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12 Things You Do That Are Holding You Back From Success

12 Things You Do That Are Holding You Back From Success
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In the 12 years I’ve spent coaching others, I’ve recognized patterns in what we all do, myself included, that hold us back from success. Here I share 12 of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. You compare yourself to others.

Whether it’s starting a business or learning a new skill, you will look at others who are much further down the road from you and expect your results to be similar to theirs, today. Since you cannot see the struggle, the mistakes and the hundreds of little improvements they made every single day, you assume these never existed. By comparison you feel inadequate, incapable and discouraged.

Shift your focus instead to where you are today compared to yesterday to get a more accurate picture of the progress you’re making.

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2. You ask yourself the wrong questions.

You spend your time and energy wondering “if”—if what you’re doing is possible, if you’re good enough to achieve it, if it’s the right thing to do. These questions are unhelpful and suck all the energy and motivation out of you. Change these questions to how, who and what, such as, “How will I make this happen?” “What’s the first step?” “Who can help me with this?” and spend your energy finding answers that will help you move closer to success.

3. You wait for others’ permission.

You want those you care about to approve. You create a story that their approval means you’re on the right path. You don’t want to disappoint. And so you end up stuck and paralysed by a flippant comment, or an unenthusiastic reaction. I’ll never forget my uncle giving me a pained look while telling me, “Why are you still in London? Come back to Malta with your family.” Ouch that really hurt, but had I listened, I’d be stuck in a dead-end job, living a life that was killing my soul. YOU know what’s best for you. Trust your gut and your heart, live by YOUR standards, and you’re much more likely to create a life that makes you happy.

4. You wait for the “right” time.

You keep putting something off because it’s not the “right” time yet. You need to make a few more improvements, get more experience, learn a few more skills. You wait for the economy to improve, the weather to get better or for a sign that you should start. This is just your mind playing delay tactics and winning. The right time is now. Only by starting will you discover what else needs to be done or improved, never before.

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5. You expect instant results.

“What?!” your mind tells you. “You’ve put so much effort into this and no one has noticed?!! This is a waste of time, might as well stop now.” I vividly remember thinking this when I posted my first ever blog post. As the tumbleweed rolled on my site, and not even my mum left a comment, my blogging career threatened to stop just as quickly as it started. Be patient, be persistent and give yourself a realistic timeline to achieve the results you want.

6. You don’t take action.

You make lists and beautiful plans. You re-write those plans and use the latest app to capture them a second time. You discuss your plans, visualize your plans, criticize your plans. You do everything but act on them. Your first step, as imperfect as it may be, will be much more useful than all the plans in the world. Your first step might actually change all the plans you made in the first place, so spend most of your time on acting, not planning, if you want to get somewhere.

7. You create fake busyness.

This is my favorite one by far. I’ve spent hours tweaking my website, reading other blogs “for research purposes,” playing with new apps. Days have gone by where I’ve sat at my desk for hours being very busy at doing nothing. If you know you’re doing the same, take a step back and ask yourself where your actions are leading to. If they’re not leading to tangible results, then you know you need to be spending your time doing something else.

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8. You listen to everyone but yourself.

You’re new at this. You seek advice. The world and her mother have an opinion on the subject. You sit and you listen. You assume everyone knows what they’re talking about, that you have to follow what you read unless you want to fail miserably. The problem is, the advice is taking you in so many different directions that you’re paralyzed. By all means read and learn, and then let your own heart and instinct guide you. Trust that you will find your own best way of doing this, and it will be just right for you.

9. You assume talent and not persistence in the secret to success.

“If I had any talent, this would be much easier. I’m not cut out for this.” When you start your project, you discover it’s a steep uphill struggle to get where you want. You make it mean you’re lacking in some way, that maybe you should aim a little lower or try something easier. Don’t buy into this mindset. Anything you do will get easier the more you do it. Persistence and not talent is the secret to success, so stick to it, keep working at it and eventually you’ll find yourself at the top of that hill.

10. You’re not flexible.

You’ve got your plan and you want to stick to it no matter what. You assume this is the only way you can succeed. For years, I assumed that the only way to get fit was to join a gym. For years I paid huge yearly fees for a gym I never used. The goal is still there but my tactics have changed. Yoga, cycling and swimming have replaced the gym to much better effect. What’s your proverbial unvisited gym? And what could you replace it with?

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11. You do it alone.

You see asking for help as a sign of weakness, or maybe it doesn’t occur to you that you can reach out to others. You want to succeed on your own. You build an imaginary fortress around you as you work on your project. STOP right there. List 3 things you’re struggling with right now. Next to each one list at least one person who’s experienced something similar. Write one question you would love to ask that person. Now reach out and ask.

12. You don’t know when to let go.

You’ve tried your best, you’ve changed tactics a hundred times, you’ve worked endless hours on this project for the last few months, yet you’re not seeing the results you were hoping for. So you work harder and faster hoping that somehow, someday, you will get there. Your project has become this dark cloud following you wherever you go. Any excitement or joy you felt about working on it has since long gone. You’ve invested so much in this project that you don’t want to let it go. Consider this, how do you feel about spending the next 12 months working on the same project? If you had to let it go, what else could you do with your time? Sometimes it’s OK to let go.

Featured photo credit: Paxon Woelber via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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