Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 9-7-2022
“You’re so lucky”
“Those types of things just don’t happen for me”
“Things come so easy for you…”
“Must be nice!”
When you earn success, you may hear those lines quite frequently. And as you hear them you may recall memories that contradict these sayings. Such as the memories of sitting at home with your nose in books, and hands hurting while you push the pen to paper, while everyone else is at parties. The memories of being miserably sober while others get plastered and escape. The memories of having no time to decompress because your goals require constant and consistent effort. Luck and privilege do exist, but it’s important to distinguish the difference. An example of privilege is being born into wealth. An example of luck is randomly coming across a 100-dollar bill as you’re casually walking from work to home. Putting in years of consistent work and effort to achieve something, however, is NOT luck or privilege; that is called earning. And since this blog has been notoriously about mental health, guess what I am going to talk about today? The behavioral and mental requirements that are needed to work toward success. It’s important to note, that since success in this country may often go hand in hand with money and/ or resources, we have been socially conditioned to believe that success appears to be ‘fun and lavish’. But that could not be further from the truth. To work toward success, requires that our average day to day life, be quite boring.
The Pursuit of Success requires:
Hopes/ Dreams, then Goals: It really does start with hopes and dreams. And therefore, the process of success isn’t’ the only thing that is hard, but getting started, is the HARDEST part. Because to hope and dream requires us to ‘yearn’ for something more than what we have. In the process of yearning, it is very normal for other emotions to come up: sadness, shame, envy, self-pitying etc. For how can we ‘make this dream’ into a reality? Are we capable? Well, the answer is we do not have any clue unless we try. How do we try? We must make a goal, and then develop a plan of action to try to achieve it. Many of my clients have expressed that even the simple act of making a goal causes anxiety. Common thoughts that may come up: “What if’s”, “I can’t do it”, “I could fail” etc. This process requires us to deal with many intrusive thoughts caused by our deepest-rooted insecurities, and the hard work of reframing/ fighting those thoughts.
Plan of Action: when the Goal is made and clearly defined (Google SMART goals as a reference), we then need to create our timeline of objectives to achieve the goal. This requires analytical thinking as well as logistical awareness. ‘A goal without a plan is just a dream’, as many have quoted in the past. This could look like physically typing out or writing ‘short term mini goals’ within the next few months that can help you get started and stay on track. This process requires us to often work backwards. For example: When I decided I wanted to earn my LCSW, this required me to get an LMSW, which required me to get a master’s in social work. A masters requires a bachelor’s first, the bachelors meant I needed to become a transfer student after I separated from the Air force, that required me to apply to colleges. This goal required me to get started on my plan of action roughly 8 years before my goal was accomplished. I started applying to NY colleges in late 2013, I earned my LCSW in Feb of 2021. And everything between those time periods was work, plan, work plan and more work.
Consistency and Monotony: As stated above, work, plan, work, plan, and more work. It’s never ending. Success requires consistency and monotony. This is BORING. This is the reason many people do not complete goals. There are many instances where you may find yourself a quarter to halfway into a goal, and then you stop. Why? Many reasons. You could lose your passion for it, you could lose the funds, you could get discouraged when things do not go as smoothly as you hoped, you could get distracted by something that gives you instant gratification vs delayed. This is what weeds out the ones who ‘truly want something’ vs the ones that do not. To get through this part of the success process, we must have an unconditional acceptance that working toward goals, requires us to do many things that are NOT fun or appealing.
Filtering: In the route toward success, as stated above, one of the things that could break up our patterns of consistency is called ‘distractions’. To get rid of distractions, we are required to filter. This looks like: Placing boundaries on people in our lives that often encourage us to engage in irresponsible behaviors that do not align with our goals. We are also required to recognize our own personal ‘vacuums’ that make us lose track of time and/ or resources, such as: smart screens, video games, TV, shopping/ gambling/ substance abuse habits etc. Another important thing to filter? BAD ADVICE. Bad advice get’s thrown at us on the regular, but the best way to filter it is to not share your goals with too many people, ONLY people that you would consider a ‘mentor’. How do you know if someone can be a good mentor? When they know MORE about the topic than you, based on solid evidence.
Adaptability: Adaptability is crucial, because in the path toward success, we will surely encounter barriers and obstacles. Money could run out. We could fail at one of the objectives, we may not have as much time as we thought to get toward a specific deadline. Many emotional meltdowns will take place, and sometimes these can be our ‘defining moments’, or the moments we call at quits. Yes, I have lived paycheck to paycheck. Yes, I have been ‘up to my eyeballs in debt’. Yes, I was almost dropped from all courses due to my bill not being paid on time and was almost set to NOT graduate until a semester later… until I took out a loan. Yes, I have almost failed a class and made the decision to ‘drop’ it instead to save my GPA. Yes, I almost failed another class, and consulted with a teacher and gave it my all just to earn a C-. Yes, the military suffocated me to a point I wanted to quit, except I wasn’t allowed to. Yes, I have been in jobs I found out later that I hated and had to look around to find a role better suited for me. Yes, I have ‘ugly cried’ on my way to and from work, and even during work. Adaptability means, we may change courses, but it does not mean we quit. It means having the ability to ‘not catastrophize a temporary setback’.
Interpersonal & Intrapersonal Skills: We are social beings by nature, we cannot work around this. And a part of being a good worker means having the skills to self-regulate, take accountability for mistakes, empathize, collaborate, compromise and more. We need to work well when no one is watching, and we need to work well with others. Many people will express not wanting to put in effort if there is ‘no gain’. However, there is always gain when you put in good work. Some gain does not come back to you until many years later. Our incredible work leads to a great work reputation, and a great work reputation leads to more opportunities. If you happen to have a coworker that is putting together a side Hussle and they are looking for others to get in on it with them, who do you think they will choose to network with? The person who is always late and shows up with a ‘bad’ attitude? Or the person who is punctual, responsible, friendly and demonstrates good work ethic? Your reputation and references will follow you wherever you go, so to have success also requires us to do our best work, most of the time, even when ‘no one is watching’.
Patience: The quest to success can absolutely become addicting, but unlike a drug, it is not immediate. Patience will always be required. Yes, I have done a lot of work for free. This includes volunteering, this includes unpaid social work internships during college, this includes consultations/ collaborations with other professionals regarding entrepreneurship opportunities. This includes countless hours toward advertisement efforts after my book was published. Also, the military does not pay overtime, regardless. I still have not earned a single cent toward this blog, yet I will continue to write. Patience also means recognizing when you need breaks. Because your optimal physical and mental health will be required. It can make the difference between doing a ‘half assed’ job vs doing a great job.
Conclusion: I hope this was beneficial, please feel free to comment ways in which you have attained success! And also, Happy BDAY to ME, I turn 33! (On Sept 12th) If you would like to give me a present, please share this blog. 😛