

Planning well starts with figuring out what you want and writing it down in detail. It’s important to have clarity on your definition of success. This is the foundation for your plan.

To succeed means to accomplish a goal. By this definition, if you don’t set goals, you’ll never succeed.

2nd Key: Prepare For The Unexpected

Many of the best-laid plans have been derailed by a single misstep. Preparing for the unexpected can make the difference between your plans ending in failure or succeeding despite a bump in the road.

So how do you prepare for the unexpected? Start by making a list of things that could go wrong in your plan. Then create workarounds and backups for each potential problem. Even when I’m driving a route I know well, I usually keep my GPS up and running to help me navigate traffic jams, construction, or missed turns.

3th Key: Prioritize Your Goals

As you create your systems and put your good habits into practice, you’ll probably find there isn’t enough time in each day to work towards every goal. Manage your time wisely, so that the right activities take priority.

If you’re unsure how to prioritize goals, it may help to apply some techniques like a numerical ranking system or the Eisenhower Matrix. Prioritizing your goals also means not letting things that never even made your list get ahead of pursuing what did. In other words, don’t let talking to a telemarketer derail your plans to work on your website.  

4rd Key: Develop Good Habits  

You can have big dreams, great goals, and still fail. The third key of success requires you to turn your goals into actions. Repeated actions in the right direction become helpful habits. And once you form the right habits, you create momentum.

By creating systems for your life as you form good habits that can help you stay on track. You can build systems by grouping good habits together. Having a system in place can keep you from having to make decisions on the fly or having to keep track of doing all your goal-oriented tasks one by one.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

James Clear

Instead, you follow an intentional daily pattern that moves you toward your goals with less stress. This has the added benefits of reducing stress and freeing your attention to focus on the things that truly require more brainpower.

5th Key: Learn from Your Mistakes

They say, “the road to success is paved with failure.” What they don’t say is that each piece of failure on that road probably looks different than the other. Success most likely came by way of trying (and failing) many different ways. Yes, you can fail your way to success, but almost never by making the same mistake over and over.

Failure is a part of the process of becoming successful if you make it a teacher. Learning and growing after failure makes it useful.

For example, consider a runner. Every race a runner loses, they may still be improving. They will likely see progress if they build up strength and try new running techniques. They may move up from 5th place to 3rd place to 2nd. Even though they aren’t first, each race is a part of the process of success, moving them closer to getting first place.

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.

Michael Jordan

Download this FREE Michael Jordan Success Quote on a phone wallpaper.

6th Key: Try Different Strategies

success in life - if at first you don't succeed, try another way

The road to success is not straight. There are stops and starts, turns, and detours. Anyone who says they’ve got the exact path to success for you is probably lying. As the (creepy) saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Heck, there’s more than one way to get the meaning of that saying across. Let’s make up a newer, more pet-friendly one: “There’s more than one way to peel a banana.”

Any way you put it, there’s more than one way to do – just about everything. So, if at first, you don’t succeed, try another way.  Try a new strategy. Come at your goal from a new angle, at a different time, with a different person. There could, in fact be many effective strategies. You just need to find the right one. The only way to find it is to keep changing and keep trying until you find one that works.

7th Key: Take Smart Risks

As you try out different strategies, you may find that you’re trying something entirely new. It might feel scary. Admittedly, taking risks is intimidating, but taking smart risks can have big payoffs. Taking a smart or calculated risk means researching potential outcomes and determining your chances of success and if the payoff is worth risking the harm that could be done.

Getting good at risk-taking is a life skill that takes time to develop. You may have a few painful failures as you figure out how to take calculated risks in life. It’s best to start out by taking small risks. As you get better at it, you’ll probably become more comfortable. But don’t let your comfort be the only deciding factor. Often, taking a risk is the only way to achieve success.

8th Key: Learn from the Experts

Truthfully, there is no one path to success. Nevertheless, a lot can be learned from studying other successful people.  Even better is to be mentored or to study directly under someone. Recorded history doesn’t always catch all the details and nuances.

Start by researching and studying successful people who did something in the same realm of what you are striving to achieve.

Want to innnovate?
Study innovators.

Want to be a great painter?
Study Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso.

Want to own a restaurant?
Learn from a restaurateur.

Whatever you are after, seek out the experts, ask questions, and take notes.

9th Key: Master How to Say No

Our culture undervalues the importance of saying no. It can be uncomfortable. If you listen to interviews with successful people, you’ll probably hear them talk about turning down great opportunities they knew weren’t right for them.

Learning how to say no is an essential key to success in life. Successful people say no all the time. Saying no means knowing yourself, your boundaries, and being able to determine what is worth your time and energy. Saying no to the wrong thing leaves space to say yes to the right thing. It leaves room for the right opportunity.

Have trouble saying no? Check out this video for some awesome tips!

10th Key: Invest in Relationships

While the saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” may overstate the importance of relationships to success, it’s certainly not without merit. As a rule, investing in relationships is quite valuable. People are made to be connected to a community. The benefits of being in a safe and encouraging community go beyond success in any one area of life. As James Clear says in Atomic Habits:

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.”

James Clear

Many types of relationships can boost your chances of success in life. For example, the relationship you need most may be a friend who has no “connections,” but supports you when times are tough.

Maybe the relationship you need is with a competitor, someone to challenge you and keep you sharp. In particular, pursue a mentoring relationship, which can lead to networking opportunities and invaluable advice. We know that the lack of these relationships can be the most significant gap between aged-out foster youth and success.

If you’re intimidated by the idea of networking, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Learning how to network effectively takes time, intention, and practice. Everybody finds it intimidating at first, but it’s important to face those fears and do it anyway.

keys to success - 10 things you can do now

What Makes a Person Successful in Life

The above keys for success are not all or nothing. However, the more of these you have, the better you will do as you try to figure out how to achieve success in life. And all of these keys or tools can be acquired and developed by anyone with enough time and grit.

It also bears mentioning that a successful life is not all about pursuing success. It is not consumed by delusions of grandeur. How can you be happy if you are consumed?

Some of your most powerful and most meaningful moments will happen in the midst of failure and defeat. Some of the best memories can be made in the mundane. These are valuable too. Without a doubt, success in life also means developing the ability to be grateful and to find the nuggets of beauty in less glamorous times.

We believe true success includes making a difference in the world. The most powerful difference you can make is the difference you make in the life of others. Otherwise, all your success dies with you. As Roy T Bennett put it:

Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference to the world.

Roy T Bennett

Next Steps to Digging Deeper on a Key to Success

Want more? Dig into our recommended reading by the authors quoted above. GOALS! is one of Brian Tracy’s top-selling books. In his book, he shares how he took himself from rags to riches.

Atomic Habits is a number one New York Times bestseller by James Clear, an author and speaker focused on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement.

Atomic Habits will give you a proven framework to make good habits & break bad ones.

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Time, and on CBS This Morning.

how to be successful - free tools

​At Finally Family Homes we help young adults aging out of foster care succeed in life. Visit here to learn about us and our mission.

Want more inspiration on your journey to success? Check out:

7 Famous Entrepreneurs and What Made Them Wildly Successful

9 Inspirational Stories of Success & Overcoming

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  1. Investing in relationships is crucial in having success in life! We become who we spend the most time with so it is important that we seek out relationships with others who are successful in whatever area of life we are seeking. These types of relationships can mentor us and keep us focused on the right goals that are needed to achieve that success.

    1. Absolutely! And I think so much is picked up subconsciously too – just being around a person. I became interested in helping foster youth because I was around people who were doing it. I got to see the need and the example. And then there’s those who’ve laid down a path before you & can help you learn & navigate faster than you would ever on your own. 😉 Thanks LeeAnn!

  2. Thanks Kristi!

    For sure – relationships are so key!! I feel you on the perfectionism! I’ve finally become convinced that perfectionism can actually undercut our success in life. Great point! Glad you are recovering too. 🙂

  3. Thanks Marcie! I also am a big fan of creating good habits… they help me make good choices more easily. Even simple things like getting into the habit of always having a water bottle filled up and next to me in the morning – helps me stay on top of my hydration. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  4. These are all great tips to become more successful! Especially saying no has been tricky for me. It sometimes still is, but I’m working on it. It doesn’t help our cause to take too much on our plates, and it definitely doesn’t help if we take on the wrong task. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Yes… saying “no” is a challenge for me too! I’m a little more skilled now at saying no to the things I don’t actually want to do or that are poor choices – it’s the good things that are hard to say no to- when maybe “no” is the right answer! I think the more responsibility you have, the more you have to say “no” to good things that are not the right now things. Thank you!

  5. Thank you so much Melody! Yes – we are created for much more than our culture tells us. Even as we pursue spiritual growth these tips can be helpful! .. having mentors / disciplers, having a plan for how we face trials, etc. 🙂

  6. Thanks Stacey! I just watched the short series on Bill Gates on Netflix. Pretty fascinating from a success perspective (of course!). I don’t want to give too much away – but it reviewed some significant derailments he’s dealt with in his nonprofit work. Some, he certainly didn’t see coming and hasn’t overcome, yet. We can’t avoid all the trials, but the better prepared we are, the better our odds of success!

  7. Wow, this article is awesome, All the points are very good, I have to as say that above all goals to succeed putting God first ahead all goals is also important, a man or people try to succeed in life, definitely he succeeded at the end God the creator of heaven and earth did not give him power to enjoyed all that the person struggled for, that’s why a lot of people labour for nothing or for their children who comes after them to mess up all they’ve labour for; so therefore a success without a successor is failure in disguise.
    A wise man leave an inheritance for his children children.

    1. I agree with you there, Benjamin. These goals are meant to be a bit more abstract – so that they can apply to pursuits of faith as well! Ask, seek, knock, .. be persistent in seeking God. Prioritize things like prayer, reading the Bible, etc. Take smart risks (step out in faith)… learn from the experts (theologians, mentors, pastors)…

      And yet, as you mention, in the end.. all our efforts and right strategies do not guarantee a thing. They are helpful though as we pursue doing our part to live well and honor God.

  8. Mentorship has been something I’ve really embraced these last few years and I can testify to its success in aiding success! Great post, with true pointers to success. There’s work on our part, always, and you’ve captured it well. Bless you my friend xx

    1. Thanks Chrissie. Mentorship is really important – especially for former foster youth, who often are less connected to supportive adults than the rest of the population. We hope our posts can help give ideas and encouragement to mentors and others who support young adults in their endeavors to become successful in life!

  9. I wrote all if these down to reference in the future. It’s an excellent list, thank you!! Your last comment struck a cord. It’s easy to confuse success in means of monetary or material abundance when really, success is truly about meaningful moments, memories, relationships and being happy and loving ourselves.

  10. This is the first time I read a long article like this. Big thanks for this informative article.
    I learned a lot and certainly, I will apply all these tips.
    Thanks again.

          1. Great question Saaku & one I hope to take on in more depth in a later post. But a smart risk may be a risk you take that is smart, because the end goal is so valuable or because the odds are in your favor. All successful people have had to take risks to get there.

            So, Elon Musk took a risk starting Space X and Tesla – and it has panned out for him pretty well, but it was risky. I believe he said as recently as 2 years ago Tesla was days away from bankruptcy.

            Trying out for sports is risky – you could fail, but if you don’t take the risk, there’s no chance of joining a team.

            Investing in the stock market is risky. But if you educate yourself on investing, some stocks are nearly without risk while others are basically throwing your money way (bad risk).

            Other bad risks would be trying to start a restaurant when you’ve never worked in one and don’t know how to cook…. or the more obvious ones of committing crimes, doing drugs, etc.

            Smart risks are ones we take that are measured, knowing the possible outcomes ahead of time, and end in some beneficial, good, and ethical result.

            Hope that helps!

  11. Thank you. You can definitely share our link – we encourage it 🙂 Wishing you success!

  12. Hey,I’m a teenager and I want to start planning for my future what are the most successful business that I will plan for?!

    1. Hi Tia –
      It’s great to be thinking about building a business now. I think an online business will be your best bet, especially these days. Find something you are very interested in or passionate about. Figure out a way to solve or improve a problem regarding that area of interest. And keep in mind that most likely, the most valuable thing that will come from your first business is learning experience. The most successful entrepreneurs go through multiple failed businesses before finding one that really takes off. So, do your best, apply the 10 keys mentioned above, and do your best to have fun along the way.

      Wishing you great success!

  13. i really like your points….im now I just realized that all this time I was wasting my time on worthless things…its excelent…thank you so much.

    1. So happy to hear it’s helpful! Success definitely requires figuring out your priorities – especially with your time. Our mission is to help others succeed in life. 🙂

  14. hi i am Christopher and i am also a teenager and a want to have a happy a successful life but my relation with my friends are not strong enough .How can i make it stronger.

    1. Hi Christopher,

      Thanks for your question. It’s great that you are seeking to grow.

      The teen years are hard – its a time where everyone is trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Try spending more time with those who seem on the same path / same interests as you. Take initiative and ask people to do things / go on adventures. Right now, w/ the current situation it might be a good idea to go on a hike or do outdoorsy things. Finally, one good tip for developing stronger relationships is to get good at listening. Ask questions and truly listen to the answers. Ask follow up questions. Most people like to feel heard and you may learn a lot along the way just by listening.

      1. okay, thx u for ur tips i will try my best to listen to my friends and have more adventures and thx u a seconde time

  15. Hi there,I’m so grateful for all these wonderful tips. Actually, I read your blog for an “english essay”,but then I’ve enjoyed your tips because there are very useful in our real world, my only problem that prevent me from success is I cannot say no,which it makes others take advantages of me all the time,especially here,in our developing world . I’m currently thinking about starting a business but I’m really afraid and sure that people won’t let me succeed,particularly family and friends. who try to exploit me all the time (because of my my brilliant manners and morals) ,please any advice? because I’m feeling really weak and helpless.

    1. Hi Habib,

      Thanks for writing. Your self-awareness is a great asset – even though you may feel week in the moment. Sometimes it helps to say no by saying it not so directly… so, no can also be “I can’t right now.” or “I’ll think about it.” if “no” is hard for you. Do pursue the business! Do it scared.. it’s ok if it’s overwhelming… just take it one step at a time. Practice saying “no” or versions of no. It may help to focus on the importance of the success of your business, when you say no to others… say saying no is saying yes to success 🙂

      Wishing you all the best!

  16. The point I liked the most is Learn from the Expert, when you surround yourself with an expert, you definitely become a better person in life. Thank you

    1. Definitely! It helps to have mentors and those who can inspire and sharpen you as you grow into a success story yourself 🙂

  17. The quality of life begins with choices! We must make goals, prioritize tasks, build strong relationships and be realistic! Whatever walk of life we are experiencing… time, patience, good communication skills and a strong support system is key to success!!! We give life our best! We become strong individuals when we make mistakes. Life is a learning adventure!!! ASK questions and persevere!!!!!

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