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Unsuccessful People Have These 7 Things in Common

Unsuccessful People Have These 7 Things in Common

Entire sections of bookstores are gathered with books about how to become successful.  Every day, the Internet promises hacks and tricks to “become a success at anything.” Even on Lifehack, there are lots of articles on how to be successful in life and developing a highly successful mind.

Advice on how to be successful is omnipresent.  At a certain point, since much of it contains almost the same basic guidelines, it can feel like noise.  How many books teach you how to be the opposite – to be unsuccessful?  Imagine if you knew what they were, you could subsequently avoid these steps to increase your chances of success in the process.  Well, here are 7 things that are guaranteed to make you unsuccessful.

1. Spend time discussing problems as opposed to solutions

Discussing problems tends to bring out additional negative emotions. Since humans experience a huge amount of negative thoughts in a day via habit, creating avenues to stir up additional negativity benefits no one. Analyzing a problem and suggesting solutions will improve it. Consistently pointing out the problems and why it can never be solved? Not so much.

I knew a friend once in the process of a divorce. He couldn’t accept the real truth of the situation and began to slide into depression and anger. The blame eventually shifted to his children and the focus was on how unhappy he was. His best bet was to start thinking about steps he could take to improve himself and better his current family (and relationships down the road). A consistent focus on problems won’t get him there.

2. Too proud to learn anything outside the comfort zone

Becoming comfortable with ideas opposite your own is crucial to life (and business) development.[1] People who believe that they’re already good enough or already know enough are likely to get left behind. Remember: 90% of “big data” is generated every two years.[2] Information moves very quickly these days, and everyone needs to embrace what’s outside their pre-existing knowledge to keep up.

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A good pop culture example is the film Doctor Strange. Strange was a very proud doctor and believed that he was the best in doing surgery until he had an accident and had his hands seriously injured. His strong ego stopped him from overcoming the injury. But eventually he had to drop his ego and learned everything from scratch again to live a better life.

3. Unable to enjoy solitude

Some people don’t feel complete unless others are around. Whether this is work partners, a spouse or significant others, kids, friends, or even random strangers at the bar, they need the presence of others to feel supported.

Being alone is actually a stage in life to grow yourself. The reality is that every person is on their own journey and not everyone has a partner all the time. Even in marriages, carving out time for yourself is time-honored advice to be successful.

Alone time can be very reflective: you can much better understand what you do and don’t want, your strengths and weaknesses, and what you’re looking for in life overall.

4. Unwilling to make mistakes

This usually speaks to fear. People who fear making mistakes spend a lot of effort on avoiding or hiding mistakes.

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Since mistakes (and overall failure) are inevitable, effort spent on avoiding mistakes is ultimately wasted.

Effort could instead be spent on making more attempts and, in fact, expecting more mistakes. FAIL is re-constituted as “First Attempt In Learning”. It’s a little cliche, sure, but it’s true. If you fail but learn from it, it’s not failure, it’s growth.

People who spend too much time avoiding mistakes prevent themselves from reaching opportunities that help with their growth.

5. Slave for instant pleasure

This has admittedly become more complicated with the rise of social media, but looking for immediate rewards (i.e. get-rich quick schemes, courses promising to make you a billionaire) and underestimating the efforts necessary for real success is very short-sighted.

Instant pleasure almost always comes at the expense of future opportunities.

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Imagine I had two offers for you, the first offer was giving you 100 dollars today, and the second offer was giving you 1000 dollars but 1 year later. Most people are likely to take the first offer even though they know they could get more if they waited.

As a result, it becomes nearly impossible to achieve goals, which always involves some degree of long-term sacrifice.

6. Live in the past or the future

People who live in the past focus on what they have done or could have done in the past. They blame their previous faults in the past. They sit around discussing the greatness of something from years ago.

People who live in the future rely on their future to get better. They talk about what they might achieve in the future if only they had the right timing or the right opportunities.

They don’t realize that what they do now — which was shaped in part by the past — becomes their future.

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7. Love to compete with others

Competition is healthy in doses, i.e. athletics. But in personal and professional relationship-building, competition becomes too much of a quest for external recognition, i.e. a focus on how to either beat others or become them

As Theodore Roosevelt said,

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Excessive comparison also demotivates individuals because instead of seeing their unique strengths, they view themselves through a prism of others. This motivational source is unstable, which makes achievement uniquely hard.

That’s everything success has blacklisted.

Everyone should aspire to a degree of success, contentment, and happiness around their own life and priorities. We all deserve that chance.

There are millions of white lists out there about how to become successful. Some are obviously more viable and resonant than others. This is a black list on what to avoid.

The goal is still the same. Avoid the above behaviors and success should follow, or at least a greater sense of well-being and motivation. Sometimes you go north by beginning to go south, and that’s how this black list of unsuccessful behaviors can guide you.

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy How Your Attitude Determines Your Success How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

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1 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits 2 How Your Attitude Determines Your Success 3 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 4 How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? 5 Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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