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Want to Feel Successful? Try This Simple Formula

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The truth is there is nothing simple about success. Peruse the shelves of any self-help section and you will find a multitude of different theories about just what it takes to be successful. And while all of these theories probably offer something useful, sometimes the process itself can feel a bit like walking in a maze.


And what we forget is that when it comes to success, there is one formula that always works.


Set a Goal – Pursue the Goal – Achieve the Goal


This is something Dr. Theo Tsauosides reminds us of in his brilliant new book, Brainblocks. (Tsauosides then goes on to discuss all of the ways (brainblocks) we get in our own way).


The problem is that the formula only works if you complete the whole thing. Setting goals, while admirable, does nothing if you don’t accomplish them – this is why setting New Year’s resolutions doesn’t really make us feel better. Achieving them, on the other hand, probably does. Similarly, forever pursuing a goal of writing a book, doesn’t do much to boost feelings of success. On the other hand, setting and achieving a goal of writing five pages a day will make you feel successful.


And most people start too large. While it sounds good to say that you are going to run a marathon, it doesn’t feel so good to say you haven’t run more than a few miles in several months. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of large accomplishments – it’s just that is not where I would start.


Instead, I like to use the ten percent rule. The ten percent rule goes like this: Only do ten percent more than you are already doing. For example, if you are running ten miles a week, make a goal to run eleven next week. Or if you are writing twenty pages of your book every week, make a goal to write twenty two. If you choose a goal that you haven’t yet started, then only devote ten percent of your time to the goal. If you have ten hours in the day (in which you are awake and not commuting, eating, or showering), devote one of these hours to your goal – no more. Then when you want to do more, only increase what you are doing by ten percent. Once you have accomplished writing twenty two pages every week, add two more pages and write twenty four. Or if you are devoting one hour a day to your goal, now devote ten percent more (one hour and six minutes).


While the formula for success is designed to keep success in your grasp, the ten percent rule is designed to keep your goals with your grasp. The idea is that achieving them becomes a habit – as does success. And no longer are those New Year’s resolutions a long forgotten pastime.


Claire Dorotik-Nana is the author of Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards. For more information on Claire or her work, just visit

Want to Feel Successful? Try This Simple Formula

Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

Claire Dorotik-Nana LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, and other epic human achievements. Claire has written multiple continuing education courses for Professional Development Resources, Zur Institute, and International Sport Science Association. Claire has also authored multiple books, including:
Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards and On The Back Of A Horse: Harnessing The Healing Power Of The Human-Equine Bond. For more information about Leveraging Adversity or Claire, visit

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APA Reference
Dorotik-Nana, C. (2015). Want to Feel Successful? Try This Simple Formula. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Sep 2015
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