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10 Reasons You Aren’t Achieving Success

10 Reasons You Aren’t Achieving Success
10 Reasons You Aren't Achieving Success

    A couple of months ago, I asked you not to fear failure, saying that embracing failure — or at least the possibility of failure — was essential to success. But, of course, in the end the goal is to succeed, and fear of failing isn’t the only thing that keeps us from succeeding.

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    I speak from experience here. Six or seven years ago, I was the picture of success — a straight-A graduate student, top of my class, a job I loved, a relationship that I was happy in, the whole enchilada. And then, those successes started slipping away. Nothing obvious at first, but gradually I found myself stuck in a rut academically, my relationship dissolved, things just weren’t going my way. I wasn’t failing, per se, just losing my grip on the successes I had won.

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    In the last couple of years, I’ve been reassessing some aspects of my life, trying to figure out what had happened so I could rebuild. To some extent this has worked well — I have a job I love (although I need to develop it into a career, not just a job), I have a book coming out in my academic field, I’m writing quite a bit, and most importantly I have a new relationship that is going strong. To get here, I’ve had to figure out what I was doing wrong in the years in between, where I had lost my footing, and I think I’ve figured out a thing or two in doing so.

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    If you’re not reaching the kind of success you imagine in the areas that area important to you, one or more of the following things might well be true of you, too:

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    1. You don’t have a goal. A lot of time we find ourselves “spinning our wheels”, struggling through a day-to-day routine that isn’t getting us anywhere because we don’t know where we want to go. Sometimes we had goals when we set ourselves on a particular path, but we’ve changed along the way and those goals are no longer that important. Sometimes we simply did what was expected of us without ever stopping to think about what we eventually wanted to accomplish for ourselves. Whatever the case, figuring out what your goals are and, just as importantly, whether your current actions are helping to achieve them, is important.
    2. You don’t have a vision. Setting goals is important but isn’t enough to drive you to the finish line; it’s important, too, to be able to imagine yourself as the achiever of your goals. How will you feel, what’s the payoff, why is it worthwhile to follow these goals and not some other ones? If goals are the end result of a journey, your vision is the fuel to get you there.
    3. You don’t have a plan. If goals are your destination and a vision is your fuel, your plan is the map to get you there; without a plan, you have no idea what immediate steps to take to achieve your goals. Planning means taking stock of the resources you have, the resources you need, and the steps you have to take to put those resources into action. The world is full of people with goals they have never accomplished because they didn’t have a plan — don’t you be one of them.
    4. You’re too certain. Too much certainty creates inflexibility. If you’re sure that your plan is correct, and refuse to accept the possibility of error, you may well find yourself stuck when an unexpected change comes about, or when your plan takes you in an unexpected direction. However strong your plan and however sure you are of your goals, make room for periodic reassessment.
    5. You’re not certain enough. At the same time, too little certainty will paralyze you. If you refuse to take a step because you aren’t positive it will move you towards success, you won’t make any better progress than if you had no goals at all. Keep your eyes open and be willing to change, but have faith in yourself, too.
    6. You don’t learn from your mistakes. A lot of people take their mistakes as signs of their unworthiness. They take setbacks as proof that they were never meant to achieve anything in the first place, and that they were stupid to even try. Mistakes are crucial to success — if we take the time to analyze them and learn from them. Even when they bar us irrevocably from attaining a goal, the lessons we learn from our mistakes help us to make new and better goals.
    7. You reject outside influences. A lot of people see the influence of others as a weakness, or worse, a restriction or even “pollution” of their innate creativity. This is, in a word, hogwash. We are first and foremost social beings, none of whom has ever accomplished anything without the help of others. Welcome and accept other perspectives on your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and failures. Accept help graciously when it’s offered. This doesn’t mean you should take every piece of advice offered you, but you should listen seriously and openly and weigh carefully the input of others. And learn from their mistakes, when you can.
    8. You worry about being copied. Often we close ourselves off from other people not because we’re afraid that they will influence us but that we will influence them, that our brilliant ideas will be taken up by someone else and no longer be solely ours. So we avoid sharing our passions, and spend our energy jealously guarding our “secret” rather than simply moving forward. In the end, we turn our passions into burdens that become difficult to carry instead of a joy.
    9. You use up your reserves. When I’ve found myself at my lowest points, it’s always been for lack of a reserve — whether of money, of time, or most crucially of energy. In part this was the fault of inadequate planning and over-certainty — I should have reassessed my situation more realistically before exhausting my resources — but whatever the cause, it’s a dangerous place to be. A mistake that could be easily recovered from under normal circumstances becomes overwhelming when you’re too broke or too exhausted to respond adequately. Keep track of where you are financially, materially, and emotionally before you find yourself too worn down to continue.
    10. You fear success. Forget fear of failure, it’s fear of success that kicks us the hardest. It’s the darnedest thing, too — the kind of thing that you don’t imagine possible, until one day you realize that you really don’t know what to do with yourself if you ever accomplish your goals. On the other side of success is the unknown, and believe it or not, the unknown is often scarier than the known world of struggle and unfulfillment this side of success. When I realized this, one night as I drifted unhappily to sleep, it jerked me straight up in my bed!

    My father, an avid collector of seemingly random quotes, is fond of saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. (I’ve never had the heart to ask him why he keeps saying this….) At some point, you have to stop doing whatever you’re doing and figure out why you’re doing it, especially if it doesn’t seem to be getting you where you want to be. When you do, I think you’ll find that at least one of the above applies to you. Whatever your reasons, though, the important thing is to realize that it’s in your nature neither to be a failure, nor to be a success, that success is something we make rather than something that happens to us — and when you realize that, you can start to make the changes that move you from “insanity” to success.

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

    But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

    Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

    1. Always Have a Book

    It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

    Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

    2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

    We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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    Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

    3. Get More Intellectual Friends

    Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

    Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

    4. Guided Thinking

    Albert Einstein once said,

    “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

    Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

    5. Put it Into Practice

    Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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    If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

    In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

    6. Teach Others

    You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

    Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

    7. Clean Your Input

    Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

    I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

    Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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    8. Learn in Groups

    Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

    Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

    9. Unlearn Assumptions

    You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

    Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

    Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

    10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

    Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

    Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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    11. Start a Project

    Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

    If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

    12. Follow Your Intuition

    Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

    Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

    13. The Morning Fifteen

    Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

    If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

    14. Reap the Rewards

    Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

    15. Make Learning a Priority

    Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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    Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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