You're Blocking Your Own Success — Here's How to Stop
Much has been written about the concept of success… oodles, in fact, all claiming to deliver the proverbial key that will help you get from here to there.
Proper planning is apparently crucial for example, as is unyielding determination. Setting goals that are measurable is also said to be important, as it allows you to monitor your progress and celebrate your milestones. (See also: Build on Your Strengths to Succeed)
And all of this is good, sound advice; so good, in fact, that I've given it myself on more than one occasion. But sometimes, even the best laid plans and the most dedicated dispositions have trouble standing up to the obstacles we ourselves create.
You heard me… sometimes, what keeps you from success is you — your beliefs, your fears, your inability to "go with the flow."
So, here's how to stop standing in your own way.
Let Go of Expectations
When we decided we wanted to move out of the city, we spent months looking for just the right house. The one we wanted — the one we thought was perfect — sat on three acres just twenty minutes outside of town.
We submitted an offer, the seller accepted, and we thought we had found our new home.
The Universe it seems didn't agree, because we encountered one obstacle after another. The roof would have to be replaced, the septic hadn't been properly installed, and, if you can believe it, our refrigerator was too big for the allotted space in the kitchen.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Physical repairs aside, our mortgage company suddenly got cold feet. They wanted more inspections. They didn't like the zoning. Our previously approved application now needed more employment history and bank statements.
We pushed and pushed to make the deal work but for every problem we solved, two more popped up in its place until we finally had to admit defeat. It was, I believed at the time, one of my biggest disappointments, ever.
Until the next day, that is, when we found the house we're living in now.
The roof and plumbing were all good, our refrigerator fit just fine, and we even had more land. Interestingly, there were no obstacles to buying this house, no delays, no roadblocks to our success. We submitted an offer and closed within 30 days.
And I've been "home" ever since.
The point is, we spend quite a bit of time deciding what we want, right down to the last detail. But sometimes, we need to let all those requirements go. Having such a rigid definition of success means that we're attached to a specific outcome. And if there's one constant in the Universe, it's that life is full of surprises. (See also: What Financial Success Means to You)
So, while you're working diligently toward a particular goal by following your detailed plan of action, you risk missing a whole host of other opportunities that might actually be better than what you had in mind.
Does this mean that you can't dream of a bigger salary or a flashy, red car or that perfect house in the country?
Absolutely not… but don't be so quick to dismiss it as a failure when things don't go as planned. Instead, take a step back and get a more objective point of view. You might find something new and wonderful waiting around the corner.
Let Go of Entitlement
And while we're talking about things we want, let's go one step further and talk about the things we're owed. Why? Because we're preoccupied with those things and it's keeping us from becoming all that we can be.
We went to college, therefore we should have a job. We worked hard, therefore we should get a raise. We tried our best, therefore our best should be good enough to get whatever it is we covet.
But sometimes, it isn't. We don't always win, and we won't always get what we want. The sooner we can come to grips with that fact, the sooner we can start to move forward.
Entitlement breeds anger. It fosters jealousy, contempt, and distrust. When we feel entitled, we also generally feel betrayed because we didn't get what was somehow rightfully ours. We got screwed… and someone, somewhere is to blame.
The result is the world as we see it now: people obsessed with an endless game of "mine" and paranoid about who might be plotting to usurp them. We'll quickly join forces with others we believe share our desire to protect those entitlements, but only insofar as their right to something doesn't interfere with our own.
In fact, if it comes down to a question of whose entitlement takes precedence, you can bet that the other guy is going to lose, and we become so consumed by what should be ours, that we lose sight of what could be ours.
Bottom line: You'll never have what you want if your life is built around what you don't.
Let Go of the Need for Approval
When I left high school, I did so with the belief that I needed to go out and find a job that would pay well and offer me opportunities for advancement.
I had this belief because that's what my mom did and that's what my counselors told me to do, and according to all my well-meaning relatives ready to offer advice, that's what I was supposed to do. (See also: Success Secrets You Should’ve Learned in High School)
And back then, I was all about gaining the approval of others.
As a result, I went into respectable fields like insurance and banking. I wore power suits every day, so others would take me seriously, and I had myself convinced that I'd find the happiness I was looking for once I had climbed that corporate ladder.
The funny thing is, my happiness wasn't on that ladder. I'm much happier now that I've permanently thrown away the pantyhose and started following a path that's more me, instead of doing what everyone else said I should do.
And you should try doing the same.
You have a choice. You've always had a choice. It's OK not to fit in. It's OK to follow your own path and see where it leads rather than arranging your life to fit someone else's concept of success.
Figure that out, and you'll find the adventure you're looking for. Figure that out, and you'll find happiness.
Let Go of the Past
Author Steve Maraboli once wrote, "Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny," and yet, as true as that is, letting go of the past is often one of the hardest things to do.
As a result, we come with a lot of baggage. All those skeletons in our closet, all those preconceived beliefs about how the world works and what we can expect from the future. That's the baggage we've accumulated over the years, and we're determined to carry it around with us, no matter how much it weighs us down.
The past holds all of our regrets, the things we didn't do and wish we had, the things we did do and wish we hadn't. It reminds us of our limitations, our shortcomings, and all the opportunities that we allowed to pass us by.
Of course, clinging to this pool of disappointments only serves to limit us further, by reinforcing the idea that we "can't" do something or that we're doomed to "bad luck," but we tote it around anyway because somewhere deep down inside, we're hoping to one day atone for those sins and perhaps even get a do-over. Eventually, however, we begin to build our reality around all of that baggage and it becomes our self-fulfilling prophecy. We can't because we believe we can't, and we believe we can't because we never have.
So, break the cycle.
Start by reminding yourself that the past does not define you or your future. You get to choose how you want to apply those lessons from the past to your current life and move on.
My favorite mantra — it is what it is — works perfectly here. You can't change what happened, but you can decide what you take from the experience and more importantly, how you want to go forward. Getting to this place of acceptance allows you to weigh the pros and cons, determine your best course of action, and get on with your life. That alone will make you feel loads better.
Perhaps that's the real mark of winning: acceptance. Taking the bad with the good, the happy as well as the sad and accepting it for what it is — life. It isn't perfect and it's not always easy. But it's yours.
And you can choose to make it whatever you want it to be.
Let Go of Fear
Much of my life as a freelance writer is spent creating copy for other people. I write blogs and ebooks, sales pages and emails, web copy, marketing copy, and everything else in between. I've created entire courses for my clients — from scratch — and then marketed them with great success, making my clients a nice chunk of change in the process.
You'd think then, wouldn't you, that I could do the same for me.
But funny story… when I try to create my own products and services, all my creative juices just magically disappear. Oh, I have tons of ideas, complete with outlines and marketing plans, but they sit in my office, incomplete and collecting dust.
And as much as I want to see them come to life, I have this sinking feeling that's where they'll stay.
Why don't I finish one of those babies and retire as a self-made entrepreneur? Simple. I'm afraid.
When I'm writing for someone else, when I'm brainstorming and marketing and analyzing, I have all the confidence in the world. I know my stuff, and I know that I know it.
But when I try to branch out on my own, something strange happens. That unwavering confidence fades and is replaced with a whole host of nagging little voices telling me to revise, rethink, and regroup.
I'm afraid of failing — and I'm afraid of succeeding. I'm afraid that people won't like what I write or someone will prove my idea wrong or, I don't know, that I'll make too much money and I won't know how to handle the taxes.
Which is why we need to let it go. Fear serves no purpose. It pins us down, it holds us back, but not because there's danger nearby. That kind of fear at least, would be useful, forcing us to proceed with caution lest we fall prey to something unfortunate or unsavory. (See also: Techniques to Conquer Any Fear)
But this kind of fear is different. This is the fear that keeps you from asking for a promotion. It stops you from speaking your mind, standing up against injustice, and saying hello to that cute guy or girl that lives down the hall.
This kind of fear doesn't keep you safe. No, this kind of fear causes you to act irrationally, miss opportunities, and settle for something less than the life you want to live.
This fear would have you believe that you don't deserve success, that you're not good enough, smart enough, strong enough to win, and that you'll never be anything more than you are now.
But don't you believe it. You do, you are, and you will.
Let Go of Negative Thinking
Now, despite all that fear I'm lugging around, I'm also an eternal optimist, and it is that trait that allows me to keep trying to create that first million-dollar idea.
Yes, I'm well aware that my fear may yet win out, and I might never achieve the goals that I've set. The minute I stop believing is the minute those possibilities disappear.
In other words, what you think — how you think — has much to do with your success.
Between feeling afraid of what might happen and feeling angry about what should have happened but didn't, there's a lot of negative thinking floating around out there, and it's quite likely that it's keeping you from where you want to go.
In his book, "The Biology of Belief," cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton writes at length about the profound effects that thought has on our physical being. According to Dr. Lipton, it is not DNA that controls our body; instead, our DNA is controlled by signals outside the cell, including the energy that emanates from our thoughts.
"There is no doubt that human beings have a great capacity for sticking to false beliefs with a great passion and tenacity," he writes. And if that passion for false beliefs can affect our DNA at a cellular level, then what do you suppose it can do to your ability to succeed?
So, shake the voice that says "you can't" and prove it wrong. You may not always get what you want. You might stumble, fall and fail more often than not, but you can always try again.
And again. And again. Because giving up is worse than facing all your fears.
Now, it's your turn to fess up. What's holding you back? What do you need to let go?