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10 Life Lessons Successful People Always Remember

10 Life Lessons Successful People Always Remember

So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed). -Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go”

We all want to succeed at what we do, whether in school, at work, or in our relationships. But sometimes, we get so caught up in wanting to succeed or fearing we won’t do so that reaching the moment of achievement seems impossible. Are successful people just luckier? Did they get a head start in life? Maybe, but more likely they simply step carefully, as Dr. Seuss advises, and learn from the lessons life offers. Here are 10 life lessons successful people always keep in mind.

1. Slow and steady wins the race

According to author Travis Bradberry, we can easily think we’re winning at life when we’re busy, but busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. In fact, the more balls we try to juggle, the more we wind up dropping. Remember the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? The hare assumed, incorrectly, that the key to getting ahead was to be quick like a bunny, but the tortoise—and the hare’s own cockiness—caught up with him in the end, and he lost. Slow down, take your time, and remember that a job worth doing is done well, not quickly.

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2. Conquer your fears

FDR probably said it best: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” All too often, the fear of failure rather than any lack of ability keeps us from succeeding. We worry about what others will think of us or how they’ll judge us if we don’t get a promotion or go to graduate school. Remember when you were learning to ride a bike? No matter how many times you fell and scraped your knees, you got back on. This rule applies to almost everything we do.

3. Learn from your mistakes

Let’s extend the bike-riding metaphor a bit here; not only did you get back on your bike because you conquered your fear, but also because you had to figure out what you did wrong in order to correct it. Maybe you turned too quickly or tilted too far to the right when trying to balance. Without the persistence of trial and error, you’d never have gotten it right.

Mistakes aren’t failures. They’re opportunities to learn. When you make a mistake, pause, reflect on what you did, and try things differently each time until you finally succeed.

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4. Always exude confidence

You’ve probably heard it said that it’s better to strike the wrong note confidently than to strike the right one without confidence. I learned this from the twelve years I spent studying music. As a pianist, my greatest fear was striking that jarring note that would ruin the entire piece and send my audience fleeing the recital hall wishing for Beethoven’s deafness. As a result, when I practiced in front of my teacher, my family, or my friends, I’d always press more softly on the keys when I got to the point in the piece I felt least confident about, and this always made it sound worse—like I was playing dead air, which I basically was. I had to remind myself (or be reminded by others, more often) that playing well didn’t mean playing perfectly. If I played with feeling and with confidence, no one would notice one out-of-place sharp amidst the flats. When you make even your mistakes confidently, you show others that you don’t measure your entire self-worth by one single mistake.

5. Learn from others

Some of the most successful people get to the top not by climbing over others, but by cooperating with them. Part of cooperation involves listening to and learning from others; this includes admitting when you’re wrong or when you don’t know the answer to a question.

Formal authority doesn’t magically grant you superior mental acuity.

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While I’m flattered when my students assume I know everything about the subject I teach because I’m standing at the front of the room, occasionally I won’t know the answer to a question. When this happens, I usually promise to find the answer before next class, and when I do, the result is mutually beneficial. I’ve learned something while teaching my students, and they respect me more for acknowledging that we never truly finish our education; there’s always something more to learn.

6. Surround yourself with positive people

According to Travis Bradberry, “anyone who makes you feel worthless, anxious, or uninspired is wasting your time and, quite possibly, making you more like them.” Surround yourself with people who energize you, who make you smile, and who support you in all of your endeavors. We feed off of the emotions of others, so if you want to absorb positive energy, spend your time in an environment that exudes it.

7. Stop comparing yourself to others

Each of us has a unique set of talents and abilities. Some of us are writers, some are teachers, some can fix cars, and others can take a computer apart and reassemble it in ten minutes. If you find yourself saying things like “She’s married; he got a promotion; they have four kids and a summer home in the south of Italy,” stop and realize that these are the benchmarks of their success, not yours. Focus on the things you have and what you can do, and then cultivate your own talents.

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8. Be a trail-blazer

In his oft-quoted poem The Road not Taken, Robert Frost writes, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Succeeding in life often means blazing a trail for others, boldly going where no man has gone before, as the mission of the Starship Enterprise reminds us. It can be scary to be the first to try something; think of how Neil Armstrong must have felt when he first stepped onto the surface of the moon. But without that one small step, we’d never have made the leaps and bounds we have made in space exploration.

9. Take time for yourself

Since successful people know that being busy doesn’t always equal productivity, they recognize the importance of taking time to recharge their batteries. When you overwork yourself, you perform poorly because your mind is less sharp, so you’re more likely to make mistakes and wind up taking twice as long to complete whatever task you need to accomplish.

10. Do what you love

There’s nothing more fulfilling than taking pride in a job well-done, especially when it’s a job you love. While money is a basic necessity without which we can’t pay bills and sustain ourselves, money, as the Beatles remind us, can’t buy love or happiness. In order to truly succeed in life, you need passion: passion in your work, passion in your relationships, passion in your hobbies. You won’t ever become the next Julia Child if you hate cooking because you won’t put your whole heart into it, so find something you love to do, and do it!

How do you succeed in life? Have any other tips? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Featured photo credit: High Five via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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