We all have our own version of success – those things we believe would help us build a career and life where we could really shine. The things that bring us joy and fulfillment.
Once our vision of success is clear, most of us are willing to work hard – really hard – to achieve it. But, all too often our progress gets stalled. We fall short of our goals or stumble along the way. Or perhaps, we get what we think we wanted only to find that it isn’t quite what we thought it would be. We end up feeling frustrated, cheated, and confused.
What’s going on in these situations? What is it that causes us to miss the mark? Why do we find ourselves spinning our wheels when we know the success we want is right around the corner?
To be sure, each situation is different and there are any number of reasons you may fall short of your goals. External challenges, timing, and a certain degree of luck all impact your success.
But, if you’re serious about understanding success, you must acknowledge that your own habits play a significant role. Simply put, the behaviors that we engage in on a regular basis have the power to shape the results that we get. Some habits set us up for success, but others work against us. These “success stealers” are habits that undermine our daily efforts and make our goals harder to achieve. The good news is, they’re all within our control.
Habit Number 1 – Not Letting Go of Negative Thinking
Your particular version of negative thinking may not be exactly like mine, but I’d be willing to be you have one. It’s that tape that plays in your head and says you aren’t good enough. Or that you never get it right. Or that no one appreciates what you do. These messages play over and over again in our minds, even if we aren’t aware of it.
The problem is that these little stories we have about ourselves, our families, and our worlds affect the way we feel and the way we act. And, how we feel and act drives what we are able to create.
So, as long as we hold on to those negative thoughts, we hold ourselves back from achieving our best results. We may have some wins, maybe even some big ones. But, we’ll never find the sense of flow that we so want.
The first step to shifting this habit is pretty straightforward – just pay attention. Notice all the negative chatter in your head. Watch how you talk to yourself. Then, slowly, begin to adopt a more productive mindset.
Habit Number 2 – Acting Out of Fear
Fear is really just another flavor of negative thinking, but it’s so very special that it deserves its own separate mention.
We all have fear. Period.
I know you think it’s just you. I know you’re embarrassed of how big your fear is and how often it takes over your mind. I know you wish you all those seemingly trivial things didn’t scare you.
But you aren’t alone. Fear is an unavoidable part of the human experience. In and of itself it isn’t a problem.
The problem is that our fear doesn’t always serve us. So much of what we fear is a false threat – an old script trapped in that part of our animal brain that kept us safe from sabre tooth tigers. Now, our fear sees threats all around us. What if we end up broke? What if we make fools of ourselves? What if…
The key to overcoming fear is the same as overcoming any other kind of negative thinking – notice it. When you’re afraid, don’t try to talk yourself out of it or ignore it. Don’t push past it like it isn’t there. See it. Understand what you’re really afraid of and decide logically whether it is valid. If you decide there is no true and immediate threat, move forward. You can take action in the face of fear. In fact, if you consistently feel your fear and move forward anyway, you might find you are less and less afraid.
Habit Number 3 – Not Celebrating Our Wins
Receiving praise is very difficult for many of us. We brush aside compliments, dismiss our own efforts as insignificant, and deflect attention to those around us instead. I’ve written before about this tendency, especially in women, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that it actually hinders our success.
If we don’t celebrate our own wins, and allow those around us to celebrate them with us, there’s nothing on the other end of the scale to balance out all of our negative thinking. We can’t call to mind all the times we did measure up to the task. The times we surpassed expectations. The times we had real, positive impact on the people around us.
Early in my career, a much more experienced attorney told me if I ever got a thank you note or letter of praise from a client, I should save it.
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s your feel good file. This is a tough profession and the praise doesn’t come often. When it does, you should save it for those other days. The days of doubt, and stress, and failure.”
That’s some of the very best advice I ever received, but I no longer think it applies just to lawyers. Each of us should create our own feel good file – a little collection of wins, celebrations, and successes. These are often just the fuel we need to keep moving when the goals we’ve set seem impossible.
In the end, achieving most goals takes hard work, time and sacrifice. But, we can make the path just a bit easier by being aware of the habits that hold us back.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do these habits resonate with you? Are there others you think I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.