Yesterday, we discussed the desire to avoid failure in training.
Today, let's talk about how to go about succeeding. These are the "best practices" for ensuring success that I have seen.
Write It Down - Track your workouts. Put them into your phone, write them in a tablet (my current choice), visualize them in your head and write them down (I did this successfully for years, and still do for some workouts), whatever - but get them written down.
Work Hard - Put real effort and real attention into what you are doing. Be in the moment and make it count.
Aim For Small But Real Improvement - Try to add just one more rep to those sets you do for maximum reps. Just 5 more pounds (or even less, for dumbbells.) Try to get in just another tenth of a mile before time clicks off. Then do that again. Don't aim too high, but challenge yourself to get slight improvements in something as often as you can.
Improve Before You Change - Don't change up your workout before you've seen improvement on the current program. Ignore the much-repeated idea of "muscle confusion." It's highly outdone by "consistent progression" - for all you gain by switching up your exercises, your sets and reps, your rest periods, etc. you lose out on the benefits of just adding a little more weight to the bar, or another rep to the set, or shortening the time it takes to complete the run or the circuit.
Milk your workouts for all they are worth.
Quality Before Quantity - the goal isn't the lift the most weight, it's to go through a proper movement with resistance. Make sure you're doing the movements correctly, and then load them up to the limit of what you can do correctly. A quality squat at bodyweight is more productive and less prone to injuring you than a bad one with a heavy bar on your back. Make sure you're doing it right before you load it up.
Related to this is this one: Learn, Learn, Learn - You can't turn your brain off when you exercise. Learn how to foam roll, how to squat, how to kettlebell swing, how to bench, how to deadlift, etc. - put the effort in and learn. You won't regret knowledge, but you may pay for ignorance.
All of these things will make it easier to succeed, and will reinforce your success and make it easier to succeed the next time. Every once in a while you can push to something that will crush you, but crushing yourself isn't the point - the point is steady, healthy, injury-free improvements. Those will make you better and better. Crushing yourself shows you your limits; finding success points and exploiting them raises your limits.