Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Up, Down, or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times are Good, Bad or In-between by Mark Sanborn (Tyndale House Publishers, April 2011). 

Success isn’t just for the good times in your life. You can be a successful person no matter what changes you experience – even in the middle of the worst circumstances life may throw at you.

That’s because true success isn’t dependent on circumstances. Success is rooted in biblical principles that will help you maximize the upsides of life, mitigate the downsides, and succeed as much as you can all the time.

Here how you can succeed in any type of circumstances:

  • Learn how to interact successfully with forces that are larger than you. You don’t have any control over most of the circumstances that you’ll encounter in life, but you do have the power to choose how to respond to those circumstances. So instead of worrying about what life may throw your way, choose to trust God and follow His guidance come what may. During any type of circumstance, interact with waves of change to do everything possible to create the outcomes you desire.
  • Act on what you know. You’re constantly absorbing information, but how are you applying it to your life? It’s crucial to act on information that’s truly important, in order to live a successful life. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind regularly and help you think about information critically so you can recognize what’s most important. Determine what factors may be preventing you from putting the knowledge you gain to use in your life. Do you have some bad habits, such as procrastinating or making excuses when God is calling you to act on what you know? If so, pray for God’s help to overcome them, and work to replace bad habits with good ones. 
  • Change your success scoring system. How do you keep score of your life to determine whether or not you’re successful? Keep in mind that God’s perspective on success is the only one that really matters. So base your ideas about success on biblical principles. Be clear about what’s important to you, as well as why it’s important. Honestly count the costs (financially, relationally, and ethically) of pursuing your goals, and carefully consider how much time, energy, and money you’ll need to spend to achieve your goals. Then you can work toward a clear vision of success in which you truly believe, and evaluate your progress along the way.
  • Be an optimist. The difference between obstacles and opportunities is your outlook, and the best outlook to have to purse success is optimism. Be skeptical (but not cynical), asking questions to constantly learn. Choose reality over fantasy, not denying what’s happening in your life but instead choosing how you interact with your circumstances. Be fully informed, yet choose to focus on the good instead of the bad. Invite God to inspire you through whatever experiences you go through by giving you a fresh perspective on them. Look for the humor in every situation. Learn from your failures and keep pursuing opportunities to succeed.
  • Never stop learning. The more you take advantage of the constant stream of learning opportunities that God brings your way, the more success you’ll enjoy. So evaluate the information that you encounter each day (considering its source, what evidence supports it, how relevant it is to you, and how well it fits into your life), make investigation and inquiry a way of life, think critically and form your own opinions, adapt to the changing world around you, design your own ongoing education program, and schedule time often for disciplines that help you learn, such as praying, reading, participating in training, talking with others, and reflecting on what God has been teaching you lately.
  • Keep producing value. At work, your success depends on your ability to consistently create value in what you produce. Figure out what needs you can help meet while drawing on your unique, God-given blend of talents. Keep adapting to the changes around you so your work can stay relevant and valuable to people. Update your technical skills regularly so they stay current and valuable. Serve and encourage people whenever you can, because people will always value those qualities.
  • Take care of the relationships that matter. Invest your time and energy regularly into nurturing relationships that matter most in your life: relationships between you and God, and between you and the people who value you. Take advantage of all opportunities to express love for the people you’re close to, and also to serve them. Get to know what they really need, and put their needs ahead of your own.
  • Keep innovating. Never settle for maintaining the status quo in your life. In order to be successful in a competitive world where others are always trying to get better, you must do so, too. The best way to keep improving the value of what you produce is to constantly be innovative, trying new things and coming up with creative ways to help meet people’s needs and solve their problems. Make the value that you create distinctive in some way, aiming to stand out above the competition by offering something for more benefit, something better, something faster, something different, something for less cost, or something that’s more fun.
  • Build reserves. Prepare yourself to succeed during crises and other challenging circumstances by building financial, physical, psychological, and spiritual reserves into your life so you can draw on them when necessary. Financially, pay off debt and save money. Physically, eat a nutritious diet and get enough sleep and exercise. Psychologically, release stress when you can, and build networks of close relationships for mutual support and encouragement. Spiritually, draw close to Jesus through disciplines like prayer and Bible reading, so you can experience the peace He gives.
  • Practice gratitude. Be intentional about noticing your blessings every day, and thanking God for them. That habit will cast negative thinking out of your mind.
  • Embrace discipline. Make time to consistently act on your intentions. Figure out what your priorities should be, and base your schedule on them so you can get high-priority items done first. Modify your activities so that you’re focusing on what matters most. Eliminate bad habits that waste your time and energy.
  • Surround yourself with the right people at the right times. During good times, you need humility and perspective to succeed, so surround yourself with people who keep you grounded. During okay times, you need a boost to succeed, so surround yourself with people who challenge you to keep moving in the right direction. During bad times, you need hope to succeed, so surround yourself with people who lift your spirits.

Adapted from Up, Down, or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times are Good, Bad, or In-Between, copyright 2011 by Mark Sanborn. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Ill., www.tyndale.com.  

Mark Sanborn is the president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea lab for leadership development. LeadershipGurus.net lists Mark as one of the top 30 leadership experts in the world. In addition to his experience leading at a local and national level, he has written or coauthored eight books and is the author of more than two dozen videos and audio training programs on leadership, change, teamwork, and customer service. He has presented more than 2,400 speeches and seminars in every state and a dozen countries. Mark is a member of the prestigious Speakers Roundtable, 20 of the top speakers in the world today. Mark holds the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) from the National Speakers Association and is a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame (CPAE). Mark's book, The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary is an international bestseller. His latest books include You Don't Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference and The Encore Effect: How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do. Mark is a past president of the National Speakers Association and winner of The Cavett, the highest honor bestowed by that organization. In 2007 Mark was awarded The Ambassador of Free Enterprise Award by Sales & Marketing Executives International. He lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, with his wife, Darla, and sons, Hunter and Jackson. Visit his website at: http://www.marksanborn.com/.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles, at: http://angels.about.com/. Contact Whitney at: angels.guide@about.com to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.