A few years back, while standing in line at the CVS to pick up some contact solution, I glanced at the cover of one of the weekly magazines and saw a feature on how the reality starlette of the moment "lost 10 pounds as revenge." Regardless of why she was losing weight as revenge (which is a pretty strange notion to begin with) or what she actually did to achieve the weight loss, I found myself with ruffled feathers.
I know that on another day, in the not-so-distant past, I would have stood there and wondered what she did to lose the weight, wondered how she might be happier now (I mean look, she got a cover feature) and speculated about whether I should try her methods to lose weight myself. But something inside me has shifted (at least for the moment).
Ever since I began taking bold steps to grow my business, my paradigm has changed. Rather than look to the successes of others for guidance in my life, I've become much more interested in my own actions and using those to propel myself further. I've become more interested in how I want to become successful, rather than how others have reached their own successes.
Though I think there is a lot to be said about bibliographies, success stories, advice and research, I also feel many of us are getting too comfortable sitting on the sidelines reading and watching other people achieve their dreams -- and then attempting to replicate their achievements in our own lives.
The problem with this copycat method, I believe, is that it leaves us with a second-rate version of what worked for someone else, which doesn't take into complete consideration all of our own unique factors. And therefore, whatever plan we follow is innately going to clash with our individual abilities, motivations and values -- which ultimately leads to dissatisfying results, unmaintainable goals or a simple lack of follow through on our part.
Our actions need to speak to us on all levels: spiritually, physically and mentally, and it's very hard to really grasp that in a cookie cutter plan or a shadowed routine.
The one major concession I make, however, is when a particular plan does meet your individual spiritual, physical and mental values -- then the plan could quite possibly work with flying colors. Take my brother, for example. He has been preparing to follow the P90X routine this summer for almost a full year. He researched, thought about it, planned his meals and devoted the hours he needed in order to reach his goal. He became so intrinsically motivated by the plan and the outcome that he faithfully executed each exercise and nutrition requirement to its fullest. He also reaped the rewards he desired in the process.
On the other hand, I tried the Weight Watchers program for several months but finally realized I wasn't seeing results because I wasn't dealing with the right spiritual issue.
I believe that most of our failed attempts come from the fact that we are trying to fit ourselves into a prescribed routine that isn't capturing our real desires. Or, we are fearful of failure and rush to find comfort in something that has worked for someone else. This constant focus on the information itself keeps us so busy listening to others that we are unable to actually devote the full amount of energy and attention that it takes to reach our goals.
I think this is because we underestimate how much time and devotion it requires to take action, follow through and maintain progress. We think that if we "know" everything, we will be able to "do" everything. But the real knowledge comes from personal experience. Until then, it's just information in our brains. To follow with the magazine story example, we don't really know how to lose weight until we actually drop the pounds. Until then, we "have the weight loss information," without any experience to back it up.
So, back to my ruffled feathers. I am finding that for the first time in my life I feel bold, less fearful of failure and more focused on what I'm going to do next. I'm writing my success story each day that I take new actions and try new things. Not all of the things I try will lead to the success I am looking for, but each step ahead is one further away from where I started.
It is a constant process that takes into consideration my personal values and goals. My path will be one-of-a-kind and unrepeatable because I am following my gut and trusting things to fall into place. I am following my purpose, which is unique to me. Everyone is capable of doing this exact same thing for themselves, they just need to start tapping into what they know and stop looking around at the people next to them.
My Challenge to You
I challenge anyone who finds themselves easily caught in the research and advice trap to take a minute this afternoon and write their own success story. Write out a future magazine feature story detailing how you are successful in three months, six months or two years from now at the thing you are working towards.
For example, if you want to create a full-time business but are at a desk job, write the story explaining how you made your business so profitable that you were able to quit your job after nine months. Explain what actions you took, what marketing efforts you made and what hiring decisions you struggled with. Write it all out and then use that as your own road map to success. Because when you stop and think about it, the story you just wrote captures your spiritual, psychical and mental abilities and values. Your plan understands you perfectly and you resonate with it 100%.
In summary, it's time to stop reading someone else's success story and start writing our own.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.