"Imagining Success" By Allen Weiss, MD, MBA, President and CEO

Imagining Success

May 15, 2011 - “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right!”

That thought is attributed to Henry Ford, and variations of it to many others. Whatever the source, this line captures the importance of our perceptions in determining our own chances of success.

Success in anything—personal satisfaction, professional achievement, financial security, physical health, or mental wellbeing—is determined to a great extent by our anticipation of the outcome. What we think will happen, usually does happen.

To become successful, we all have many different types of abilities to tap into. There is a common misconception that intellectual intelligence is the only measure of ability; that has been thoroughly disproven.

Howard Gardner, a distinguished professor of cognition and education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, observes that knowing who we are and what we can do is an important part of moving toward success. Gardner identifies seven basic types of abilities:

  • Linguistic—involves the ability to use words skillfully to accomplish goals. Writers, speakers, and people who persuade effectively have strong linguistic ability.
  • Logical/mathematical—being able to analyze problems logically and using symbols to solve problems characterizes this form of intelligence. Scientists, mathematicians, engineers are examples.
  • Spatial—recognizing, creating, and visualizing patterns and objects is essential for artists, architects, sculptors, and mechanics to be successful.
  • Bodily/Kinesthetic—connecting mind and body makes for accomplished surgeons, athletes, dancers, and others whose coordination, strength, and balance we admire.
  • Interpersonal—emotional intelligence—being able to empathize, understand, and “read” other people—is key for good performance as a teacher, lawyer, or salesperson.
  • Intrapersonal—introspection or understanding yourself is an early step in success in any endeavor. (Just reading this article and wanting to better understand yourself is an example.)
  • Musical—being sensitive to patterns of sounds is essential for this skill, which parallels linguistic ability.

Actually creating success has many other moving parts. Among them: Having a plan, along with a motivating purpose and an admirable goal.

The motivational literature is full stories of people overcoming unbelievable odds, including physical, mental and emotional handicaps. A common thread is having that plan, investing the time and harnessing the energy while staying focused on a goal.
Nino Qubein, a motivational speaker and the President of High Point University, outlines a six- point plan. It summarizes what many others (from Abraham Lincoln to Dale Carnegie to Stephen Covey to Jim Collins) have offered as life lessons.

Interestingly, all of these are lessons similar to those found in biblical literature. There are very few new or novel thoughts in the quest for success.

But existing ideas can be renewed, reinvigorated and highlighted. Consider these logical steps.

#1 Decision

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there” is a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

So, identifying what you want in life or what want to accomplish is the first step. What do I enjoy doing? What values are important to me? What am I good at doing? These are three questions which need answers as you contemplate success in your future.

Early in life is the right time to seriously examine what you like to do and are good at. However, even if you were too naïve as a youngster and missed this early opportunity for reflection, it is never too late to self-assess.

#2 Commitment

Knowing where you want to go, what you want to do, and being able to use your abilities to do so is only a beginning.
Committing to pursue the goal actively is even more important. Sometimes you need to close a past chapter so that you can open a new chapter. Or as the CEO of the Herman Miller office furniture company put it, you have get rid of the old to make room for the new. (Of course, he was selling new furniture.)

Creating the future by publically sharing your goals, visualizing the change and thinking something will happen is a big step towards making the future. This step is as exciting as it is daunting. If you’re not fully committed, you will falter at the first sign of difficulty or resistance.

Creativity, collaboration, an eagerness to succeed, and having the ability to sense what is going on around you are all important characteristics as you commit to change. Being confident is a good start. Understanding where you will have resistance to overcome—before you meet this resistance—is an added benefit.

#3 Planning

The next stage is tactics—namely, breaking your overall large goals into smaller interconnected steps.

Having set realistic and measurable goals with priorities leads to definable progress. Each small step or tactic should have a timeline and a metric associated with it. Some may be urgent and others very important but not time sensitive. Having a written timeline with specific measures helps maintain focus and place things in an appropriate order.

#4 Preparation

When you meet your first resistance, you want the right physical, mental, emotional, and tangible resources at hand and ready to be used. That will help your confidence and ability to concentrate on the project.

“Positive stress” refers to a challenge which motivates and gives you an overall good feeling. “Negative stress” refers to feelings of frustration which develop when we are not in control of ourselves or the situation. Being prepared adds to the positive stress side of the equation.

#5 Execution

Execution is the culmination of everything you’ve planned up to now. It’s where the “rubber meets the road.”

Resource have been nurtured and shaped into tactics to accomplish success. This stage is the culmination of all that you have decided to do and committed publicly to completing. As you enjoy the fruits of your labor in this execution stage, the only question in your mind should be, “What’s next?”

#6 Recommitment

Each time you succeed, there will be other opportunities. Other doors will open.

Nothing is as constant as change itself. Technology, communication, higher expectations, and a global perspective accelerate this change process. Having a functional feedback loop encourages constant improvement: We learn from our successes and failures.

Achievement, success, significance and legacy are phases in every successful person’s life. When we understand and verbalize the six steps leading to a meaningful goal, we can better navigate the pathway.

Yes, we can imagine success. These steps are a guide for your road ahead.



Past Health Advice Articles

Dr. Allen Weiss is CEO & President of the NCH Healthcare System. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Rheumatology and Geriatrics, and was in private practice in Naples, Florida from 1977 - 2000. Dr. Weiss is active in a variety of professional organizations and boards, and has been published in numerous medical journals, including the American Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.