Bill Cottringer

“The amount of success you have or don’t have, is more related to how you define success, than all you talents, efforts, motivation, timing and luck combined together.”~ The Author.

I have been an avid student of human behavior and success for over half a century now—observing, studying, understanding and explaining it—while working with a variety of groups including high school and college students and teachers, criminals and prison inmates, mental health patients and therapists, partners in a relationship, and employer and employees in workplaces.

At this point, I believe I have made it past the temptation of easy picking of the low hanging fruit and survived the murky, swamp of complexity with all’s it infinite variables and interactions of thinking styles, personality traits, interpersonal skills, motivations, communication styles, IQ’s, EQ’s and SQ’s, character development, cognitive biases, stress, conflicts and so on.

I am hoping I have found the elusive “Land of Simple” in this long journey that Oliver Wendell Holmes was willing to give his life for, with this article. Your feedback will certainly help me know if I have found the right definition of success as shown in the opening quote and measured by quote at the end of the article.

Here goes. The one common denominator to authentic, long-term, sustainable success is a three-pronged attitude conglomeration, involving these main interacting components:

1. Open-mindedness. My best friend spoke the most poignant words about this 1/3rd choose-able success attitude. He said, “If you don’t have an open mind, are you sure you have one (mind)?” It could be that we all have one common purpose in life and that is to learn, grow and improve into the best person we can be in applying our unique purpose to making life better for ourselves and as many others as we can. A closed-mind stops even discovering our purpose altogether. An open-minded attitude involves these things:

• Willing to b e a perpetual student, having an abundance of zest in learning, growing and improving, rather than thinking you already know it all.

• Realizing there is so much to know that you now know.

• Being more tentative than certain as to what you think is true; having tolerance for ambiguity.

• Questioning basic assumptions and the accuracy and completeness of what you think you know.

• Being aware of and sensitive to perspectives other than your own.

• Seeking the best version of truth, with a variety of approaches and without any predispositions.

• Being able to take reasonable risks in having enough information.

2. Optimism. Sound research has proven that people who are positive, optimistic and hopeful enjoy more happiness, have better quality relationships, make more money, have better health and live longer than the other half of the world who leans in the opposite direction in dealing with people and challenging conflicts in life. I don’t know about you, but I believe that is enough for me to make a conscious effort to choose this success attitude component. Here are the things that optimism involves:

• Being positive, hopeful and optimistic about outcomes, especially in difficult situations.

• Exercising resiliency in bouncing back from rejection or failures.

• Looking for some good to be learned in bad situations to prevent failures the next time.

• Trusting life, especially during the bad times when you are stuck in a deep, dark hole and want life take you to a better place.

• Having faith that good and right will prevail in the long run.

• Not taking things too personal, especially failures.

• Being able to laugh at yourself and not take things too seriously.

3. Adaptability. The one thing we can count on in life is that things will never remain the same for very long. To even just survive today in hopes of eventually thriving, you have to be a change master, always being ready to adapt to a new, unfamiliar situation. It is quite natural to want to resist change and remain secure in your familiar comfort zone that you have worked hard to establish. But, this is like trying to swim upstream and we know only salmon can do that. One thing is for sure, it feels much better to be the changer and controller from inside than the changee being controlled by the outside. Here are the things that are involved with an attitude of adaptability:

• Being enthusiastic about embracing change instead of trying to hide or run from it.

• Being able to be mentally flexible in your thinking instead of having a fixed mind-set.

• Having the courage to approach the unfamiliar and stretch your comfort zone.

• Seeing that there are always more solutions than problems.

• Seeing how to reconcile opposites as being two different sides of the same coin.

• Being able to change major paradigms 180-degrees and see the other half of the whole truth of something.

• Being sensitive to the point of no return before it comes and goes.

If your internal success thermometer is registering more failures than successes, then think about at least trying to lean in the right direction on these three attitude parts that are there for the choosing. The good news if you try one, the other two will follow with less effort. On the other hand, if you feel like you are making progress, don’t get too lazy and instead, continue on becoming more optimistic, open-minded and adaptable, because there is plenty more to do in traveling the road ahead.

“The most reliable measure of success is an internal one where you have a genuine sense that you are making progress at applying your unique purpose in life to make it a little better for yourself and as many others as you can.”

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), and “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), and Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or