We all want to make something of ourselves. But the sad truth is that wasted talent and missed opportunities are rife in the world.
Sadder still, it’s so often the case that we are the ones who are getting in our own way.
The good (and perhaps the bad) news, is that it’s down to you.
So if you really want to succeed in life, start saying “no” to these 6 things.
1) Unreasonable demands on your time and energy
Look at it this way:
Every single thing you say yes to in life requires you to say no to something else.
Because despite what anyone says, you cannot “have it all”.
We have a limited amount of hours in the day. We are only one person, and when we try to spread ourselves too thinly, we’re on our way to burnout.
Life is actually about priorities.
That means rather than trying to cram in more and more, we must be selective.
If we want to succeed, we need to focus our energy on what matters most.
That often means letting go of things that are not so important to you.
This may include certain activities, plans, or even people.
What is it that you want most in your life right now?
This is where you should be placing the majority of your energy.
If you find yourself putting it on the back burner because your calendar is already full with 1001 trivialities — then it’s time to make some changes.
In the words of one of the richest men on the planet, Warren Buffet:
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
If you get asked to join the governor’s board of your kid’s school and you don’t have the time or inclination — say no.
If you get asked out for drinks with friends but you would rather stay home and rest — say no.
If you get invited to apply for a job that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you — say no.
Get so comfortable with saying no that it becomes effortless to put your own needs first.
2) The expectations of others
The idea of putting ourselves first can appear selfish at first glance.
It may feel like you are just being considerate, but if you’re not careful you end up living your life for other people.
I know it matters to a certain extent what your parents, peers, and society think about you.
But the bottom line is:
It’s your life, and you have to decide how to live it.
Freeing ourselves from the weight of expectations isn’t always easy. But we have to trust ourselves enough to back ourselves.
Don’t let the opinions and naysaying of others hold you back.
Yet sometimes we find that the most negative voice is the one that comes from within.
Just like the expectations of others, we cannot allow this to derail us either — which leads me to my next point.
3) That little voice in your head that tells you to wait for a better time
I’m sorry to say, it’s not your friend.
That voice is fear and it’s saying those things to keep you stuck.
Its intentions are good. It believes that you are safer when things stay the same. After all, change is scary as it brings with it the unknown.
But it’s also being manipulative. It is trying to trick you into thinking that “one day” you will get around to all of the things you want to do.
Secretly, that negative inner critic knows it will constantly keep putting it off.
Here is the unfortunate truth about making a start on our plans:
We never feel fully ready. It’s always going to be a bit scary.
Just try to reframe those nerves as excitement. Interestingly, the body cannot tell the difference between the two emotions.
We have to adopt a growth mindset that believes anything we don’t know, we are capable of learning along the way.
We must cultivate an optimistic approach and keep an eye on any negative thoughts that will undoubtedly crop up along the way.
Unless we recognize that the time is now, we will wait our whole lives and never make a start.
Believing that voice that tells you “not right now, maybe later” only leads to stalling tactics, as we’ll see next.
4) Letting procrastination and overwhelm get the better of you
Succeeding at anything is a process. But from where we stand, it can often feel more like a huge leap.
We look around at where we are now, then we consider where we want to be. That journey in between the two can all of a sudden feel insurmountable.
So it’s natural that we’re hesitant to get started.
That’s when overwhelm can lead to procrastination.
But breaking things down (both mentally and practically) into bite-sized chunks can make all the difference.
We don’t have to do it all at once, we do it one step at a time.
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, keep your focus on the present, and ask what is the first thing that you need to do. Then you can think about the next small step to take.
Try to take the pressure off by tapping into your curiosity. See your ambitions as something playful to explore further, rather than a burden.
Make yourself the promise to give things a try and simply see where they lead. Because if you want life to be an adventure, that means leaving your comfort zone.
5) The path of least resistance
Let me be clear, I am all for going with the flow in life.
I don’t think that success means resistance. In fact, there’s a lot of acceptance and adaptability that are key to achieving anything.
But neither can we try to dodge all difficulties. We have to learn to face them head-on.
If you are looking for an easy life then you may well find you miss out on much of the richness it has to offer.
Look at it this way:
They say that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, right?
That’s because despite the pain and grief we go through when we lose something, at least we’ve felt the warmth of true connection.
There is an unavoidable duality of life that sometimes makes the best things inseparable from the hardest things.
That’s the trade-off.
Playing it safe means missing out.
Sometimes we have to be brave enough to choose the best path for us, and that may not always be the easiest one.
But not too fast, be careful you don’t go skipping down the wrong path entirely…
6) Fools gold
What does success look like to you?
How does it feel?
These are fundamental questions we must ask ourselves before embarking upon any goals and ambitions.
There isn’t one definition of success, and you should never use someone else’s ideas of it to shape your own.
I feel successful in life because I am in a relationship with someone I love and value, I have a comfortable home where I feel safe, and I get to do work that feels meaningful to me.
No BS — I genuinely don’t feel like I need millions in the bank or constant praise and accolades to feel like I am “somebody”.
That’s not to say there is anything wrong with either money or recognition. It’s just to say that I know my values and I align my own vision of success with them.
Unless you do this you may find that whatever you achieve feels hollow.
Because we can be falsely led to believe that certain outward measures of success, whether they be power, status, fame, wealth, etc. are the be-all and end-all.
But unless they are backed up with the substance of your own core values, chances are, they won’t bring you the lasting satisfaction you were hoping for.
In the words of Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture:
“The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”