• Learn from the past.
  • Apply lessons in the present.
  • Create a better future by looking six, 12, 18 months ahead.

The above seems like a good formula for success—a no-brainer, really—whether you’re talking strategic marketing, engineering a project, building better relationships, or simply living a more balanced life. You’d be surprised, though, how many people falter somewhere along the way, often acting as the biggest obstacles to their own success. What might seem so easy, so self-evident, isn’t always the case.

So, courtesy of the King Monkey, here are some “points to ponder” when you feel like you’re getting sidetracked from achieving your desired results:

Beware fretting over the past. Learn from your past mistakes, but don’t be ruled by them. Failure is not always a bad thing. When you “Fail fast,” you expose fatal flaws in designs, concepts, and ideas. As a result, you come back hungrier than ever for success, primed with newfound knowledge of what worked and what didn’t. For example, smart monkeys learn that if dismounting from a specific branch gave them splinters in the past, they shouldn’t leap from that same branch again. They apply “lessons learned” and simply find a splinter-free branch next time. Likewise, if you failed at something in the past—for example, an advertising venue didn’t net the traffic you expected—that shouldn’t cause you to swear off advertising. It just means next time you’ll know to do something different, such as craft a new message, choose an alternate venue, or target a different audience.

Similarly, relish past success, but don’t rest on your laurels. Savor your victories, big or small. They’re what keep you going and motivate you to achieve more. But after a big win, avoid the temptation of thinking, “There I made it. I don’t need to do anymore.” Sure, depending on the circumstances, you might need a second wind—a bit of a break either physically, emotionally, or financially—but it should be only a short breather before you get back in the saddle. Contrary to the thinking of some, you have to make success—it doesn’t just show up for you one day.

Don’t be overwhelmed by future fears. Don’t sit around worrying “What happens if I fail?” or “What happens if I succeed?” Be cognizant of future possibilities, but not deterred by them. Without trying, there is no achieving.

Don’t try to reach your goals all at once. Sometimes just thinking about all the steps necessary to get to your destination can be daunting. It’s like trying to solve a complex algebra problem without going through all the necessary math steps first. Achieve your goals one step at a time, building momentum along the way. It’s what good strategists and tacticians do. If you try to do it all at once, I guarantee you’ll get overwhelmed. A little adrenaline is a good thing, but constant adrenaline rushes from always being under the gun or living on the edge can leave you burned out and discouraged. Case in point: smart monkeys don’t eat bananas in one big gulp—they take them one bite at a time. You should too. Like they say, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Let’s recap: the keys to being a good, strategic, results-driven marketer—heck, the keys to being a good, strategic anythingare to live in the present, apply lessons from the past, and steer toward your desired future six, 12, 18 months from now. Try it. Add a bit of proactive planning to your tool kit. Chances are you’ll reap instant rewards at home and at work . . . and it’ll help keep you sane!

How do you keep moving forward, in good times and bad? Share your ideas here.