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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
~ Karen Sargent