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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.

More by this author

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 April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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