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10 Things Everyone Thinks Are True About Achieving Success (That Actually Are Not)

10 Things Everyone Thinks Are True About Achieving Success (That Actually Are Not)

We all aspire to be successful in life. However, achieving success is not as straight forward as it may seem. You can have a million dollars in the bank, but if you are still not happy, you cannot be said to be truly successful. Success is not merely determined by how much money and how many material possessions you have. It is determined by something much more.

Maya Angelou says success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it. In other words, true success and happiness spring from within you, not from without. Here are 10 big misconceptions everyone thinks are true about achieving success that actually are not entirely true.

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1. You need BIG dreams to be successful.

You don’t necessarily need big dreams to be successful. Anyone can have big dream of owning posh cars, mansions on the hill and even private islands. Few, however, can actually realize those dreams. What you need to succeed is clear, incredibly specific and measurable goals, says Napoleon Hill in his book “Think and Grow Rich.” Add a clear, ultra-specific, measurable course of action to reach the goals, and you are destined for great things. If you dream of being the CEO of your own company, for example, set clear, incredibly specific and measurable goals and have in place clear, ultra-specific and measurable action steps to get there, such as getting the proper education and making the right connections. Clear, S.M.A.R.T. (smart, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) goals are what distinguish big achievers and big dreamers.

2. You must have a college education to succeed.

How many times have you heard people being warned they will wind up on the streets homeless and begging for money if they don’t get a college education? You were probably warned the same thing yourself when growing up. While the importance of getting an education is undisputable, you don’t necessarily have to have a college education to succeed in life. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg attended the best schools in the country but none of them graduated with a college degree. They dropped out of college to pursue their dreams and still ended up successful. Don’t be fixated on the idea that everyone needs a degree to succeed in life. Oftentimes, being street smart, analytical and willing to follow your intuition is the secret recipe that you will propel you to excellence in this world.

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3. You just need to go through the motions and everything will fall into place.

One of the absolute truths about life is that what you put in determines what you get out. Everything happens for a reason. Growth and development happen because time and effort was put in. Mediocre input only produces mediocre output. If you don’t work hard and put in full effort, you undermine your own success. It’s as simple as that. Success won’t just happen. You must work hard, be calculated, smart and committed to achieve it. Things are made to fall into place; they don’t just fall into place. Put in lackluster effort only if you are not serious about achieving success.

4. Your passion is all that is needed.

Passion is vital for success. It means you want something bad enough that you are willing to commit to make it a reality. However, passion alone is not enough to achieve success. Success takes time. You will need not just a strong desire and commitment to make something happen, but also more importantly, patience and effort. If you are truly passionate about something, time and effort will be your most valuable asset. Set goals you are passionate about because you’ll likely be working on them for some time.

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5. You need to be really talented.

No. You don’t need to be really talented to succeed. Success and talent don’t always go hand-in-hand. If you don’t believe me, just look at the Miley Cyruses and Danielle Steeles of this world. Danielle Steele is super rich and celebrated around the world and yet, she is not exactly Jane Austen. Just because you are not exceptionally talented at something is not a reason to put yourself down. Grit is more important than talent. Talent makes it easier to achieve success, but effort and perseverance make success a predetermined reality. Work on S.M.A.R.T. goals and success will follow.

6. You can do it all by yourself.

Whether you like it or not, there is always something you can learn and benefit from other people. Nobody knows everything or has absolutely everything required for success. We can all do with occasional help and support from others. The most successful people understand this fact and cherish every opportunity to pick the brains of those more knowledgeable, talented or experienced than them. They even cherish the opportunity to interact with people less endowed than them. This habit births new perspectives and insights that bring them even more success. Get over being shy and get help or support from others whenever you need it. This will make you a more refined, successful person.

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7. You can’t afford to slip up or make mistakes.

If you think there is no room for mistakes in the pursuit of success and happiness, then you are mistaken already. Slip ups and mistakes are inevitable. They happen all the time to people. You won’t always get it right the first time, but you can always make mistakes a secret ingredient for your own success. Winston Churchill rightly said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Pick yourself up and brush the dust off your clothes after you slip and fall. Learn from your mistakes and use that experience as a lesson to avoid future mistakes. That is the hallmark of someone destined for great things.

8. You must keep at it non-stop.

Persistence is pivotal to achieving success. However, persistence is not the same thing as stubbornness and inflexibility. You are only human and there is only so much you can do before you burn out. Your body and mind needs downtime to rest and re-energize. The most successful people sleep well and take regular breaks from work to rest and relax. They don’t work non-stop and you shouldn’t either. Slow down; take a look around; breathe. Delegate the kids or work and escape on a deserved break. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and enjoy quality time with friends and family outside of work. These things will refresh and re-energize you for success when you get back to work.

9. You can slack off once you reach the top.

The higher you climb the ladder of success, the harder you can fall. Anyone who tells you that you can slack off once you are successful should not be taken seriously. There is no room for slacking off, especially at the highest levels of success in business. Biblical teachings even admonish that to whom much is given, much is expected. Much will be expected from you at the top. You can (and should) take deserved breaks, but you must not slack off if you want to remain at the top. Keep working hard.

10. You will be happy once you are successful.

Achieving all your goals and dreams will not guarantee you will be happy. Some of the most unhappy, suicidal people in the world are the rich and famous. Many more accomplished people suffer the “more syndrome” where the more they get, the more they want. The “more syndrome” only leaves people stressed out and unhappy. However, people who lead the most meaningful, happy and successful lives get a lot of joy not from the ability to accumulate even more, but the ability to give out more. So, be generous once you get to the top and are successful.

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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