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The 4 stages of success

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"Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning." —Benjamin Franklin

There are four distinct stages to every cycle of success. Our ability to identify these stages and maximize their potential will lift us from mediocrity to accomplishment. I'll provide you with some examples and as I do, I encourage you to visualize the times you've experienced these stages. Make sense of them so you'll continue to build toward your next achievement.

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I write a lot about "the journey." This is where we'll spend the overwhelming majority of our time, particularly on longer projects or ventures. An idea may come in a flash, literally that instant. The planning, motivating and inspirational stage could be brief or longer. And the reward, well, that may seem like forever. But in many respects, it's a moment.

Christopher Connors
Christopher Connors

And then, that moment is gone. Then, it's time to come up with another idea, another drive and to enjoy another journey. As Ursula LeGuin once wrote, "It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end."

Enjoy this journey with me as we look at the four stages of success.

1. The idea

"There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come" —Victor Hugo

The incubating stage of your idea is all about creativity and imagination. This is where everything is given life. A sudden burst, a revelation of wonder enters your mind, delivering you the inspirational thought you need. What are your greatest ideas? Think about it — when have they typically come about?

I've found that my most valuable ideas have come from moments of adversity, when circumstances have forced me to think more creatively and come up with solutions. The idea to write my upcoming book on Values came from picking myself up, then dusting myself off after a challenging period in my professional career.

J.K. Rowling
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J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling rose from the precipice of despair and kept writing herself all the way to the intergalactic bestseller list. Her idea for the Harry Potter series came in a flash, suddenly, on a train ride. One of the most coveted ideas in literary history came in the blink of an eye. It all begins with an idea. This is stage one.

2. The drive

This is your planning, motivating, inspiring stage. The drive is what empowers you and makes you never want to give up. If you don't have the drive to back you idea, then your journey won't yield positive results. All of these stages are sequential. You must back your idea with positive emotions, positive attitude and an intelligent, hard work ethic.

Once you have an idea, find the motivation you need to enable you to keep going. While fear can drive us from failing, the fear of success can be very detrimental. There, we lack motivation and inspiration. We tend to run away from our dreams. This can stop the best of us dead in our tracks.

Michael Jordan
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Michael Jordan

For Michael Jordan, the fear of failure elevated him to become one of the greatest athletes in sports history. He inspired himself. He planned his course of hard work and dedication to his craft. Jordan had the drive to be the best. We all need this drive to lift and inspire us, particularly in the moments of doubt which will inevitably come. Rise above!

3. The journey

This is the process, the "execution," the place where you'll spend your time. The journey is unique and specific to all of us. Your journey may find you trying to become the top sales executive at your company. Maybe you just launched a new advertising company. Or perhaps you have the idea for a mobile app that will make Snapchat and Instagram jealous.

After the idea and drive stage, you're on your journey. Hard work, intelligent direction, strategy, process, this is where everything forms. You realize you can't just have faith and expect results. You need to persevere, persist and keep reinventing yourself, your product, your approach and what will help you reach your definition of success.

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For Ellen DeGeneres, the journey has been a lifelong process of personal discovery, success at the box office, comedy clubs and on a comfy Hollywood couch with an audience of millions. Along the way, there have been sweat, tears of joy, tears of sadness, failures and successes. But she's never ended her journey. She's kept going. Keep going on yours and never give up.

4. The reward

"The reward of a thing well done is having done it." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here it is! Your moment in the winner's circle. How will you handle success?Are you ready for it? Maybe you've envisioned the moment that your YouTube video series goes viral or when you deliver your first keynote address at a TED speaker conference. But are you really ready to be crowned, victor? You will find success if you plan and execute properly. But also if your mind is prepared for receiving the reward.

At last year's Summer Olympic Games, young Simone Biles won four gold medals. Only 19, at the time, it's easy to think that her success was mostly overnight. No. She was the best in the world, winning the world championship all-around event each year following the 2012 Olympic Games. 2016 was a time she prepared for and she knew what the reward would be.

What is that moment for you? Have a picture of it. Then, mentally and even physically and emotionally, prepare rehearsing for it. Visualize but act it out. Then, once you're there, you'll act "like you've already been there." Good luck!

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Christopher Connors is a writer and author of the upcoming book, The Value of You, which focuses on the power and reward of integrating core values into our lives. He has worked as a management consultant with executives at Fortune 500 companies, and currently operates his own career coaching business.