In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins cites the words of Voltaire: “Good is the enemy of great.” In that spirit, here are ten steps that will allow you to clear a path for greatness in your life.

1. Get Rid of Good

To make room for the great in your life, toss out the merely “good.” It is far better to have a few great things than a lot of good or mediocre things.

For example, instead of having six cheap shirts that don’t feel so great, have one fine shirt you feel proud to wear. Instead of taking a handful of humdrum weekend getaways, save your money and go snorkeling in the Red Sea or take an art class in Paris. Instead of many mediocre friendships, invest in a few great friendships that energize and inspire you.

2. Commit to an Annual Theme

Instead of making (and breaking) a number of half-hearted New Year’s Resolutions, commit to a single theme for the year that defines what you are most passionate about. Find the one thing you can excel at and focus unrelentingly on polishing it to perfection.

For example, my theme is: “Write First!” I have this posted right above my computer. Every day, I focus on my writing first and only then allow myself to worry about urgent but non-important interruptions (paying bills, answering emails, etc.).

Your main theme could be “Family First!” or “Health First!” or “Listen First!” or “Service Above Self.” Just pick one that fits you—and commit to it.

3. Practice a Policy of Planned Neglect

Get into the habit of practicing your main pursuit before all else. Everything non-important can be put off. Your daily to-do list will keep changing around your main theme—which will remain constant.

4. Make a “Stop Doing” List

I borrowed this idea from Jim Collins’s book, too: Make a list of everything you’re doing that is not contributing to your main purpose—and stop doing it! Forget about what other people think; stop doing whatever’s not great in your life.

5. Keep Things Simple

Get rid of the good to make room for the great—literally! Get rid of the junk in your basement and file folders. Anything you haven’t touched or looked at in a year is something you probably need to get rid of. Donate books and magazines you haven’t read and clothes you know you’re never going to wear. Empty your mind and physical space of unnecessary clutter and make room for abundance.

6. Make Your Health a Priority

Get a full physical check-up at least once a year. If something’s bothering you, get it checked out immediately. Take a proactive approach to your health by taking preventative measures, eating healthy food and exercising regularly.

Make love a top priority. If you haven’t taken the time to tell your loved ones how deeply you value and love them, make time for it now. Pick up your phone, right now, and call your doctor to make that appointment. Call your loved ones and book some quality time together. Life is short and fragile.

7. Pay Attention to Your Dreams

Your dreams are a window into your soul, a gateway into the unseen world. In my book, Psychology of the Hero Soul, I discuss how to harness your dreams to awaken your creative potential. Get into the habit of jotting down your dreams. It’s a great way to develop self-awareness and self-understanding and will enrich your life in many unforeseen ways.

8. Face Facts!

Don’t hide from reality. It doesn’t matter if you have a Harvard MBA and are the world’s greatest optimist if you pick the wrong spot to open a retail business.

Likewise, face the brutal facts about yourself. If you haven’t even come close to achieving your dreams and goals, what has been preventing you? Ask a few friends you trust, “How do you see me limiting myself?” Once you have the facts, focus your time and energy on the solution.

9. Ask for Help!

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Ask for the sale, ask for the date, ask for support. Stop worrying about your image, reject the rejection, and ask!

And don’t just be a taker. Earn the right to ask by being a giver. Whatever you put out into the world will return multiplied.

10. Take Action!

The great succeed by taking continuous and concerted action toward a singular objective, and they continue to take unrelenting, consistent action for years before becoming “overnight successes.”

If you do just five new things every day towards achieving your biggest dream, you will one day be living your dream and, as Thoreau put it, “meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

In one of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, a successful banker, Andy Dufresne, is sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder he didn’t commit. For nineteen years Dufresne quietly chips away at his goal—literally—quietly picking at his wall with a tiny hammer, until one night he finally breaks through and escapes.

As his jail buddy, Red, comments, “All it took was pressure and time.”

According to the Internet Movie Database (, The Shawshank Redemption is the second most popular movie of all time. What is it about this film that touches such a chord? I think it’s because many people feel like they’re living in a prison, living out a life sentence doing work they hate. They want freedom—and Shawshank delivers it, even if only for fleeting moments.

The great thing about Shawshank is that it provides a universal solution. By quietly chipping away at your singular goal, consistently taking action every day, you will achieve the success and freedom you have been longing for. All it takes is focus, plus “pressure and time.”

SHARIF KHAN is a motivational speaker,
coach and author of
Psychology of the Hero Soul.