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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 Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life How to Reinvent Yourself And Redefine Your Future Habits and Motivation: Master Both for Big Results How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy Embrace Your Obstacles to Get Ahead in Life

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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