The path to success is jam-packed with common calls to action like not fearing failure, conquering procrastination, believing in yourself, staying focused, and not always waiting for the “right” time or for permission.
But sometimes it’s what we can’t see as clearly that clarifies our way forward.
Combining what I learned from many interviews on success drivers (conducted for my books and keynotes) with thirty years of experience creating and coaching success, I’ve identified eight less-than-obvious mental traps we fall into. These sneaky mental habits quietly derail us from accomplishing the things we set out to achieve. My goal is that awareness spurs avoidance.
1. Failing to see how successful you already are.
Just to blow your mind, what if I told you that the success you seek has already been largely accomplished? At a minimum, you’re likely more successful than you think. I discovered this in interviews when exploring what I call “The Happiness Equation.” The formula says: happiness = reality minus expectations. Greater happiness comes when what happens in reality exceeds what you were expecting to happen. To stay with the equation analogy, to increase happiness then means to either lower your expectations (not recommended) or to increase reality.
What astounded me was how many people were underestimating their reality, and how good their situation already was. Same with the pursuit of success; we’re often far more successful than we think we are, and pulling on a sense of gratitude helps clarify that. Gratitude is the core of inner strength, and inner strength leads to outer success.
2. The fallacy of others.
It’s easy to assume that becoming wildly successful is what other people do. It’s not about your lack of confidence or fear of failure or belief that you won’t put in the hard work, it’s just an assumption, taken as fact, that becomes belief. “There’s a different stratosphere of success that I’ll never know, that’s just how it is”, you might tell yourself without emotion.
Then, over time, you unwittingly and “rationally” lower your standards for the level of success within your grasp. I suspect, however, that very few people who reached great heights of success started out being presumptive about boundaries.
3. Not spending enough time on the problem.
This flies in the face of what you usually hear: don’t obsess over an issue or be a perfectionist, don’t keep putting off getting started. Agree, but my experience shows me people often don’t overcome a problem to achieve success because they haven’t spent enough time clearly defining the problem. A problem well understood is one well-solved, and the desire to “just get on with it” can lead to wasted time, effort, and delayed (or never realized) success.
4. Unknowingly adopting others’ definition of success.
This happens when you listen to everyone but yourself. Over time you unwittingly take on a composite view of success that’s derived from what others say it is, adopting it as your own goal. But the problem is, your heart just won’t be into the pursuit as much, causing even that artificial success to elude you.
5. Materialism versus magnetism is your motivator.
There’s nothing wrong with pursuing a materialistic view of success: more money, greater status, notoriety. The problem lies when the pursuit of such things becomes the sole (or even primary) motivator. The attraction to these things will decline as you get older, guaranteed.
What draws you to success must be sustaining, or magnetic in a way that you’re deeply compelled to achieve it. Setting goals grounded in your sense of purpose, why you’re on this planet, to achieve what for what higher order, others-oriented reason, is what truly draws you towards success, and a more meaningful definition thereof at that.
6. Too many “What if’s”, not enough “How’s.”
When you keep asking yourself “What if” questions, it produces a wishbone; if this, then that or that. You spend too much time caught in if/then scenarios when you should be deep in the “how.” The “how” line of self-questioning changes everything. It’s a more direct route to success. It assumes you’ll get there, it’s just a matter of, well, how.
7. Selective amnesia.
We tend to forget obstacles we’ve overcome in the past that helped us succeed, instead getting hung up in the setbacks we’re currently facing and constantly reliving the pain they’re causing. Let the past help move you forward to success.
8. Not investing enough in karma.
If you invest some of your energy and effort into helping others succeed, karma has a way of paying you back by introducing you to connections and opportunities that will help you right back.
Awareness nets avoidance. Now you know, so know greater success.
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