What differentiates success from failure? Personally or professionally? In individuals and organisations? Nick Marvin, from Marvin HR, has been obsessed with this question for over 20 years. And whilst the answers, like our environment, constantly change, he has identified three themes that seem to stand the test of time:

  • The goals we set (purpose)
  • Our peer group (people)
  • Our behaviours and habits (performance)

Our Goals: Purpose

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” — Edmund Hillary

When we examined successful organisations and individuals, we found a compelling sense of purpose, aspirations or objectives.
Often it was a set of clear goals or vision boards. Written down. Prominently placed. Revisited weekly, if not daily.
A clear purpose was always the starting point—a necessary foundation behind every success story.

Almost twenty years ago, I met a young athlete of unremarkable talent and an average career to-date. In our first conversation, he surprised me, even startled me when he talked about his written goals. Not just about his sporting ambitions but also about life, his family, his post-playing career, and his finances. For many of them, he had timelines. For some, he’d broken them down into smaller short-term objectives.

Since then, I was privileged to witness his growth, transformation and success: multiple formal graduate and post-graduate qualifications; happily married with well-balanced children; financially established with profitable post-playing ventures and pursuits. As an athlete, through disciplined and consistent effort, he went on to lead his team in scoring, captain his team, and eventually represent his country at the Olympics.

This is not unique. We have walked with numerous people experiencing first-hand the transforming power of written and lived goals!

Our Peers: People

You can’t soar with the eagles if you scratch with the turkeys. — Anonymous

Regardless of age, we seem to morph into those we spend time with. Deep within the human psyche is this tendency to empathise and even mimic people around us.

Consider how our speech changes when we talk to someone of a different native tongue or when we speak to infants. Our inflections, pitch, modality and tone.

It’s not just language – our behaviours, mindset, psyche, even expectations and aspirations normalise to our environment – our peers.

We know this to be true in the formative years, (e.g. if your adolescent son’s peer group spend their time playing video games, your son will too. If your teenage daughter’s friends spend their time in shopping malls worried about their looks, boys and Instagram, SnapChat or BeReal so will she) but the trend continues throughout our lives.

Recently when talking about this in one of our seminars, we were challenged by a participant. Rather than try to defend our argument, we asked the person if their income was the average of their social group… and the answer was yes. Similarly, we asked him to reflect on his car, house, holidays, and even lifestyle – they all seemed to fall within a band that reflected his friends.

As we talked further, we asked if anyone in his group had a significant windfall or lifestyle-changing event and how it affected the group. True to form, that person soon left the group because he no longer belonged.

Where someone in a peer group changes direction (goals and behaviours) that differ greatly from the rest, a certain tension is created. Dissonance! The only resolution here is that they revert to normalise with the group or leave it.

Similarly, where a husband or wife decides to make a life-changing decision such as lose weight, pursue a more demanding career, take up a new hobby or immerse themselves in a pursuit vastly different to the past, the relationship undergoes stress. Eventually, they revert or drift apart.

The truth is, over time, our lives and lifestyles tend to average those of our peers.

Our Habits: Performance

If you’re not moving forward, it doesn’t matter which direction you face.
– marvin Consulting Group

We’ve all heard the aphorism, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.  Direction doesn’t matter if you are stationary.

It is not enough to have clarity of purpose and even the right people around us if we do not take action.

Results require disciplined effort – a cost, a price to be paid upfront, and at least proportionate to the desired outcome.

Our lives are the sum total of our behaviours – good, bad and indifferent.

We must be vigilant with how we spend our time, focus and energy. Constantly asking ourselves what we should we be doing more of and less of; what should we stop doing and what should we start doing.

We can change our lives by simply changing our habits.

In this regard, we suggest starting with small routines that we stick to. Building up a streak of actions that form behaviours and habits.

There is an old Indian tale of the strongest man in the village who could lift a cow over his head. When asked how he achieved such herculean ability, he revealed that he started by lifting a newborn calf every day, and as the calf grew, so did his strength.

Just one push-up on the first day and incrementally increasing the number is the key.

We call it the compounding effect of incremental improvements!

For we often overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what can be accomplished in the long term.

When we break the streak, and with any new endeavour, we are likely to; the secret is not to fail two days in a row.

Get back up and start again – building a new streak.

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”
Mark Twain

When we have Goals, Peers and Habits aligned we give ourselves the best chance of success. Each of these three areas is not only critical – together, they have a multiplying effect.

The American Society of Training and Development found that people are 65 per cent more likely to meet a goal after committing to another person. Their chances of success increase to 95 per cent when they build in ongoing meetings with their partners to check in on their progress.

Our peers can help us stay committed and accountable to our goals through routine or habitual check-ins.

As we commence another new year, we hope the above three key factors working in tandem can help you and your organisation truly thrive.

Action Steps

  1. GOALS – Take time out to reflect on your the six key areas of your life – the 6Fs: Faith (mental health, meditation), Family & Friends, Fitness (health), Finance, Fun (hobbies, pastimes, rest times), and Function (your pursuits, work, career).
    Where are you at right now? Where will you be this time next year if you made no changes?  Where would you like to be?
    Write down goals in each of these areas.
  2. PEERS – Who are you spending time with? Do they reflect your aspirations and goals? Are they helping you reach them or detracting from them? Who should you be spending time with?
  3. HABITS – Consider each of your goals and break them down into smaller goals. Set deadlines. Almost always these actions are not isolated – they require repetition and incremental improvements, daily or weekly. Put them in a calendar or diary.

Start today. Take action. Create success.