Rebecca Stephens knows what it takes to set a goal for yourself and actually achieve it. In 1993, she became the first British woman to climb Mount Everest, to which she reached the top of the highest mountain on each of the Earth’s seven continents. In her book “Making It Happen: Lessons from the Frontline of Strategy Execution”, Stephens, who also works as a consultant, speaks with dozens of people who have become incredibly successful with their expertise or in their industry. Not all of them are famous per se. In most cases they are ‘ordinary’ people, who work for example as doctors or as teachers, but all have overcome challenges to achieve goals in their work or personal life. There’s no doubt that luck can play a role in achieving some goals, but Stephens says the successful people she spoke to all share certain traits.
They are purposeful
According to Stephens, the idea of a “clear course” is incredibly important. “Everyone I interviewed embodied, without exception, what they wanted to achieve,” she says. “At some point in their lives, there was a sense of confirmation that what they were doing was the right thing and that they were destined to do it.”
This focus and passion are two qualities that psychologist Angela Duckworth emphasizes in her bestseller “Grit”. Duckworth defines grit as the perseverance and passion needed to achieve long-term goals. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that successful people are born with this purpose. According to Stephens, people who know what they want to do at a young age often get it done. For others, it takes many years or sometimes even their entire lives to find out what really gives them a sense of satisfaction.
They are proactive
All the people featured in Stephens’ book are the driving force behind the projects that make them successful. They are proactive, even during setbacks.
“People sometimes feel like a small cog in a huge system because the problems in the world are huge,” Stephens says. “Things like going through the pandemic or climate change feel so big that it seems impossible as an individual to contribute anything to them. So we just ignore the problem instead.”
“The people who do achieve their goals have an essential drive that makes them feel like there is no choice but to take action.“It’s great if you’re smart enough to get a degree at Oxford, but perhaps even more important is your ability to work well with others.”
While all the people in her book have achieved their success through their own grit, they didn’t do it alone. “Having soft skills is extremely important for getting the most out of not only yourself, but also others,” she says. It took Stephens himself time to learn that accepting help is not a weakness. “Giving to other people is very important, but knowing when to reach out and ask for help is perhaps even more important.”