April 10, 2017
Joe Fairless

5 Tips for Achieving Internal Success While Pursuing External Goals

When pursuing a goal and discovering new strategies for how to succeed in business, the majority of our time is spent on the journey. Once we achieve an external success, we have a mini-celebration, but then we set a new goal and we are off to the races again. Since we are ultimately on the journey to accomplishing goals much longer than we’re actually sitting in the glow of the accomplishment, how do we ensure internal success, such as happiness and contentment, along the way? Alison Cardy, who runs an international career coaching team, specializes in helping people solve this problem. In our recent conversation, she outlined five characteristics for feeling successful, not only when you’ve achieved a goal and become, for example, a successful real estate investor, but also while you’re en route and when you are setting the next milestone.

#1 Clarity on What’s Within Your Sphere of Control

“One is … clarity on your locus of control, and [having] good boundaries,” Alison said. “If you get really good at knowing what’s yours to take care of and what’s other people’s [to take care of], your life will change.” In business, as in life, there are always things that are in our control and things that our outside of it. That’s why understanding what you are in control of is the foundation for internal success and happiness in the midst of external uncertainty. “Just having that idea that there are certain things that I can control, and there are certain things I cannot control,” Alison said. “Why don’t I put all my attention on what I can control and really focus on that? Because that’s going to be a lot more helpful.” As many successful real estate investors and entrepreneurs know, this is easier said than done. We have to continually and consciously practice focusing on what’s inside our sphere of influence. The next four characteristics will help you achieve this and, hopefully, teach you how to succeed in business or professional goals you have.

#2 Checking Your Self-Talk

“Another thing is having your brain be your friend,” Alison said. “If you think about the internal dialogue in your head that we all have, we want that internal dialogue to be – and this may sound a little cheesy – unconditionally loving. We want that present in our head towards ourselves, and then also towards others. That leads to a lot of happiness, when there’s a kind voice in your head.” Let’s say a friend came to me for advice after making a bad business decision. I wouldn’t say, “You idiot. I can’t believe you did that. You are such a failure.” I would try to say something empowering. Yet, many people’s inner dialogue with themselves is just that – negative and disempowering and more likely than not, untrue. A good rule of thumb for checking your self-talk and increasing your feelings of internal success is to determine if it’s something you would say to a close friend if they were facing a similar situation.

#3 Commitment and Non-Attachment to Your Goal

“The third one is a focus for your brain,” Alison said. “Having a goal and a purpose, something that you’re working towards, focuses your brain. It’s very healthy, very helpful.” Once we understand our overarching goal, which all successful real estate investors, business owners, and professionals need to have, we then need to understand the difference between being committed to that goal and being attached to that goal. Alison says, “Commitment to a goal is, ‘I’m going to work on this and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.’ Attachment to the goal is, ‘It has to happen this way, at this exact time.’” There is a distinct difference between commitment and attachment. Alison thinks, “a lot of times where people create unnecessary strife for themselves is when they get so attached to a particular, specific vision – ‘it has to be this way, it has to be at this time’ – and it shuts [them] off to other possibilities.” “A better philosophy is commitment, which says, ‘Okay, I want to get to this end result, but I’m open to finding a better mini-process (more on this in #4) goal if this one’s not working’ or ‘I’m open to switching things up to get that final goal, so that I can actually be effective,’ versus being so attached and grasping to ‘It has to be my way or else.’” Now, it is important to note that Alison isn’t talking about commitment vs. attachment in terms of the result of your goal. She is talking about the path. “I think the place that can be either so binding for people or freeing is the path to get it. So if they think they know the way to get it, or if you think you know that way to get to that goal, then you’re going to only see certain opportunities. You’re only going to go in the direction that your brain’s already familiar with.” “But if you see that goal and say, ‘Okay, I’m committed to this. I’m going to work on it, I’m going to do whatever it takes, I’m going to get this goal, but I don’t really care how I go about doing it. It doesn’t have to be my way, or a way that I’m familiar with.’ All of a sudden, it frees your brain. It opens up your brain to see so many more possibilities that may make the achievement of that goal much easier than if you just kind of have your head down and say, ‘Okay, this is how to do it.’” In other words, the problem doesn’t come from being attached to an end goal. The problem is being attached to a specific path. For example, if you end goal is financial freedom and you tell yourself, “My path to financial freedom is to fix-and-flip exclusively in zip code 12345 and only A-class properties that results in $30,000 profit per deal,” then you may miss out on other fix-and-flip opportunities or opportunities in other classes and niches that would actually help you achieve your goal of becoming a wildly successful real estate investor sooner or more efficiently.

#4 Really Focus on Internal Metrics of Success

“The fourth characteristic is to rely on internal metrics for measurements of success,” Alison said. “[Saying], ‘Okay, I’m doing what I need to do. If I’m doing that and I pat myself on the back and feel proud of myself, I can get up and have fun tomorrow.’ There’s plenty of work to do in the world, there’s plenty of time to do it, so you might as well enjoy it.” This characteristic goes hand-in-hand with #1. For example, let’s say you are a wholesaler and you plan on sending out 100 direct mailers a week. You can’t necessarily control how many of those mailers result in a lead. However, what you do control is making sure you send out 100 mailers a week, tracking the results, and continuing to hit that number week after week. In other words, you should focus less on the long-term, external results (i.e. number of leads) and more on completing the mini-process (i.e. 100 mailers a week and tracking the results) that will allow you to join the ranks of successful real estate investors. And as long as you hit that goal week after week, you should give yourself some credit! “It’s sort of like if you were an athlete and you’re training for the big game,” Alison said. “You may not know that you’re going to win the game, but you can work hard and practice, [and] you can show up. That is within your control.” She says, “Focus on what’s in your control, setting metrics against those internal activities, and then when you hit those all along the way, which you will do en route to your [overarching] goal, give yourself a pat on the back every single time, and know that [you’re] doing what [you] can do. [You’re] being a success no matter what happens.” Now, the money question here is how do we identify effective mini-processes to follow? Alison provided two tips: Find a mentor, someone who is further along than you – “One is if you can connect with somebody who has done what you’re trying to achieve, … then that person’s going to have more of a vision of how that landscape works and what’s going to be effective. I think finding somebody further along who can help you identify the most effective process goal is really valuable, more so than people realize. Because it’s tricky to know what’s going to be effective or not, and somebody who has that experience and perspective can say, ‘Hey, did you ever think about doing X? That’s going to get you really slow results, so you should probably think about Y.’” Trial and error – “There’s something to being open to trying and learning, and being open to reality… If you think about, ‘Okay, I’ll try this for a certain amount of time’ and you look around and say, ‘This isn’t working. What can I do differently?’ Sometimes you just need to try things and see, because even with an expert, things are going to work differently for different people. They’re going to bring different strengths, so kind of being open to trying and know, ‘Okay, part of the process is figuring out which is going to be most effective for me.’” I think combining these two is the best approach to becoming a successful real estate investor. Find someone who has already achieved success, see what has and hasn’t worked for them, test out the strategy for a given period of time (the amount of time is up to you), and look at the results to see whether or not it is effective, both literally and in terms of increasing your internal success.

#5 Prioritize Your Own Personal Well-Being

“The last characteristic of internal happiness is to prioritize your own personal well-being,” Alison said. “You could have great purpose, you could be clear on what’s yours, and if you ignore your own health, your own relationships, your own need for rest, you’re not going to be happy. So it’s really important to take care of yourself in the midst of your journey, as well.” As entrepreneurs, we often neglect this last point. We are so busy focusing on how to succeed in business that we may forget to take care of ourselves, from both a physical perspective (i.e. exercise and diet) and a relationship perspective. Alison said, “In my life, it’s definitely way at the top in terms of taking care of health and the people in my life who I care about, and making time for them.” Aside from putting it at the top of her priority list, she also focuses on forming habits over moment-to-moment discipline. “I do it with habits – straight up habits,” Alison said. “I think too often people think, ‘Oh, I need to have discipline to eat well, to exercise, or to make time for loved ones,’ and I would say, … ‘No, you don’t want discipline at all. You just want the habit in place to actually have your life run that way because a habit means it’s running on autopilot.’ It’s like brushing your teeth – you don’t think about how to do it, you don’t think that you have to do it, you just do it.” For those who have trouble prioritizing their well-being, don’t try to implement multiple habits at once. Instead, Alison recommends this: “Just try to find one little tweak, one small area where you could build a better habit. It’s going to be different for any individual, but honestly, I believe anything in your life will improve if you give attention to it.” More specifically, Alison provided a quick 10-minute exercise that you can (and should) perform immediately after completing this post. Open a blank Word Document, or take out a pen and paper. Set a timer for 10 minutes and answer the following two questions: What is one way I could take care of myself better? What is one little piece of time in my day that I could tweak and put in something that I enjoy, or that takes care of me, or that feeds me? Then once you find that one habit, Alison says, “focus for a period of time on actually following through on doing it, make it a priority, and eventually it’s just going to go into autopilot and you won’t have to think about it. Then you can add another one. So don’t do all of them at once, but just find on little tweak that would be prioritizing your well-being, and make a little time to try to add that in.”


Alison provided five tips for how to maintain internal success on the journey towards achieving your external real estate goals:

  • Have clarity on what you can and can’t control
  • Check in with your self-talk
  • Commit to a goal, rather than becoming attached
  • Focus on internal metrics of success (i.e. mini-processes)
  • Prioritize your own personal well-being

Become one of the many successful real estate investors who have learned to implement these tips.

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