10 Keys to Success in Life

key to success in life

Have you ever wondered what leads one person to achieve success in life over another? Maybe you’re looking for that one key to unlock a better future or maybe you want to help someone else succeed in life. Here at Finally Family Homes, it’s our mission to care for vulnerable youth, primarily kids who are aging out of the foster care system, by providing what they need to succeed independently. 

In order to do that well, we must first determine how to have a successful life. After a lot of research, we’ve come up with 10 Keys to Success in Life. Whatever your goals, these 10 keys have been identified as essential tools to achieving successful outcomes, and they are what we plan to teach youth at Finally Family Homes.

Keys to Success in Life

Defining Success

As we explore these 10 keys to success in life, it’s important to have a clear definition of what success is. To succeed means to accomplish a goal. By this definition, if there are no goals, there can be no success. As well, having success “in life” can look very differently, depending on each person’s goals. It’s important that you choose goals that specifically move you towards the future you have in mind for yourself.   If you really want to be a Nascar driver, you’d probably be disappointed in life as a “successful” investment banker.

Most people would define success in life as having some measure of happiness. Therefore, it’s also wise to include goals to cover areas of life that are often overlooked, but have been shown to make almost anyone happy life – such as relationships, physical health, safety, contributing to others, and creative expression.

1st Key to Success in Life: Planning for Success

The very first key is planning for success in life. This means having a clear picture of what a successful life looks like to you and putting together a well-defined plan to get you to that life. It starts with figuring out what you want and writing it down in detail.  This is the foundation for your plan. From there, write up the goals that will get you step by step to this life.

2nd Key to Success in Life: Preparing for The Unexpected

Many of the best laid plans have been derailed by a single misstep. It’s no accident we chose this as the 2nd of the 10 keys to success in life. Preparing for the unexpected can be the key difference between having a plan that ends in failure and having a plan that succeeds despite a bump in the road.

So how do you prepare for the unexpected? Start by making a list of things that could go wrong in your plan. Then create workarounds and back ups for each potential problem. Even when I’m driving a route I know well, I usually keep my GPS up and running to help me navigate traffic jams, construction, or missed turns.

3rd Key to Success in Life: Forming Good Habits  

You can have big dreams, great goals, and still fail. Success requires turning knowledge into action. It means repeatedly taking action towards your goals. Repeated actions become habits. And once you form the right habits, you create momentum.

Creating systems for your life as you are forming good habits can help you to stay on track. You can build systems by grouping good habits together. Having a system in place can keep you from having to make decisions on the fly or keep track of doing all your goal-oriented tasks one-by-one. Instead, you follow an intentional daily pattern that moves you towards your goals with less stress.  This has the added benefits of reducing stress and freeing your attention to focus on the things that truly require more brain power.

keys to Success in Life

4th Key to Success in Life: Prioritizing Goals

As you create your systems and put your good habits into practice, you’ll probably find there isn’t enough time in each day to work towards every goal. Prioritizing goals will help you figure out which ones to do first or spend more time on.  

If you’re not sure how to prioritize goals, it may help to apply some techniques like a numerical ranking system or the Eisenhower Matrix. Prioritizing your goals also means not letting things that never even made your list get in front of pursuing what did. In other words, don’t let talking to a telemarketer derail your plan to clean the house.  

5th Key to Success in Life: Learning from Your Mistakes

They say “the road to success is paved with failure.” What they don’t say, is that each piece of failure on that road probably looks different than the other. Success most likely came by way of trying (and failing) many different ways. Yes, you can fail your way to success, but almost never by making the same mistake over and over.

Failure is a part of success if it becomes a trainer or teacher. Learning and growing after failure is what can make it useful. Every race a sprinter loses, they can be building up strength and trying new running techniques. Each race, though a loss, can move them closer to first place.

6th Key to Success in Life: Trying Different Strategies

The road to success is not straight. There are stops and starts, turns and detours. Anyone who says they’ve got the exact path to success for you is probably lying. As the (creepy) saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Heck, there’s more than one way to get the meaning of that saying across. Let’s make up a newer more pet-friendly one – “There’s more than one way to peel a banana.”

Any way you put it, there’s more than one way to do – just about everything.  So, if at first you don’t succeed, try another way.  Try a new strategy. Come at your goal from a new angle, at a different time, with a different person. There could in fact be many effective strategies. You just need to find the right one. The only way to find it is to keep changing and keep trying until you find one that works.

7th Key to Success in Life: Taking Smart Risks

As you try out different strategies, you may find that you trying something that has never been tried before. It might feel scary. Taking risks can be intimidating, but taking smart risks can have big payoffs. Taking a smart or calculated risk means researching potential outcomes and determining what your chances of success are and if the payoff is worth risking the harm that could be done.

It takes time to develop good risk-taking skills. You may have a few painful failures as you figure out how to take calculated risks in life. It’s best to start out taking small risks. As you get better at it, you’ll probably become more comfortable. But don’t let your comfort be the only deciding factor. Often, taking a risk is the only way to achieve success.

8th Key to Success in Life: Learning from the Experts

While it’s true that there is no one path to success, a lot can be learned from studying other successful people.  Even better is to be mentored or to study directly under someone. Recorded history doesn’t always catch all the details and nuances.

Start with doing some research and study successful people who did something in the same realm of what you are striving to achieve. Want to innovate? Study innovators. Want to be a great painter? Study Van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. Want to own a restaurant? Learn from someone who knows cooking and business. Watch what they do, take notes, and ask questions.

9th Key to Success in Life: Learning How to Say No

I think our culture undervalues the importance of saying no. It can be uncomfortable. But in listening to interviews with successful people, you’ll probably hear them talk about turning down great opportunities they knew aren’t right for them.

Learning how to say no is an essential key to success in life. Successful people say no all the time. Saying no means knowing yourself, your boundaries, and being able to determine what is worth your time and energy. Saying no to the wrong thing leaves space to say yes to the right thing. It leaves room for the right opportunity.

keys to success in life

10th Key to Success in Life: Investing in Relationships

While I think the saying, “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” overstates the importance of relationships to success, it’s certainly not without merit. And it’s definitely worth investing in relationships, regardless of your goals. People are made to be in community. The benefits of being in a safe and encouraging community go beyond success in any one area of life.

There are many types of relationships that can boost your chances of success in life. The right relationship may just be that cheerleader or assistant who has no “connections,” but gives you the support you need to keep going when times are tough. Maybe the relationship you need is with a competitor, someone to challenge you and keep you sharp. And of course, there is the mentoring relationship, which can lead to networking opportunities and invaluable advice. In fact, is the lack of these relationships that can be the biggest gap between aged out foster youth and success.

Some Final Thoughts on the 10 Keys to Success in Life

These 10 Keys to Success in Life are not all or nothing. But odds are, the more you have, the better you will do as you try to figure out how to achieve success in life. And all of these keys or tools can be acquired and developed by anyone with enough time and grit.

I think it also bears mentioning that a successful life is not all about success. It is not consumed my delusions of grandeur. Some of your most powerful and most meaningful moments will happen in the midst of failure and defeat. Some of the best memories can be made in the mundane. These are valuable too. Having success in life also means developing the ability to be grateful and to find the nuggets of beauty in less glamorous times.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, share it on Pinterest so someone else can as well!

keys to success in life


  1. Investing in relationships is crucial in having success in life! We become who we spend the most time with so it is important that we seek out relationships with others who are successful in whatever area of life we are seeking. These types of relationships can mentor us and keep us focused on the right goals that are needed to achieve that success.

    1. Absolutely! And I think so much is picked up subconsciously too – just being around a person. I became interested in helping foster youth because I was around people who were doing it. I got to see the need and the example. And then there’s those who’ve laid down a path before you & can help you learn & navigate faster than you would ever on your own. 😉 Thanks LeeAnn!

  2. Relationships–yes! And learning from past mistakes for sure. I was a perfectionist (past tense), and good grief! That tendency will wrap you up and trip you. It’s so much better to soak in our imperfection (after all, Christ’s perfection is sufficient) and the lesson the hiccup houses. Great tips here. I’ll be pinning this for certain!

    1. Thanks Kristi!

      For sure – relationships are so key!! I feel you on the perfectionism! I’ve finally become convinced that perfectionism can actually undercut our success in life. Great point! Glad you are recovering too. 🙂

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