The Three Levels of Success

Posted by Trevor on 3 October 2012 | 3 Comments

Most 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.

Desire: 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.

Belief. 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.

Knowing: 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.

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.


  1. nathan hershey says:

    i am 15 and i recently got this book and read it i

    have understood every last word of it and have been looking for a book like this but could not find one that add as much useful information as this book dose.

    The only question i have is that i dont think most people my age would underderstand this book as much as i do so i was woundering if you know of people my age that did understand everything about it and if you had any further advice for a 15 year old?

    • Trevor says:

      Thanks so much for the feedback. I was 15 when I first started reading the autobiographies of self made men and women. I had to go to the library to do it, but today it is all available on the Internet. I think when we are 15 we are better able to get the message because we have not yet been worn down or turned into cynics by the negative influences around us. When I first read about Henry Ford taking quiet time in order to come up with brilliant ideas, I was young enough to say “what the heck? If it worked for him why wouldn’t it work for me?” When I meet a 30 year old with the same advice I almost have to prove why it works and why it is important, and even then they doubt it.

      My advice is to not stop here with Three Simple Steps, but to start reading about the pioneers both current (like the Richard Bransons and Oprah Winfreys of out time… both wild and written off at delinquent at 15)and historical (Madame C.J. Walker is one of my favorites, and already a mother at 15, but Steve Jobs had a fascinating history too). In all their stories you get the sense of their individualism and how they were able to embrace that for the rest of their lives. Most people get to an age when they realize that they somehow missed a step. “This wasn’t what I dreamed about when I was 15,” is a common awakening thought. It is so much harder to reinvent yourself then than to start out committing making a positive difference at 15. I envy you. Because you have grasped this message at 15, you have such an amazing future ahead. Remember, there are no limits to the imagination and, therefore, no limits in life.

  2. Natalie says:

    Thankyou Mr Blake for your book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    Like most i have a little trouble with quiet time, but i do enjoy taking the dogs for a walk and actually touching the trees and plants, no doubt people watching me think i am entirely mad but i enjoy it and i feel closer to nature.

    I no longer read papers or magazines and am cancelling my facebook account today, too much negativity on it. I am also steering away from negative friends, although i have now noticed that so many of my friends are negative about life? I have always been quite positive however am easily led into the gossip circle, so now trying to avoid it! In doing so discovered i am left with only 1 or 2 friends!! However they are great friends and i have my gorgeous husband and soul mate whom also loved your book.
    We are now both looking forward to our futures together with the influence of the 3 simple steps.


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