Five Things Keeping You (and Me) From Achieving Success

Each of us desire to be successful, don’t you agree? We might define success in different ways, and go about achieving it by different methods, but I believe there is a universal human desire to achieve something great.

Which makes me curious. Are the things that keep us from success universal, as well?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve given myself permission to slow down a little, to stop chasing so frantically after “success” or my picture of it, to just rest in the understanding that I matter and my life is meaningful, to invest deeply in relationships and in the careful nurturing of myself.

successPhoto Credit: Ivan McClellan, Creative Commons

And, in the quiet of this time, I’ve realized there are a few things keeping me from the success I desire.

1. Putting a number, a dollar amount or a deadline on success

I understand (and embody) the need to have clear, measurable achievable goals, but sometimes this need keeps me from realizing I’ve already achieved great success. And sometimes knowing I’m capable of achieving success (as in, I’ve already done it) is the precise realization I need to keep moving forward.

Success is not a job title, a position, award, salary, title or status (single, married, rich, poor). Success is not a destination. Success is progress. If you’re making progress, you’re a success. Keep at it.

2. Feelings of jealousy, competition and animosity

I don’t know where this comes from in me (probably insecurity) but at times, it seems as if it rises out of nowhere. When someone creates something beautiful, instead of enjoying it, I resent it. I wish I would have created it. When someone achieves something notable, I reason all the ways it should have been me.

When someone receives a reward or recognition, I suddenly feel small and insignificant.

I’m fighting this tendency by intentionally celebrating the accomplishments of others, recognizing and enjoying beauty wherever I see it (whether I own it or not) and giving praise where praise is due.

3. Trying to impress people

It occurred to me recently that we will move in the direction of the people we try to impress. In other words, if you try to impress your teachers, you will become like them. If you try to impress your parents, you’ll become like them. If the role models in your life are great people, this might not seem like such a bad thing, but consider this:

While you’re busy becoming like them, who will become like you?

And what will this world miss (as Donald Miller says) if you don’t allow yourself to become the person you were designed to be? What a tragedy. Stop trying to impress people, and do what you actually want.

4. Moving too fast

There’s a great quote by Eddie Cantor that says, “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

This is a recent epiphany for me. I’ve been moving at lightning speed for a few years now, just assuming there was no way I would ever be successful in life if I didn’t log more hours, and run faster and harder than everyone else. I’m starting to see how it doesn’t matter how fast you’re running if you’re headed in the wrong direction.

I’m giving myself permission to slow down.

5. Wasting time with worry

Lately I had a realization that I’ve wasted so much time in my life worrying about problems that hadn’t even happened yet (failure, loss, grief, heartbreak, etc). Suddenly I just realized: What would happen if I invested all of the energy I’m wasting worrying about the future into preparing for the future—becoming the kind of person who can handle failure, grief, heartbreak and fear.

Instead of throwing energy away, it would have been like a deposit into a high-interest savings account.

I’ve made the executive decision not to waste time with worry anymore. Maybe, as I work to grow my character, rather than resist my future, I’ll actually be able to make some progress.

That would be a great success.

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Allison Fallon

I write books. I help people write books. I believe a regular practice of writing can change your life.

10 thoughts on “Five Things Keeping You (and Me) From Achieving Success”

  1. #2 – I like my job, but when someone (that got hired the same day as me) gets a promotion (to a job I don’t want) a feeling of dejection overwhelms me. And, in the last couple of months, this has happened a few times.
    “I don’t understand myself, the things I don’t want to do, I do…”
    Sometimes I truly believe God placed that passage in His Word to help me see, I’m actually quite “normal”.
    It was only with His help that I was able to overcome those feelings, and see the truth.

  2. Great post! I definitely identify with #1. I worry about all the things I wasn’t able to accomplish each day instead of being proud of all the things I was able to do. Thank you for reminding me that success is progress.

  3. So how do you just not worry? I mean I know it’s probably hard to completely obliterate… But do you think of something else Everytime you worry? Something inspirational? Say a prayer? I am working on this an was just wondering if you found a way that works for you

    1. There was a research project done at Ohio State University that found an effective way to get rid of negative thoughts was to physically write them on a piece of paper, tear the paper up and throw it away. Conversely they found writing positive thoughts and carrying the paper with you (in your wallet, purse or pocket) helped to actually reinforce the thought. I read this in the March/April 2013 issue of OSU alumni magazine. I’ve tried it a couple of times and it really did help relieve some mild anxiety I was dealing with regarding a medical issue I was having.

  4. Thanks so much for writing this. Lately, I have been in a slump because I’ve been moving too fast, comparing my “success” to others, and just completely feeling inadequate when it comes to my writing business. These are some great reminders that as long as we are moving forward we are a “success” and its ok to slow down. Great post!

  5. I love the thought “it doesn’t matter how fast you’re running if you’re heading in the wrong direction.” I spent years on what I call the crazy cycle of doing the same things over and over but expecting to achieve different results. I was running and running but completely headed in the wrong direction. I see this so often in others who are making the same mistake I did. We all are seeking our purpose and calling in life but sometimes if we’re running to fast in the wrong direction we may miss it all together. Thanks for your thoughts – truly enjoyed them!

  6. This was timely and very much needed. I have these feelings all the time, especially #2. Sometimes I don’t even want what they have or are getting but it’s like I am still jealous. And #1, is just bred into me. All the blogs, coaches, motivational sayings I’ve ever seen are your dreams are just dreams until you put a timeline to it. This is a good article. Thanks!

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