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What prevents you from achieving the success you want?

Is it a lack of money, free time, or opportunities at work? Have you not achieved your goals because of the economy, what your business colleagues have done (or not done), or the lack of motivation among your employees? Perhaps you place the blame on how you were raised or on your family for not giving you the proper amount and type of support.

If you responded to my question with a laundry list of reasons why you aren’t where you want to be, you’re not alone. Most people automatically find excuses and blame others when things don’t work out the way they want. This seems to be particularly true in the United States, where many people buy into the myth that we are entitled to success and happiness—that someone else should be giving us what we want.

However, if unlimited success is your goal, looking outside of yourself is a strategic error. The most important lesson you must understand is that you are 100-percent responsible for your life—the good and the bad.

The formula I like to use to explain this concept is:

E + R = O 
(Events + Responses = Outcome)

The basic idea is that every outcome you experience in life (whether it’s success or failure, wealth or poverty, wellness or illness, intimacy or estrangement, joy or frustration) is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event in your life. Likewise, if you want to change the results you get in the future, you must change how you respond to events in your life…starting today.

What Most People Do

When people don’t like the outcomes they are experiencing, most choose to blame the event (E) for their lack of results (O).

In other words, you can blame the economy, the weather, the lack of money, lack of education, racism, gender bias, the current administration in Washington, your wife or husband, your boss’s attitude, the lack of support, and so on. If you’re a golfer, you’ve probably even blamed your clubs or the course you’ve played on but never yourself. This is what most people do.

It’s true that these factors exist and that they impact you. However, if they were the deciding factor in whether someone succeeded or not, nobody would ever succeed. For every reason it’s not possible, there are hundreds of people who have faced the same circumstances and succeeded.

The deciding factor in success is not the external conditions and circumstances. It’s how you choose to respond (R).

We think limiting thoughts and engage in self-defeating behaviors. We defend our self-destructive habits (such as drinking and smoking) with indefensible logic.

We ignore useful feedback, fail to continuously educate ourselves and learn new skills, waste time on the trivial aspects of our lives, engage in idle gossip, eat unhealthy food, fail to exercise, spend more than we make, fail to tell the truth, don’t ask for what we want, and then wonder why our lives aren’t working.

What Successful People Do

Successful people take a different approach to events. They simply change their responses (R) to the events (E) until they get the outcomes (O) they want.

You can change your thinking, change your communication, change the pictures you hold in your head (your images of the world), and you can change your behavior (the things you do). That’s all you really have control over anyway.

Unfortunately, most of us are being run by our habits. We get stuck in conditioned responses to our spouses and children, to our work colleagues, to our customers and our clients, to our students, and to the world at large.

You have to gain control of your thoughts, your images, your dreams, daydreams, and your behavior. Everything you think, say, and do need to become intentional and aligned with your purpose, your values, and your goals.

If you don’t like your outcomes, change your responses.

The Formula in Action

You don’t have to look far to find examples of how this works: consider the economy.

When the Gulf War broke out, a friend of mine who owns a Lexus dealership in Southern California turned to this formula to guide him through the resulting impact on the economy. People stopped coming in to buy Lexuses, so he knew that his normal response (R) of running newspaper and radio ads wouldn’t be good enough to keep his business afloat. The outcome (O) he was experiencing was a steady decrease of visitors to his showroom, as well as sales.

So they tried a number of new things. Some didn’t work; some did. One of the strategies that worked was driving a fleet of new cars to where the rich people were—the country clubs, the marinas, polo grounds, parties in Beverly Hills and Westlake Village—and inviting them to take a test drive.

Have you ever test-driven a new car and then gotten back into your old car? Suddenly, your old car wasn’t good enough; you wanted the new car! The same thing happened for the people who took a Lexus for a spin, and many bought or leased a new car.

By changing their response (R) to an unexpected event (E)—the war—the dealership eventually got the outcome (O) they wanted—increased sales. In fact, they ended up selling more new cars per week than before the war broke out.

If we all experience the same event, the outcome you get will be totally dependent upon your response to the situation.

Carefully choose how you respond to events—how you choose to interpret events, how you choose to think about and talk about what happened, how you choose to act—if you want to achieve better outcomes. Remember, you control your destiny, so make it a fantastic one!


As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and speaks around the world on this subject. Follow Jack at www.jackcanfield.com and sign up for his free resources today!

*Photo Credit: Daniel*1977 via Compfight cc