Colloquial wisdom would have us believe that there is no single strategy or secret to success, as many have triumphed through varying ways, using their unique skill sets to reach their goals. But there is no denying that seeking guidance on how to be successful is a great place to start.

The following are a set of five guidelines – based around scientific knowledge and expert wisdom – worth following in the pursuit of success.

1. Have will power 

Discipline is important because it often ensures the attainment of future benefits – but as everyone knows the price for these personal profits can be tortuous self-denial. In an important study conducted over 40 years ago a psychologist named Walter Mischel, PhD looked into the area of self-control in children.

He did this by designing a basic, yet effective test using marshmallows which would lay the groundwork for the modern study of self-control. The experiment worked by testing how willpower can be used to deny gratification when there is a benefit of a greater pay off by doing so.

The researcher would give the children a choice before leaving the room for two minutes: they'd receive a second marshmallow if they held off on eating the first before the researcher returned. 

This "hot-and-cool" system, as Mischel describes it, can also be described as cognitive dissonance – a psychology term that refers to the act of holding two competing ideas or attitudes in ones head at the same time. The "cool" is the thinking system, and cognitive in nature, while the hot is emotive and sensory in nature.

2. Knowing what you want

British politician and writer Benjamin Disraeli once said:

"The more extensive a man's knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do."

In this statement Disraeli is reflecting on how truly there can be no better education for the future than one's own past. In this sense, the path to finding out what you want to do is rooted in your own understanding of what you don't want to do.

Knowing what you want is important because there's going to be no way of obtaining your goals unless you know what they are. A good way to find out what you want and what your goals are, is to seek the wise words of experts and others who have triumphed in their field.

Knowing what you want is an important first step.Knowing what you want is an important first step.

3. Having grit

Social scientist Heidi Grant Halvorson conducted a diagnostic study on 30,000 individuals based around her nine principals for success. From the study she found that of the nine successful traits, the one the corresponded the highest with actual success was having grit.

Grit can be best defined when couched in the context of personal success, as the strength of will and a resolve to get to the end, regardless of the trials of that process.

4. Be adaptable

We live in a time of digital disruption where adaptability is a trait that will ensure you're not left behind, or rendered obsolete. A report on building a resilient workforce titled The Flux Report, commissioned by The Right Management, found that 91 per cent of human resource decision-makers believe that candidates will be more employable if they have greater adaptability skills.

Being adaptable important.Being adaptable is an important skill. 

5. Be realistic

The William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan conduced a study that concluded optimistic entrepreneurs can often be more successful, but there are risks in being too optimistic. Jerry Jao, CEO and co-founder of Retention Science, recommends being 60 per cent realistic and 40 per cent optimistic so as to stay aware of risks.

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