The Success Principles by Jack Canfield: Key Ideas

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

What is The Success Principles by Jack Canfield about? What are the major themes and lessons in the book?

In The Success Principles, Jack Canfield details 67 principles to help anyone achieve their goals and dreams. The basic formula for success is to identify what you want, know that you deserve to have it, and use the book’s principles to get you there.

Below is a brief overview of The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. We combined and reorganized the principles by theme for clarity and coherence.

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

Jack Canfield struck gold as a co-author of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, but it took him years to achieve success.

Key Takeaways: Believe you can get what you want, work to get it, and take responsibility for your life.

Top Principle: Principles 1, 30—Take Responsibility for Your Life: Accept that your life circumstances are within your control, and operate with this formula: Event + Response = Outcome. An Event is something that happens in your life; your Response is how you choose to respond to the event; the Outcome is the result of how you choose to respond. If you’re frequently dealing with the same event but don’t like the outcome you’re getting, adjust your response until you get the outcome you’d like. 

For example, if you hate your job, you may blame your boss. But you accepted that job and chose to stay in it, even if it’s keeping you from doing work you’re more passionate about. Instead of blaming your boss, get what you need to make the job worthwhile, or make a change. For example, ask that you not be expected to work weekends, or ask for a raise that’s long overdue.

Principles 2-3—Identify Your Life’s Purpose and What You Want: When you know your life’s purpose, you can tailor your actions to support that purpose. In contrast, if you don’t feel a sense of purpose, it’s easy to go aimlessly through life without feeling as though you’re achieving anything worthwhile or meaningful. Principles 4-6—Believe in Yourself and Your Dreams: Science has shown that what happens in our lives tends to follow what we think will happen, or what we’ve been conditioned to think will happen. So, to achieve what you want in life, believe it will happen, believe you can do it, and don’t be deterred by conventional wisdom that says otherwise.

Principles 7, 8, 11, 23—Set Goals: Goal-setting helps you develop new skills, grow as a person, and do things that scare you but are good for you. Write goals with plenty of detail, interact with them daily, break them into steps, and work on those steps every day.

Principle 10—Expand Your Comfort Zone: As we grow up, we often let limiting thoughts about ourselves and our abilities guide how we live our lives. Writing affirmations is a great tool to envision your ideal reality and motivate yourself to leave your comfort zone to achieve it.

Part 2: Act With Intention | Principles 12-16

Key Takeaways: Achieving success requires taking action. Learn to forge ahead, even in the face of challenges and fear.

Top Principle: Principles 15-16—Face Your Fears, and Do the Work: Though everyone has fears, successful people learn to feel their fears and do the work anyway. They also recognize that reaching their goals isn’t just going to happen—they have to be willing to do what’s necessary, which often requires sacrifice. Train yourself to set your fear aside by reframing it, focusing on positive imagery, and focusing on positive feelings. To do the work, evaluate your plan of action, assess whether your steps are sufficient, and be willing to practice and fail until you can do the work well.

Principle 12—Act Like You’ve Made It: Acting as though you’ve already achieved your dream activates the Law of Attraction: You start attracting and recognizing the people and opportunities that could help you reach your goals. To start acting like you’ve made it, think about how your life would be different, including what you’d feel, think, talk about, and wear.

Principles 13-14—Push Yourself to Act: Even when you have a plan of action, you may make excuses that prevent you from following it, such as waiting for the right time to start. Identify your main excuse for waiting and address it so you can get to work.

Part 3: Use Feedback to Your Advantage | Principles 17-21

Key Takeaways: To be successful, communicate your needs and wants to others, and ask others for feedback on your performance to continuously improve yourself.

Top Principle: Principle 19—Seek Out and Use Feedback: Feedback is a useful tool to achieve your goals because it can help you tell when you’re getting off track and need to correct your course. Though you may be afraid of what you’ll hear, the benefits outweigh the downsides. 

People are often afraid to give feedback because they don’t want you to react in a negative way. To benefit from feedback, learn to ask for it and accept it graciously. Here are two questions to ask:

  • In what ways do you see me holding myself back?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate (BLANK)? This question can be used in any number of personal or professional situations. Often, the person will have specific ideas of things you can do to improve your relationship. For example, Canfield asks his wife and coworkers this question weekly, seeking continuous improvement.

Principles 17-18—Ask for What You Need and Want: Learning how to ask for what you need and want, even when you’re afraid of the answer, can help you reach your goals. To ask for what you want, use clear language, assume what you’re asking for is possible, and if you’re rejected, try again another time.

Principles 20-21—Always Strive to Improve: Working to improve yourself and become successful means that you don’t stop once you’ve achieved one goal—it means you’re constantly working on improving yourself or your work, and you recognize that even slight improvements can make a big difference. To keep improving, plan what you’re going to improve on and develop a scoring system to track your progress and motivate you to hit your targets.

Part 4: Prime Yourself for Success | Principles 25-29, 31-37

Key Takeaways: To achieve success, find people who can support you in your endeavors. Also, develop new ways of thinking about yourself and your efforts.

Top Principle: Principle 26—Appreciate Your Successes: It’s common to focus more on our failures than our successes. We tend to take even small successes for granted. But over time, this can diminish your self-esteem and make you less likely to take risks. For example, maybe you see a job posting for a customer engagement associate with a local software company. You’re relatively qualified for the job, but you talk yourself out of applying because you’ve never held a similar role. Instead of letting poor self-esteem erode your confidence, actively work to celebrate your success, and use it as a tool to persevere in times of doubt or difficulty.

To boost your self-esteem and remind yourself of your successes, do activities such as writing down 100 times when you were successful, or surround yourself with symbols of your success, such as diplomas and certificates.

Principles 25—Surround Yourself With Nurturing, Successful People: If you spend a lot of time with people who stress you out, aren’t successful, or aren’t supportive, you’re less likely to succeed. Aim to spend time with people who uplift you, support and nurture your dreams, have a positive attitude, and are successful.

Principle 27—Improve Your Bedtime Routine: How you reflect on your day has a huge impact on what you learn and how you approach the next day. Use the last 45 minutes of your day to ask yourself how the day went, and visualize your success the following day.

Principle 28—Finish Your Projects and Declutter Your Life: The more unfinished tasks and clutter you have on hand, the more time you spend thinking about them when you could be putting that energy toward achieving your goals. Make a plan to systematically finish your unfinished projects and get rid of clutter.

Principle 29—Resolve Past Hurts: When you experience something painful but don’t process it, it diminishes your ability to take on future challenges. Learning to forgive can help you overcome your fears through fully expressing your emotions.

Principle 31—Welcome Change: The world is constantly changing, from new technologies to the economy. Learn to welcome change by reflecting on a time change made your life easier and training yourself to anticipate change with excitement rather than fear.

Principles 32-33—Practice Positive Self-Talk: Negative thoughts about yourself can make you feel powerless, unmotivated, and weak. Deal with negative thoughts by resolving to listen only to constructive feedback, expressing your grievances with yourself in a gentle way, and asking yourself what to do differently.

Principles 34-35—Master Four Success Habits Per Year: Studies suggest it takes 13 weeks, or a quarter of a year, to develop a new habit. Identify which four habits or behaviors would be useful to your personal and professional success, and work on them, one at a time, over the course of a year.

Principles 36-37—Learn Throughout Your Life: Learning throughout your life is key to being successful and adapting to changing times. To make time to learn, watch less television and read more, listen to inspirational audio programs, attend success rallies or conferences, and help your employees develop new skills throughout their careers.

Part 5: Grow Your Professional Skills and Network | Principles 38-47

Key Takeaways: Being a successful leader means taking steps to improve your leadership skills, growing your professional network, and focusing your time on the work you do best.

Top Principle: Principles 38-41—Focus on Your “Core Genius”: Passion and enthusiasm can drive you to do your best work and achieve success. Successful people turn their passion and their core genius—what they do best—into their business. 

To align your work with your passion and core genius, first determine what each of these is. To identify your passion, ask yourself:

  • Do I love my work? If I don’t love my work, what would I rather be doing? Would it be lucrative?
  • Which activities outside of work make me feel the most connected to other people and myself? 
  • What am I doing and why do I like it? Pinpoint specific qualities or characteristics that you like about the work you enjoy. For example, maybe you enjoy coordinating social activities for your coworkers because you value creating cohesion in a fun environment. 

To identify and align your work with your core genius, follow these three steps:

  1. List all the business activities that occupy your time. Include small tasks, like photocopying, up through big tasks, like giving presentations.
  2. From the list, identify several activities that represent your core genius—those you’re especially good at that use your unique talents.
  3. Identify one to three activities from the list that generate the most income for your company. Make a plan to focus 80 percent of your time on the activities that require your unique talents and generate the most money. Delegate other tasks.

Principle 42—Align Your Time With Your Values: From the workplace to home, our lives are filled with distractions that prevent us from spending time on what’s important to us. Learning to say no to distractions and mediocre business opportunities positions you to achieve your goals and dreams.

Principle 43—Cultivate Your Leadership Skills: Successful people are often leaders in their field because achieving their vision or goals required motivating, recruiting, and leading groups of people to action. Leaders know how to:

  • Clearly and compellingly communicate their vision
  • Learn from listening to their employees
  • Practice gratitude
  • Coach others to be leaders and solve problems
  • Hold their employees and themselves accountable for their work

Principles 44-45—Network and Find Mentors and Coaches: To be successful in your life and career, cultivate a network of people whom you can call on for advice and do business with. Meet regularly with a mentor who is successful in your field, and form a professional network to open doors to new career opportunities such as new clients, business partners, and jobs.

Principle 46—Convene a Mastermind Group and Choose an Accountability Partner: Professionals in and outside of your field can offer insight and encouragement that helps you achieve your personal and professional goals. Form a mastermind group of five or six people who convene regularly—weekly to monthly—to confidentially help each other navigate challenges and reach their professional or personal goals. You can also pair up with an accountability partner and hold each other accountable for getting your work done, meeting deadlines, and reaching goals.

Principle 47—Consult Your Intuition: When confronted with a challenge, many people know how to seek outside help, but few have learned how to access their inner wisdom or intuition to overcome a challenge. Learn to tap into your intuition at will by asking yourself questions, meditating, and calming your emotions so that you can focus on solutions.

Part 6: Cultivate Successful Relationships | Principles 48-55

Key Takeaways: Successful relationships require a suite of skills, including showing appreciation for others, learning to listen and ask questions in a way that helps people feel heard, and following through on your commitments.

Top Principle: Principle 53—Show Your Appreciation: In personal and work relationships, showing your appreciation helps others feel affirmed and valued. Yet we may hesitate to show appreciation or not show it in the way the other person prefers. Becoming familiar with the five “love languages” can help you show appreciation to people in the way that suits them. This principle can also be used to recognize your employees. Here’s how it works: People have a preferred “language” or way of receiving appreciation, as well as a secondary way. If you show your appreciation with a love language that doesn’t register with someone, it won’t have the same impact as their preferred language.

The five love languages are receiving gifts, benefiting from a service, touch, kind and encouraging words, and quality time. You can discern someone’s love language by listening to what they ask of you, watching how they behave with others, and noting their complaints, all of which can reveal how they would like to be appreciated.

Principle 48—Hone Your Listening Skills: Active listening is an important skill to facilitate communication and ingratiate yourself with others. Active listening includes observing body language, showing your attention with your own body language, considering the message underlying what the person is saying, and asking clarifying questions.

Principle 49—Host “Heart Talks”: Most of our institutions are structured around telling people what to do rather than listening to what they have to say. To remedy this, create space for discussions, or “Heart Talks,” where people can share their concerns, wishes, and dreams so they feel heard and can put forth their best effort.

Principles 50-51—Speak as if Words Have Power, and Tell the Truth: Your words—spoken and unspoken—have a powerful effect on you and those around you, yet we don’t often think about this power. To become successful, be conscientious in how you use words, and strive to tell the truth.

Principle 52—Ask Questions to Learn the Truth: It’s common to make up negative “stories” to interpret a situation rather than asking questions to learn the truth. Instead, ask questions to find out what’s going on instead of letting negative interpretations affect your emotions and guide your actions.

Principle 54—Rethink Your Agreements: Making agreements and delivering on them is an important skill, yet we sometimes hit roadblocks and fail to deliver. Commit to only what you can deliver on, and record your commitments so you don’t forget them.

Principle 55—Act With Class: Acting with class can help you distinguish yourself from others. This includes accepting responsibility for your actions and results, enriching yourself and those around you, and maintaining grace, even under difficult circumstances.

Part 7: Cultivate Your Financial Success | Principles 56-62

Key Takeaways: Financial success involves growing your wealth and giving back to the people, charities, and institutions you care about. 

Top Principle: Principle 57—Choose to Be Wealthy: To become wealthy, choose to become wealthy. First, understand your finances by reading to develop financial literacy, calculating your net worth and how much money you need for retirement, and tracking your spending. Then, decide what being wealthy means to you and create goals to reach it. For instance, make a table of everything you’ll spend money on when you’re wealthy and calculate how much you’d need to earn per year to support that spending.

Principle 56—Develop Positive Thinking Habits About Money: Making enough money to enjoy the lifestyle you want can help you feel successful, but it’s easy to let limiting beliefs about money get in the way. For instance, if your parents told you growing up that rich people are evil, you might hold back from taking steps to reach your preferred level of wealth. Address limiting beliefs about money, and use techniques like visualization and writing affirmations to cultivate positive thinking around money and how you’ll use it.

Principle 58—Save and Invest Your Money: Saving for retirement helps you reach financial independence—not having to work for money—but many people don’t know how to effectively save. Plan to save at least 10 percent of your income and start investing early so that compound interest can grow your wealth over time.

Principle 59—Spend Consciously: Conscious spending means two things: You spend only the money you have, and do what you want while spending little. To spend consciously, work to pay off your debts, pay in cash instead of relying on credit, avoid paying full price, and consider options apart from loans to fund education.

Principle 60—Increase Your Income: Increasing your income allows you to save enough money for retirement while buying what you’d like in the present. Strategies to earn more money include helping your company earn more money and receiving a cut, and participating in a network marketing business.

Principle 61—Donate Your Money and Time: Though growing your wealth is a worthy goal, so is sharing it to make the world a better place. Share your wealth through tithing—giving money or volunteering your time—to spiritual institutions or philanthropic organizations you care about.

Principle 62—Serve Others: Serving others enriches your life while making the world a better place. Serve others by volunteering or focusing your company’s products or services on helping others.

Part 8: Make the Most of Technology | Principles 63-67

Key Takeaways: There are many technologies available today that you can use to advance your career and achieve your goals.

Top Principle: Principles 64-65—Develop Your Online Brand: Successful people understand how their online presence, or brand, affects their entrepreneurial or philanthropic endeavors. They actively cultivate a brand that frames them as an authority worth listening to. Cultivate your brand with the following four steps:

  1. Develop your online footprint. Know what you want to do and use technology to help you achieve it. This includes creating a website and a blog, identifying your audience, and using social media to share information with followers.
  2. Create content and behave in a way that aligns with your brand. This includes participating in online spaces, sharing your passion, and helping others learn.
  3. Use social media effectively. Use LinkedIn to network virtually with other professionals and Facebook to connect with customers and followers.
  4. Clean up your online persona. Sometimes negative information about you can surface online, from unprofessional photos to stories about a falling-out with a business partner. Manage your online reputation, or get professional help doing so.

Principle 63—Learn What Technology You Need, and Use It: Technology can make your life easier, but adopt only the technology that helps you succeed. Learn how to use technology wisely and limit consuming information that doesn’t help you achieve your goals.

Principle 66-67—Crowdfund and Crowdsource Your Endeavors: Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing can help you fund and support your endeavors when traditional financing isn’t an option. To effectively crowdfund, use video to tell your story, encourage donations, reward donors, and reassure people you can finish the job.

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield: Key Ideas

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jack Canfield's "The Success Principles" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Success Principles summary :

  • The 67 principles to help anyone achieve their goals and dreams
  • Why achieving your goals requires you to invest your time and effort
  • How to take responsibility for your own life

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.