Achievement Against-the-Odds: How to become bold, confident and courageous enough to break through barriers and overcome obstacles to achieve any professional and personal endeavor and live ‘the best season of your life
As a former plus-size model, I know all too well the pain and disappointment of rejection and judgments based solely on appearance, both professionally and personally. I have lived it time and time again. But, rather than allowing the numerous barrier-inducing critics of my plus-size define who I was, how I would live my life, and what measure of success and happiness I could achieve, I instead chose to face that “cold winter season” head on, turning what others had deemed as challenges into the very assets that would help me realize tremendous success in all aspects of my life.
Not only did I embrace my appearance and excel as a plus-sized model, I was emboldened enough to help others do the same by founding a plus-size modeling agency representing over 100 models who were placed with premier fashion retailers such as Nordstrom, Lane Bryant, Just My Size, Dillard’s, and Liz Claiborne. And I didn’t stop there. Through plus-size beauty pageants ad conventions that I founded, I created an opportunity for hundreds of other women to achieve dreams like those I, myself, had accomplished. As an international speaker, I’ve also had the honor of sharing platforms with A-Listers the likes of OPRAH, Zig Ziglar, Les Brown, and Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. All told, I’ve had the “last laugh” amid the glut of naysayers who would otherwise have cut my extraordinary “larger than life” success story far short based merely on my appearance.
Rather than recoiling, I learned to thrive in every proverbial “season” of my life despite the trials and tribulations that presented. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that untold millions of other women and men, alike, are suffering setbacks based on their own “limitations,” whether real or perceived.
Life is best described metaphorically as continuously transitioning through each of the four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. Truly successful people are not those who try to avoid certain seasons, but rather are those who choose to embrace, overcome, and thrive as they seamlessly flow between seasons, regardless of how long or difficult each one may be. And, successful people don’t just overcome the difficult season of winter, but actually thrive during the harsh cold; they also blossom throughout the spring; reap a lush harvest during the summer; and adequately prepare for the fall and winter that inevitably follow. Such cyclical expectations and preparations are mindsets that are key to sustained and “against the odds” success.
Today I’ve dedicated myself to helping others become bold, confident and courageous—no matter what “season” they themselves are in. With this in mind, here are five tips on how to overcome obstacles and excel through every season of your own life:
- Fuel future successes with past achievements. It’s easy to feel like a failure after a particularly harsh setback and even the most empowered of us can, at times, doubt ourselves. However, no matter where you are in your career or life, you have undoubtedly done something that has made an impact. For instance, I had a client who was having suicidal thoughts and I talked her out of being suicidal. This had a tremendous ripple effect as everyone positively impacted by her is a result of the conversation we had to keep her alive. If I’m not proud of anything else, I can be proud of that and realize if I’ve had one success I can have others. You need to take the same mentality. Not every past achievement needs to be as profound as saving a life but find those times you made a difference in the world and know that you can do it again.
- Regularly invest in “The Power of You.” Do you ever get to the end of the day, week, month or even year and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything? Chances are you’ve accomplished much more than you realize but without any tangible, physical evidence it can be difficult to bring those accomplishments to mind. A great way to create a visual bank of your accomplishments is to make deposits in what I call, “The Power of You Jar.” Every time you accomplish something or do something good, write it down on a slip of paper and put it in a jar. Watching that jar fill up is empowering. Then any time you’re feeling bad or doubting yourself, just reach into the jar and get that reminder of what you’ve already accomplished.
- Channel your inner prize fighter. You can learn a lot from boxers. They spend three minutes fighting each round and 60 to 90 seconds resting. During that time in between rounds they are getting refueled, receiving advice, and getting encouragement. They have a whole training team that is supporting them and speaking life into them. Could you imagine how disastrous it would be if their trainer said, “You’re going to lose” or, “You should quit”? Any doubt during a fight could lead to a knock out. Yet we allow negative people in our corners all the time – people who are not encouraging and people who don’t help us. Is it any wonder we are getting knocked down? When channeling your inner prize fighter, it’s important to not only come out of your corner swinging but when you’re resting and rebuilding in between rounds, make sure the people with you are truly in your corner.
- Cease self-doubt with an actual “Stop” sign. If there’s one piece of self-help advice you’ve heard ad nauseam, it’s probably, “Don’t speak or think negatively.” Wonderful advice but for many, it can be next to impossible to follow. Even if you’ve attended the most incredible motivational seminar or are pumped up from a motivational book or video, the principles you’ve learned and the changes you want to make often quickly fade in following weeks or months. An effective way to keep that motivational level up and to make those changes stick is to use visual cues. For instance, if you want to stop thinking negatively, get an actual stop sign – it doesn’t have to be full sized, just big enough to be a reminder. Put it in your office, your bedroom, or wherever it needs to be visible. Then any time you are doubting yourself, you can SEE the stop sign and this will be the reminder to hit the brakes and get back on track.
- Don’t outsource your success. In an era where outsourcing is very popular, everything from manufacturing jobs to administrative duties are being outsourced. One thing you must not outsource is your success. If you have achieved something, surmounted an obstacle, or had any sort of triumph, take credit for it. If you find yourself saying, “It was nothing,” or “I didn’t really do much,” people will believe it. This doesn’t mean suddenly become a glory hog but it does mean take credit where credit is due. Allow yourself to be seen as successful and you will feel successful, too.
Some “winter seasons” in your life will be more challenging than others. The best way to get through those inevitable cold, harsh days is to take stock and give yourself credit for what you’ve already accomplished, surround yourself with people who support you, stop negative thinking at its onset, and allow yourself to acknowledge and enjoy present, in-the-moment pleasures. Doing so will give you the motivation and fire you need to be confident and courageous to work through any difficult season.
International Keynote Motivational Speaker, Executive Life Coach and Author DeLores Pressley is dedicated to helping people take action to launch bold, confident and courageous lives. She is the CEO of DeLores Pressley Worldwide and Founder of the Global Up Woman™ Network—a movement to empower and elevate women in business. She may be reached online at www.delorespressley.com. Those interested in her Speaker Success Summits specifically may reach her at www.launchlivesummit.com.