The Three Levels of Success

by / ⠀Startup Advice / February 7, 2013

SuccessMost books use the same evidence to justify the benefits of goal setting. A famous study, performed at Yale in 1953, supposedly proved beyond doubt that goal setting is the secret to success. This study showed only 3 percent of surveyed graduates set goals. Twenty years later, it is said there was a follow-up survey. The results showed that the 3 percent had a higher net worth than the rest of the graduation class in total.

It is a compelling story, but it is fiction. No such data exist. In 2008, a Yale research associate reported that, after a flurry of articles citing the study in publications as diverse as Dental Economics and Success magazine, she was prompted to undertake an exhaustive search of Yale alumni archives. She concluded: We are quite confident that the study did not take place. We suspect it is a myth.

When challenged by a well-known debunker organization, self-help gurus who had written books based on this study were unable to produce evidence. One famous expert in the field of human potential who has based his career on the power of goal setting in the sales environment was quoted as saying: Well if it is not true, it damn well should be. Is it any wonder people get frustrated with setting goals?

In my experience, after many years of studying and teaching goal-setting techniques, it seems to me that there are three levels of emotion that attract success.


Desiring something creates a powerful energy that can magnetically attract better things into our life. Desire, however, is often vague. We may desire a better life or a different job without being sure what that would look like specifically. I often hear people state that they want more money or a nicer house. Because of the lack of specifications, we might not get exactly what we deserve and are capable of, but we’ll get a better set of experiences. When those arrive, we feel a sense of relief that life is finally looking up.

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The more we understand something, the more we start to believe in it. Many goal-setting techniques recommend baby-step goals, with the thought that as we achieve each one, we build confidence in ourselves and our goals, which leads to greater belief. As belief grows, we get excited and our stomach twitters with anticipation. Belief brings wonderful new experiences into our life, and when they arrive we feel like celebrating. Most goal-setting techniques aim for this level.


This is an exponentially higher emotional energy level that comes when we are familiar with all the specifications, feelings, and senses of the object of desire. There is no excitement because there is no doubt about its attainment. The removal of doubt comes about when we have clarity in the detail of what it is we want. A little of this level of emotion can be felt in the many things we take for granted in our lives. For instance, I am so familiar with making crème brûlée from a certain recipe that I have a complete sense of knowing it will always turn out great, so the compliments I get are expected. When those creations turn up in our life, we simply acknowledge them with a quiet sense of gratitude.

Traditionally taught goal-setting techniques can be effective at raising our levels of emotion from desire to belief. That will definitely improve our quality of life in some way, but it is a hit and miss experience. I do not believe, however, that it is sufficient for achieving the American dream. For that we need to raise our level of emotion to a sense of knowing, which is a higher state of mentality. Three Simple Steps® is a recipe for raising our mentalities from desire to a sense of knowing.

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Once we have our mentalities at that level, traditional goal setting techniques are naturally replaced by the more powerful method of setting Intentions. A goal is something we do not have that we desire to get. Our understanding is that the desired object or experience is separate from us. Traditional goal-setting techniques show us how to creep toward the object in baby-step goals, each step meant to build up our confidence until desire turns into belief.

An Intention is a goal but with all doubt about its attainment removed. Baby steps are not needed because there is no uncertainty about getting what we desire. Instead of creeping toward it, we can simply sit back and let it come running to us. The main difference, therefore, between Intentions and goals is direction of effort. With goals, we push energy toward the object. With Intentions, we pull or attract the object to us.

This may seem like a subtle shift in mentality, but it is a critical one if you want to move from hitting a few goals to achieving any and all goals you set. Small changes in how we think make huge differences in outcome. So, as we shift our conceptual understanding from journeying toward a desired object to attracting it to us, we slip naturally into an understanding of the law of attraction. We shift from a warrior mentality of chasing and conquering what we want into a wizard’s mentality of effortlessly creating anything we desire. Raising mentality to a sense of knowing is the secret ingredient between feeling better about the lives we have and having a better life.

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© 2012 Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life

Trevor Blake, author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life, was founder and CEO of QOL Medial LLC, a specialty pharmaceutical company he started in 2002 with a few thousand dollars and sold in 2010 for over 100 million. In 2006 he founded ANU, a unique not-for-profit dedicated to developing low side-effect cancer drugs. Prior to this, Blake was VP Commercial Development at Ceptyr and Director Commercial Development at Orphan Medical. He has worked in the UK, Europe, and the USA with companies such as Biogen, 3M, and Lipha, and has won many industry awards, including marketing professional of the year. He has an MBA from Durham University (UK) and a Bachelor of Science degree from the Royal College of Radiotherapy. He is also a graduate of the Royal Naval Academy, Britannia Royal Naval College.

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.