10 important questions successful people instinctively know the answer to

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Some people wonder whether those who are successful think differently from those who struggle to achieve their goals.

If you guessed “yes”, you’d be correct.

Successful people have instinctive answers to crucial questions that many of us feel confused or uncertain about.

And whether knowingly or not, they ask themselves these questions before embarking on any venture.

You can use these questions to help guide you if you’re struggling with obstacles or uncertainty in your endeavors.

Here are 10 of the best to consider:

1. Why am I really doing this?

A person who’s destined for success knows exactly why they’re doing what they do.

There’s a clear motivation behind their forward momentum, and that’s what drives them to succeed.

Ask any successful person why they’re putting everything towards their goal, and they’ll immediately tell you their motivation.

Maybe it’s to leave a legacy for their kids, to raise money for a passionate cause, to make a change to the world big or small, or simply because it brings them deep joy.

Intention is the foundation for pretty much everything.

If you can determine the reason behind your goal, and be utterly clear about why it’s so important to you, that can reignite your commitment and perseverance if you ever falter.

Some people even frame a photo or phrase on the wall (or tattoo it somewhere prominent) to remind them of why they’re doing what they do to keep them on track.

2. What does success look like?

Success looks different to everyone, but a successful person has a firm idea of what they’re aiming for.

It could be a specific physique or target fitness goal (i.e. running 10km in 45 minutes), an academic achievement (earning a Ph.D. by age 35), or buying a hobby farm by age 40.

That said, different people’s ideas of success will depend on their unique makeup.

For example, someone who has a physical disability may set a goal that would be considered “easy” by non-disabled standards but is a monumental achievement for them.

Or someone who has experienced mental health struggles may have a life goal of starting a small charity supporting local people who are going through similar difficulties. They aren’t aiming to raise millions, they just want to make a difference where they can.

As long as the dream is important to you, and fuels you with inspiration to achieve it, it’s a sacred quest that’s worthy of support and encouragement.

3. What sacrifices am I willing to make?

It’s a sad reality that every success requires sacrifice.

For some people, that may involve sacrificing time with their partner or children to work 15-hour days for a couple of years (if not more) to achieve their goals.

For others, it may be living on ramen noodles and black coffee so they can invest all their money into the enterprise they’re building.

It’s important to ask yourself what you’re willing to give up to reach a goal that’s important to you.

If this is a fitness goal, are you willing to put in the work by sacrificing your favorite foods indefinitely to build the physique you want?

If it’s an educational milestone, are you willing to sacrifice your relationships and/or move to a different city for several years to attend the university of your dreams?

Be completely honest and realistic about what you’re willing to give up (even if only temporarily) for the bigger picture.

Extra reading: 11 Sacrifices That Are Totally Worth It To Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

4. What are my strengths and weaknesses?

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to acknowledge and accept them.

By recognizing our shortcomings as well as our greatest strengths, we can determine what we’re capable of excelling at, and what requires extra support or delegation.

For example, if you’re a highly creative person who struggles with finance management, you’ll want to team up with a great financial advisor or accountant to counterbalance you.

Similarly, a visionary leader who has tremendously brilliant ideas but struggles with execution and small details will benefit from a fiercely detail-orientated organizer who can plan everything and keep the team on track.

The most highly successful people get together with exceptional individuals whose strengths complement their own.

We can’t all be amazing at everything, but we can certainly help support one another in our goals.

5. What impact do I want to make on the world?

Or, to phrase it differently: what legacy do I want to leave?

We’ve touched upon this earlier, but it’s an important question to answer.

While personal achievement is a great motivation for goal attainment, helping others and leaving an indelible mark on the world can provide a great impetus for success.

When you think about the goal you’d like to attain, think about the ripples this goal will cause over time.

For instance, do you want to earn a law degree so you have the prestige of being a lawyer? Or do you want to be a lawyer so you have the means and education to fight against a specific type of injustice?

Do you want to succeed in climbing Everest to prove to yourself that you have the strength and resilience to do so? Or do you want to get sponsorship to reach that summit so you can donate money to a charity that’s important to you?

Extra reading: 9 Ways You Can Leave A Positive Lasting Legacy Behind

6. What obstacles and setbacks am I likely to face?

When a plan is being made, one key to its success is anticipating anything that could go wrong so contingency plans can be established.

For example, if someone wants to host a successful charity fundraising event in the summertime, they’ll host it in a place where outdoor festivities can be swiftly moved inside in case of a sudden summer storm.

Similarly, a person who knows that their education or training will require X amount of money won’t depend entirely on their savings or loans. They’ll have contingency funds or plans in place to ensure funding is available should unexpected expenses arise.

Whenever something is being planned, sit down—either alone or with friends—and try to think of any and every obstacle that may be encountered.

By acknowledging all the setbacks or roadblocks that may occur, solutions and protocols can be put in place well ahead of time so there’s no panic or pause if they happen.

7. How can I stay motivated on my journey to success?

Every person has their own methods of keeping motivated.

Some are motivated by rewards after hitting every milestone, while others do better with accountability partners who can keep them on track, celebrate their achievements, and give them hell if they falter.

Those who are destined for success know full well what keeps them moving forward, and they establish systems that motivate them when they’re feeling down.

They know the value of reaching out to a trusted friend or confidante when they need an extra boost.

If you feel you’re lacking motivation and resilience, or you’re self-sabotaging and you don’t have anyone in your life who can help keep you on track, it’s a good idea to team up with a life coach or licensed therapist to help you out.

They can help you understand why you’re self-sabotaging (e.g. fear of failure, self-fulfilling prophecies, etc.), and can assist with setting up systems that can re-energize your motivation when you’re feeling flat.

8. What’s the worst-case scenario of failing, and am I okay with that?

You may be surprised to hear that successful people envision what will happen if they fall short of the mark.

As inspiring as “Nothing can get in the way of me achieving my dreams” sounds, it’s a foolish belief. There are things in life you cannot predict or control.

There is no guarantee that anything will succeed the way we hope, and as such, successful people have plans B, C, D, and onwards to fall back on in case they fail at their endeavor.

For example, if the business they’re working on doesn’t meet a specific financial goal within three years, they may plan to sell all their equipment, move to Thailand, and become a diving instructor.

Similarly, if a physical injury cuts short their Olympic dreams, they can use the money they set aside for training and travel to buy land to establish a honey farm or vineyard instead.

If there’s an absolute worst-case scenario and you’re unable to attain your goal, how do you plan to make peace with that and turn your attention elsewhere?

Have a plan in place.

It’s not negative thinking, it’s simply accepting that not everything in life is within your control.

9. What makes me believe I can do this?

Or, in simple terms: is this pursuit realistic and achievable, or do I have an overblown idea of my abilities? Do I have a history of attaining my goals and the skills needed to make this a reality?

Let’s say a highly successful person is working on their second Ph.D. degree. They know full well that they’re capable of attaining this because they’ve already done it once before.

They have their study protocols down pat and have already cleared their thesis idea with the judging panel, so they’re confident in their ability to achieve what they’re striving for.

In contrast, someone who’s aiming for a Ph.D. but hasn’t even begun their undergrad yet and has no idea which direction to head in may be setting themselves up for failure.

They’ll need to go back to question #1 and determine why they’re pursuing this. Then and only then will they be able to map out their success plan.

From my own experience, I know I can forge a sword successfully because I’ve apprenticed as a blacksmith and I have the skills and strength needed to make that happen.

In contrast, I don’t know whether I can rig up a house’s electrical system because my knowledge of this is rudimentary. That said, I have faith in my capability to learn new skills, and I have focus and diligence when it comes to fine detail work.

Ask yourself why you have faith in your ability to meet your goal, and if you have solid answers, you’re good to go!

10. Will I be able to keep this going long-term?

Having a goal to strive towards is great, but some people are better at long-term goals than others.

Be realistic about this answer, as it’ll determine whether you’re able to succeed at your endeavor or not.

Short-term goals are easy to attain because results happen very quickly. This keeps forward momentum going, especially in tandem with the happy dopamine rushes that occur when pleasant things happen to us.

Long-term projects, however, require significantly more dedication and self-discipline to achieve them. This gets even more difficult if someone is prone to boredom, depression, or has ADHD.

Let’s use J.R.R. Tolkien as an example here.

It took around 40 years for him to fully develop his Middle Earth universe and see the Lord of the Rings published. It was a labor of love on his part, and the legacy that he left is monumental.

When he was spending late nights crafting his tales, he likely never dreamed that hundreds of millions of people would read (and adore) his work, and be inspired by his scribblings.

One key thing about him is that he didn’t just work on his Middle Earth books all the time: he had other hobbies and projects and published numerous other works in between.

This is a very healthy approach as it staves off boredom and monotony, and keeps momentum going.

There’s no harm in taking regular breaks from your goal and changing direction for a while. You’ll likely get more inspiration to go back to your original plan by doing so!


If you have a goal in mind that you’re keen on achieving, use these questions as a guide for your success.

Once you can answer all of them clearly, you’ll have a solid foundation on which to build your success.

Who knows, you may even do a J.R.R. Tolkien and leave an amazing legacy behind too.

About The Author

Finn Robinson has spent the past few decades travelling the globe and honing his skills in bodywork, holistic health, and environmental stewardship. In his role as a personal trainer and fitness coach, he’s acted as an informal counselor to clients and friends alike, drawing upon his own life experience as well as his studies in both Eastern and Western philosophies. For him, every day is an opportunity to be of service to others in the hope of sowing seeds for a better world.