The Formula that Puts You in Control of Success

What prevents you from achieving the success you want?

Is it a lack of money, free time, or opportunities at work? Have you not achieved your goals because of the economy, what your business colleagues have done (or not done), or the lack of motivation among your employees? Perhaps you place the blame on how you were raised or on your family for not giving you the proper amount and type of support.

If you responded to my question with a laundry list of reasons why you aren’t where you want to be, you’re not alone. Most people automatically find excuses and blame others when things don’t work out the way they want. This seems to be particularly true in the United States, where many people buy into the myth that we are entitled to success and happiness – that someone else should be giving us what we want.

However, if unlimited success is your goal, looking outside of yourself is a strategic error. The most important lesson you must understand that you are 100 percent responsible for your life – the good and the bad.

The formula I like to use to explain this concept is:

E + R = O 
(Events + Responses = Outcome)

The basic idea is that every outcome you experience in life (whether it's success or failure, wealth or poverty, wellness or illness, intimacy or estrangement, joy or frustration) is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event in your life. Likewise, if you want to change the results you get in the future, you must change how you respond to events in your life … starting today.

What Most People Do

When people don’t like the outcomes they are experiencing, most choose to blame the event (E) for their lack of results (O).

In other words, you can blame the economy, the weather, the lack of money, lack of education, racism, gender bias, the current administration in Washington, your wife or husband, your boss's attitude, the lack of support, and so on. If you're a golfer, you've probably even blamed your clubs or the course you’ve played on – but never yourself. This is what most people do.

It’s true that these factors exist and that they impact you. However, if they were the deciding factor in whether someone succeeded or not, nobody would ever succeed. For every reason it's not possible, there are hundreds of people who have faced the same circumstances and succeeded.

The deciding factor in success is not the external conditions and circumstances. It's how you choose to respond (R).

We think limiting thoughts and engage in self-defeating behaviors. We defend our self-destructive habits (such as drinking and smoking) with indefensible logic.

We ignore useful feedback, fail to continuously educate ourselves and learn new skills, waste time on the trivial aspects of our lives, engage in idle gossip, eat unhealthy food, fail to exercise, spend more than we make, fail to tell the truth, don't ask for what we want, and then wonder why our lives aren't working. 

What Successful People Do

Successful people take a different approach to events. They simply change their responses (R) to the events (E) until they get the outcomes (O) they want.

You can change your thinking, change your communication, change the pictures you hold in your head (your images of the world) and you can change your behavior (the things you do). That's all you really have control over anyway.

Unfortunately, most of us are being run by our habits. We get stuck in conditioned responses to our spouses and children, to our work colleagues, to our customers and our clients, to our students, and to the world at large.

You have to gain control of your thoughts, your images, your dreams, daydreams, and your behavior. Everything you think, say, and do need to become intentional and aligned with your purpose, your values, and your goals.

If you don't like your outcomes, change your responses.

The Formula in Action

You don’t have to look far to find examples of how this works: consider the economy.

When the Gulf War broke out, a friend of mine who owns a Lexus dealership in Southern California turned to this formula to guide him through the resulting impact on the economy. People stopped coming in to buy Lexuses, so he knew that his normal response (R) of running newspaper and radio ads wouldn’t be good enough to keep his business afloat. The outcome (O) he was experiencing was a steady decrease of visitors to his showroom, as well as sales.

So they tried a number of new things. Some didn’t work; some did. One of the strategies that worked was driving a fleet of new cars to where the rich people were – the country clubs, the marinas, polo grounds, parties in Beverly Hills and Westlake Village – and inviting them to take a test drive.

Have you ever test-driven a new car and then gotten back into your old car? Suddenly your old car wasn’t good enough – you wanted the new car! The same thing happened for the people who took a Lexus for a spin, and many bought or leased a new car.

By changing their response (R) to an unexpected event (E) – the war -- the dealership eventually got the outcome (O) they wanted … increased sales. In fact, they ended up selling more new cars per week than before the war broke out.

If we all experience the same event, the outcome you get will be totally dependent upon your response to the situation.

Carefully choose how you respond to events – how you choose to interpret events, how you choose to think about and talk about what happened, how you choose to act -- If you want to achieve better outcomes. Remember, you control your destiny … so make it a fantastic one!

Related article:

The 5 Habits of Successful People

How to Meditate for Clarity, Intuition, and Guidance


You can, as long as you include this complete statement with it: Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul®and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at:

  • Stephen G Kimani


    I have already started implementing the big picture''success'' bit by bit. Jack, I really appreciate your contributions toward better tomorrow.I like the way you simplify the complex issue with more clarity,understandability,practicability and vividness to the objectivity.

    • Alfred kirimih

      Thanks Jack, have learnt a new thing. E+R=O

  • Debi Sullivan

    Thank you Jack - I am new to this path and love the guide post you place along the way!

  • Juri Saito

    Thanks for giving me a good coach.I am ready to take action now.You cheer me up!

  • Sreeraj


    Thank you so much for the session in Bahrain.
    It was amazing.

  • Always important to understand the source of your conditions. It is, has been and always will be you. Your challenge in life is to make yourself the best person you can be !!!!

  • Hi Jack,
    Thank's for this nice post. I'm a new beginner to learning this path. Success for you and all people.

  • Janet

    I've been a fan and subscriber of yours for many years now and in my 20+ years of sales training and hours of learning from the best, your equation E+O is by far the one single concept that has had the largest impact on my life. Thank you!!!

  • E + R = O 
(Events + Responses = Outcome)
    Event: 22 February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake which destroyed my city, including my parent's business who I was working for.
    Response: To use this as a catalyst to take action on my dreams.
    Outcome: Two published books on the Christchurch Earthquake - one creating a legacy about what we'd lost, the other acknowledging the rescuers who came to help us (the survivors) and both providing some financial assistance to the seriously injured survivors.

    At the time of the Christchurch Earthquake I was being coached by Jack Canfield Coaching. The Event was overwhelming, the Success Principles seemed 'hollow' in light of the nightmare I was part of. I really thought about 'giving up' my dream to finish the book I was working on. But I knew it was my Response which would eventually determine the Outcome, and so I trusted my coach, Lisa, and continued practicing the principles and doing my best to work on my book. Two years later I am now living my dreams - even though there are many external challenges that still exist from those first hellish days of the earthquakes.

    My advice to anyone reading this who is struggling - Even if your situation feels bleak and overwhelming, just trust the words and stories that your coaches, mentors and supporters tell you. Keep taking action, respond as positively as you are able, and one day you will see with clarity that the outcome can be what you desire it to be.

    Thank you, Lisa and Jack for being there for me when I needed you most.

    Warmest wishes from Christchurch, New Zealand


    • Joanne

      thanks Deb...................

    • Adrian

      Great example of "E + R = O"! Thanks for sharing, Deb!! 🙂

    • Jenny Leyva de Loryn

      Hi Deb, I'm helping people with E+R= O do you mind if I share your story please? Of course I' happy to say this is from you. 🙂 thanks in advance.

  • Chubby

    Wow, that Lexus guy is an awesome example, Jack!

    Many people choose to be a victim - they blame others, they act like they're the victim. So powerless. By being responsible (such as changing how we respond to an event) is the key to success!

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  • Kathleen McKay

    I want to thank you Jack for permitting us to use your articles. That's fantastic as I can't relay this information any better than you do and it's really important that people can learn these thins from you. A huge helping of gratitude from me to you, thank you. x

  • Joanne

    hi, i have done your coaching for yr, very $$, and (read your book many times).still stuck. I do your affirmations, grateful journal, called J.C. hotline, but....i found it didnt really help me change my actions. (sorry to say, but honest). Read all your articles, FB, etc. But, i found focusing on 'law of attraction' and more Bryon Katie helped, and the many parts of us, that need to be kept in check. I find your book is great for those 'who are clear'. But...doesnt help those 'who are not clear'. Bob Doyles book (find your passion,purpose) was helpful. But.....its not just E+R=O. its what is the resistance? what helps with clarity? what are ways (besides meditation, journaling, gratitude journal, affirmations) that help ? I struggle with this for years.......How do we get to the bottom of resistance? .......any new suggestions would be lovely. thank you........ resistance has a very strong hold...........but I will not give up! 🙂
    from Boston

    • Erin Lopes

      Hi Joanne... I can garantee you, that this whole "law of attraction" thing is a total BS.
      I've read the book more than a 100 times (really) and I got into that state of total belief and expectation, I felt it was mine already, I had visualized, over and over, for a whole year... it turns out that all of this wasn't true.
      I guess it's plain solid luck/coincidence that makes some people think that "the secret" had helped them! I am sorry!

      • David McGrath

        You may enjoy the book called "Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance" by Jonathan Fields. This book may help you overcome being short circuited in something you wish to pursue.

        Topics that were thought provoking: Social creation, eliminating criticism and the "fear of judgement" by "leaning into uncertainty". Fields provides practical solutions when you experience "resistance" andor thoughts of a "going to zero scenario"

    • David McGrath

      You may enjoy the following book: "The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles." by Steven Pressfield

      My favorite quote is: "We never tell ourselves that we aren't going to write our symphony, we just tell ourselves that we are going to start tomorrow"

  • cynthia

    This is a great reminder to always think outside the box. I love the Lexus story. Someone asked me at a dinner recently: how do you teach people to think outside the box? I had to think about it for a sec, and then it dawned on me: boredom. When you allow yourself to really feel boredom with how things are going, you will look outside that old tired cardboard comfort zone and think of something new--or consult someone who can help you find that new thing!

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  • dvgibsonseven

    I agree that E + R = O but I think it is 50% + 50% = 100%. Here is a scenario. Please tell me what my reaction should have been. My 5th grader is on a school volleyball team. They have two games scheduled for this team. My daughter was sick for the first game day. The second game day she was to play at 4:30pm in a town 40 miles from the town I work, which is another 20 miles from where we live. My husband left his work at 3pm, drove 20 miles, picked me up at 3:30 and we arrived at the game site at 4:15. Turns out our school/coach had the wrong game time and it actually was suppose to start at 3:30. To make matters worse, the 6th grade team was to play a game also, but the school we were visiting only allowed one hour for both games. Under the circumstances, the coach decided to play three sets, the first set she played 5th graders, the second set she played 6th graders and then she tried to mix the last set with everyone. She did the best she could. When we arrived, our daughter had already played in the first set and the second set with the 6th graders was starting. I was instantly pissed but didn't make a scene. Was I to just brush it off and say, no big deal, 5th grade volleyball doesn't matter anyway or tell her I hoped she played well and had fun and wish I could have seen her play but maybe next year? These are not very good responses to my child. Parents kept arriving after us thinking they would be watching their kids play, also. So, what should have my reaction been? Why is your response better than mine. If there is a best case scenario response to a situation like this, then instead of reacting, are we not just giving a canned response?

    • Tuckybuck

      You should feel blessed you got to see her play a little bit in the last set. Some people died just driving to work today or found out they have cancer, your "event" wasn't that bad. If she's only in 5th grade, there are plenty of more games to come. Before long, you won't remember anything about 5th grade volleyball I promise. How you react in those situations will stay with your daughter for a lifetime though.

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