Your commitment to excellence in all areas of your life will ultimately determine your destiny and where you end up in life. You need to plan your life to get the most out of it. You must be strategic about your life and everything that happens to you is the direct result of your actions.

 I love this definition of success by John Wooden “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”  Your choices determine your actions and your actions determine your outcome. The key is you became the best you are capable of becoming. It is not dependent on anyone else and there is no need to compare with anyone else. Here are the nine keys to get your life to where you want it to be on your terms.

Deliberate Practice — We look at a lot of successful people like Sachin Tendulkar, Roger Federer or Bill Gates and we like to say they are lucky or they are born talented. However, researchers like K. Anders Ericsson one of the world’s leading experimental researchers on expertise say that it takes 10 years or 10000 hours of deliberate practice to reach the top in your area of expertise. Malcolm Gladwell popularized this concept in Outliers with amazing examples. Peak by Anders Ericsson nailed the subject.

 This should give hope to all of us and we no longer have reasons to say why we are not experts in our chosen areas. Remember with the abundance of information available now you have access to information that past generations would have died for. The keys to deliberate practice are to keep improving on the key result areas of your profession daily. This can be done by reading daily in your field, listening to podcasts, finding mentors in your field, taking certifications in your area of expertise and sharing what you have learned. This process will keep you engaged and current in your field. This is really inspiring from Michael Phelps and his dedication to arduous work. His quote “People were taking breaks during and after the Olympics. I was working all the time. Six months later, I broke the world record… Sometimes my goggles broke in practice, that’s how intensely I pushed myself. So, when my goggles fell off in the water at the Olympics, my mind went back to those moments, and I was ready… It’s what you do in the dark that brings you to light. It’s the stuff behind closed doors, the blood, sweat and tears.” Another example of a champion is Michael Jordan, and, in the book, Relentless Tim Grover said Michael Jordan didn’t study the competition instead he made the competition study him.

Find your purpose — I read about Candy Chang on the TED website and her profile summary said she is an artist, designer, and urban planner who explores making cities more comfortable and contemplative places. She has one project which is “Before I Die I want to” … Take this exercise and write down everything you want to do before you die. Remember the only way you can reach world class in your life is if you become excited about it. There are only a finite number of days you must live so don’t waste it living someone else’s dream. We can come up with many reasons why we can’t pursue our dreams. However, for every reason there are thousands who have had it tougher than you but still achieved the same things. So, go for it and design your ideal life keep writing everything you want in your life and then take MASSIVE ACTION. Action is the only antidote to fear. In the Tools of Titans Jamie Foxx said there is nothing on the other side of fear so don’t worry about things that may not even happen. You can also find your purpose by defining a mission statement for your life. All companies have mission statements and the main purpose of this is to excite employees and clearly clarify values that the organization will stand for. If you apply the same logic to your personal life, there will be more purpose to your life. For example, Venus Williams is a champion on and off the playing field. She has become a successful entrepreneur of EleVen. She says in the Feb 2017 issue of Inc. “Eleven is better than a 10. It is about reaching for your best, pushing beyond the limits, and coming to win. Even if you don’t get there it is about the journey. Our focus is on being your best, bringing your best, living a healthy life style and enjoying the clothes you wear. Who we are is distinct. That makes us stand out. We don’t want to be anyone else. We want to be EleVen.” Great advice indeed and she has found her purpose.

Have a Magnificent Obsession — Flowing from a purpose statement is to get clear on what your magnificent obsession is. This is something you are sold out to in your life. For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds in 2019 then exercising daily for 60 min is your magnificent obsession. If you want to build your personal brand in 2019 than getting a few certifications under your belt could be your magnificent obsession or starting a blog is also a good idea. When you have this obsession, you will wake up without an alarm clock and you will be full of enthusiasm daily. It must be totally personal to you for it to trigger the genuine enthusiasm in you.

Move towards resistance — As documented in the wonderful book Mastery by Robert Greene Bill Bradley became great in basketball because of his absolute passion to practice more than anyone else. In other words, he moved towards resistance. Bill Bradley used to practice three and a half hours after school and on Sundays, eight hours every Saturday, and three hours a day during the summer. He also devised various methods like putting ten-pound weights in his shoes to strengthen his legs. His greatest weakness was his dribbling and overall slowness. To counter this, he wore eyeglass frames with pieces of cardboard taped to the bottom, so he could not see the basketball while he was dribbling. He setup chairs in the court to act as his opponents. Robert Greene says he kept practicing well beyond any feeling of boredom or pain. This example should inspire all of us that it is not talent but actual challenging work and moving towards resistance that will ultimately determine the course of our lives. This can happen only if we have the passion for what we do and a burning desire to be the best in whatever we choose to do. There are no short cuts to greatness. In the book Bounce Matthew Syed says Federer can anticipate a tennis ball’s movement better than anyone. Due to his expertise gained through years of dedicated deliberate practice, Federer “sees and hears the world in an entirely different way” as if he is wearing special “X-ray goggles. Every top athlete has practiced and moved towards resistance to reach where they are now.

Love your critics — There are more critics in our world today than at any other time. Even your work is public and can be criticized. We can use critics instead to spur us to even further heights in our field of endeavor. Critics are not in the game and are not really doing anything useful except criticize others work. In fact, if someone is critical of your work it is probably because they couldn’t do what you have done. Of course, there are well meaning critics we should welcome who improve our work with their constructive feedback. We should develop ourselves to the point where we can differentiate between accurate and inaccurate feedback. Love your critics and keep pursuing higher goals to reach where they can’t reach. Do what other people don’t so that you can reach where other people can’t.

Take care of your health — Of course there are specific health conditions which require special attention. However, this portion of the article is barring any health conditions we can make the most of what we have. Unless you are full of energy it is very difficult for you to create a world class life. To accomplish everything, you want in life being in excellent health enables you to have higher energy to accomplish more. First requirement for health is to get adequate sleep. Sleep researchers have confirmed that everyone requires at least 7–8 hours of sleep daily. Keep this in mind and design your work schedule to ensure you get this requirement of sleep. Second you need to have a consistent exercise program to stay energetic. There are so many health benefits from exercise that we owe it to ourselves to stay fit. Third we need to be careful about our diet and eat lots of vegetables and fruits. None of these steps are rocket science but simple things are hard to implement. Of course, any health program should be undertaken with the help of your doctor.

Strong Self-Awareness — Unless we know ourselves thoroughly we will not be able to create the life we want. So, we should all take the time to really understand why we feel the way we do and then understand our limitations. This can be achieved through a thorough self-analysis using a journal. Only if you know yourself can you really understand what you want your life to stand for. You must know from the depth of your heart what you want in your life and why you want it. This would be a great step towards greater self-fulfillment as well.

Continuous Learning — Learning has been called the meta skill of the 21st Century. We all have access to information that past masters would have died for. Most of the information is available for free. My process for gaining more knowledge is to identify the experts in your field or related fields, read their books, listen to their podcasts, read their blogs, connect with them, document what you learn and share what you learn. Reading broadly does help in expanding your world view.

Manage yourself — Of course there is one thing we all get equally and that is 24 hours in a day. So, it is not time management but management of yourself with the available time that makes all the difference. Time management begins with focus on our key priorities. So, we need to know exactly what we want to accomplish in our work and our lives. Once we get clear on that then we can align our activities to realize that vision. I have written four articles on time management which you might find useful.

A to Z of Time Management

 24 Hours — 7 Ways to be Ultra-Productive

 10 Time Management Tips for 21st Century

 Say No to the Experts — My Time Management Philosophy

Creating the life you want is not easy but eminently achievable. Identify positive role models in your life and emulate them. Understand what great people have done and do the same thing. As Anthony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.” All the clues are out there and if we find those clues and adopt the practices of successful people we will create a life full of joy, prosperity and happiness.

The views expressed in this article are my own and do not represent my organization.