Article by Elizabeth Lombardo

January 17: the day most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions.

But you don’t have to become a statistic. How can you make actually progress and not succumb to “Give Up Day”?

Success, in any professional field or area of your life, starts from the inside out. No matter the change you want to see (relationships, health, business), you must begin with what you are saying to yourself. Your internal dialogue determines your external success. Thoughts like “I am stuck in this bad situation” will only elicit feelings of helplessness, encouraging you to avoid taking any of the necessary steps to make a change.

Luckily, you can govern what goes on inside your mind. Rest assured, I am not talking about superficial affirmations. We’ve all tried to convince ourselves of our abilities with mantras like “I can do this” or “I believe in myself,” only to have our inner critics call BS.

No, what I mean is this: Controlling your internal environment allows you to transform your external world, and one way to do that is by applying the “True Success Formula.”

I devised the True Success Formula after working with clients for more than two decades as a psychologist and coach. Many of the people I work with are executives, entrepreneurs, and sports figures — people who tend to be successful on paper but feel like they are missing something. Sure, they have created significant wealth and achieved impressive milestones, but when asked if they are successful, they say they need to accomplish more to feel fulfilled.

That is where the True Success Formula comes in. It entails three pillars that are paramount to creating and enjoying real success in your life:

  1. Passion: positive energy even during tough times
  2. Purpose: having meaning in your life
  3. People: optimizing your relationships

How the True Success Formula Helps You Reach Your Goals

1. Passion: Boosting Your Positive Energy

When I say “passion,” I’m not talking about romantic love. I’m talking about positive energy: being in a place of gratitude for what is going on, while at the same time being excited to make positive changes in your life. When you are motivated by passion, you appreciate what is happening and feel empowered to make things even better.

Passion is in sharp contrast to victimhood. When we are in a place of victimhood, we feel helpless to make changes. Victimhood can come in many forms: blaming external circumstances (“If only I didn’t have so much work!”), other people (“If only my partner were more supportive!”), and the past (“I tried in the past and it didn’t work, so I am stuck!”). While we cannot always change the situation, we can always change our reaction to it.

Fear in the form of perfectionism (“It needs to be perfect — or else why bother?”) and procrastination (“It will be horrible to do, so I am going to put it off”) can also rob us of our passion.

One way to apply passion to help you achieve your goals is to stop beating yourself up. Consider how often you replay over and over again mistakes you’ve made. Maybe you gave a presentation and flubbed your words. Maybe you had a heated conversation with someone, and now you can’t stop thinking of a great retort you should have made. How often do you berate yourself for the past like this?

Once, an executive coaching client of mine wanted to be a better leader at the office and at home. When he was stressed, his temper often grew short, and he became irritable with those around him.

“My father was like this, too,” he told me. “It’s in my genes.” (Hear the victim mentality?) When we explored how he might be able to achieve his goal, the topic of meditation came up.

“I tried that before; it didn’t work,” he said. His frustration with past “failures” was preventing him from pressing forward to make positive changes.

I have a saying: “It’s not failure; it’s data.” By “data,” I mean information you can use to learn and grow. In theory, meditation can be a great way to reduce stress and irritability, stay focused, and be more optimistic. However, my client’s past attempts had not yielded the results he wanted. Rather than beating himself up, I recommended we look at why he had not stuck with his meditation in the past.

We uncovered a few major obstacles, including time and getting bored. To address these, we scheduled in his calendar daily five-minute breaks for meditation, and we downloaded an app on his phone that provide guided meditations that were more interesting to him.

2. Purpose: Finding Your Why

It is easy to be motivated when you first start working toward a new goal. If you have ever gone to the gym during the first few weeks of January, you know what I mean.

What happens, though, when the honeymoon of making a resolution wears off? That is, when life gets in the way? That’s when mindsets of “I’m too busy,” “There’s not enough time,” or “I can never really do that” take over.

Purpose can prevent this from happening. Your purpose is your why; it is the meaning behind the changes you want to make. We have all heard the stories about the grandmother who lifted a car off her grandchild pinned beneath it. While those are extreme cases, they are great reminders of the power of purpose.

You will hopefully never be put in such a dire situation, but focusing on your why can still help you be a superhero in your own life.

A client of mine was told by her doctor that she was nearing the criteria for obesity with a body mass index approaching 30. She decided to focus on working out, but as time progressed, she came up with multiple reasons why she could not get to the gym.

When I asked her why she wanted to lose weight, she said, “Because I don’t want to be fat.” When I asked her to explore that desire even more, she came to the realization that what she really wanted was to be a good role model for her children. Her kiddos were showing signs of following in their mother’s footsteps.

This mother’s purpose — to be a positive role model for her children so they would develop lasting healthy habits — was a strong motivator for her and propelled her to stick with her exercise program. The result? She achieved and ultimately maintained a healthy weight.

What is your why? It is usually something deeper than “more money” or “looking good.” While there is nothing wrong with wanting either of those things, a truly motivating purpose is often more profound and meaningful.

3. People: Getting Great People Around You

We are social beings. As such, optimizing our relationships with others is an important component of True Success. If you want to achieve your goals, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. That could mean making sure your partner is willing to support your desired change, having an accountability partner, hiring a coach, or joining a group of likeminded individuals.

As the saying goes, we are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time. If you are hanging out with Negative Nellys, you are more likely to be in a state of victimhood. As a result, you will not achieve your goals; you will simply maintain the status quo.

Unfortunately, maintaining the status quo often leads to more problems. One client of mine wanted to get ahold of her finances, but her husband was encouraging her to “enjoy life.” Of course, one can enjoy life without spending a dime, but that was not how her partner felt.

Not only did her partner’s discouragement stop her from implementing smart saving principles, but it also resulted in both of them spending a lot more money than they had. When it came time for her oldest to go to college, they could not afford to pay for it. While this is not the end of the world (many families cannot afford the astronomical tuition fees), their son would have had more options had they been wiser in their saving. The relationship between my client and her husband grew full of stress and tension.

Find people in your life who can support you — the best version of you. Seek them out as friends, colleagues, coworkers, and community members. That does not mean you have to get rid of all the unsupportive people in your life. While doing so may be helpful, it is not always feasible. Instead, look for ways to create a network that empowers you and allows you to empower others.

Use the True Success Formula to help you make the changes you want to make this year, this decade, and forever.

A version of this article originally appeared on

Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, is a wealth psychologist helping entrepreneurs get out of their own way so they can have the successful businesses they want. Her newest book, Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love, is now available. How can you crush your inner critic? Learn more at

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