When you’re 16, it can be hard to imagine that you’ll ever achieve success.
Not just glossy celebrity success, the sort that you see on social media and in TV shows. When you’re struggling with tough exams, hypersensitive friends, irritable parents and an unreliable body, the idea that you might one day, somehow, find work that you love, be in relationships that make you happy, have enough money and time to do the things you want, and feel good about yourself doing it, can seem about as likely to happen as meeting Gigi Hadid on the bus.
In fact, that kind of success can be hard to imagine when you’re sixty. So many of us feel that muddling along with mediocrity is the most we can expect. That only a few lucky humans, blessed by their upbringing and circumstances, get to live truly fulfilled and happy lives.
We live in a time when technology allows us to watch the world’s greatest minds at the click of a YouTube video, search for anything we want with a few keystrokes, and connect with new friends at the swipe of a thumb. But recent research shows that just three in 10 people in Britain feel happy with their lives.
The problem is that our culture and education systems simply do not equip us with the tools we need to become one of those ‘lucky few.’ This isn’t the fault of teachers or parents. Most of us are doing our very best to give the next generation a leg up. But it is time we started admitting that what we’re doing isn’t working very well – for them or for us.
It’s time we started teaching our children (and ourselves) the things that will really lead to success.
What is it that those ‘golden’ people have that the rest do not? Well, when you drill into the detail, highly successful people of all fields and backgrounds consistently demonstrate three things. Three transformative attributes that have the power to get them wherever they want to go.
They are self-mastery, self-knowledge and essential expertise.
Some have stumbled upon these three attributes through a massive stroke of luck. Others might have had the fortune to learn them at the feet of a wise early mentor. Many more, through their position and power, have come to them later in life – by employing the best teachers and coaches in the world.
But that’s not good enough. These attributes should not be the preserve of middle-class high-achievers or wealthy CEOs. One or two is not enough – you need all three. And every young person deserves the chance to learn them. So what do they look like?
Self-mastery is the ability to take full ownership for your life without being continually blown off course by circumstances, your own emotions or others’ judgement. It allows you to choose your behaviour in any situation, and thereby influence the outcome. At Ivy House, we call it OMG Self-Mastery because there are three essential components:
Ownership – taking 100% ownership for your life and the person you are.
Mind – because our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings determine our behaviour and behaviour determines the results we get in life.
Growth – because if you are not a life-long learner, you will eventually stagnate and stall.
To achieve consistent success, you need to understand yourself on a really deep level. You need to look beyond the general traits we assign ourselves – shy, energetic, lazy, good with people, rubbish at relationships – and understand instead what strengthens you, what puts you into flow and what you are here to do. You need to shine a light on your habitual patterns of behaviour and see if they are what will move you towards your ideal future. Then you need to know how to change the ones that won’t.
Let’s imagine that you’re eighteen years old and, in your heart, you know you are a musician. Writing or playing music makes your soul sing. It is fantastic to know this, and to plan a life around it. Unfortunately, ‘knowing your destiny’ is not enough. You will also have to develop some expertise that will make your dreams a reality. You will need to learn to network, find a ‘look’ that is right, have the confidence to audition, create a social media presence, take rejection after rejection… and on and on.
Our first two attributes are about knowing who you are, what you want and how you behave; the third is the ‘doing’ part. Whatever your chosen path, you’ll need to learn some essential skills to drive your chosen results. We’re not talking quadratic equations or Latin. We are talking about the ability to create strong relationships, to communicate in a way that engages others, to find your inner confidence, to build teams, to lead. These are the self-skills that will empower you to make the most of every twist and turn in life.
Learning these three attributes is not easy – it requires a deep and challenging journey. But it can be done. If the next generation is to reach its full potential, we have to start talking about these three life-changing superpowers, explaining and evangelising them… and then finding ways to support young people of all backgrounds to take the first step.
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Stephen is one of the Ivy House Alumni, and when he completed the Programme he made a commitment to himself: take on and conquer the Brighton Half Marathon.
The game of doing the right thing on the surface, whilst at the same time making your real feelings perfectly clear, is as common as it is destructive.