7 phrases unsuccessful people always use, according to psychology

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Have you ever found yourself nodding along in a conversation, only to realize the person you’re chatting with is spinning a web of excuses, negativity, and self-doubt?

What we say often gives away our mindset. 

Today, we’re zeroing in on seven phrases that unsuccessful people tend to use repeatedly.

Let’s get to it.

1) “I can’t”

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

Henry Ford

This powerful statement highlights a profound truth: often, our beliefs limit our results. 

When someone says, “I can’t,” it’s often a sign they’re stuck in a fixed mindset – the belief that their smarts and talents are what they’re born with and can’t change. 

Carol Dweck, a Stanford professor, has done extensive research on this and found that this kind of thinking can really hold us back. In her research, she found that students who think this way don’t do as well as those who believe they can grow and get smarter through effort and learning.

Basically, thinking (or saying) “I can’t” is like putting up a huge stop sign in our mind. It stops us from trying new things and getting better at stuff. It’s like telling ourselves that we’ve hit our limit, often before we’ve even really pushed ourselves. 

This kind of thinking makes challenges seem too big to tackle and can make people give up too easily, resulting in, you guessed it, a lack of success. 

2) “I already know that”

Despite being one of the most successful people on the planet, Bill Gates reads 50 books a year. Why?

Because he knows there’s always more to learn. 

This mindset is not unique to Gates, though: almost all successful people are voracious learners. Einstein, for example, told us, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know”

When someone says, “I already know that,” however, it suggests they’re shutting the door on learning something new. 

Thinking we already have all the answers can really hinder us. It’s like wearing blinders that prevent us from seeing other possibilities and perspectives.

And in a world that’s changing as fast as ours is, being open to new ideas and willing to adapt is more important than ever. It’s so important, in fact, that the World Economic Forum ranked “Curiosity and lifelong learning” as the fifth most important core skill for workers in 2023. 

Whether it’s in our jobs, our personal lives, or understanding the world around us, there’s always room to learn more. 

3) “I’ll do it later”

Here’s a surprising fact for you: according to psychologist Piers Steel, a whopping 80 to 95 percent of college students put things off, especially their school work. 

That’s a lot of procrastination!

But contrary to popular belief, it’s not just due to being ‘lazy.’ Often, people procrastinate because they want everything to be perfect. They’re so afraid of making mistakes that they end up doing nothing at all.

The real problem with procrastination, though, isn’t just that tasks get left undone. It’s that the more we put things off, the more we worry about them. This worry makes us feel bad, and what do we do when we feel bad? 

We procrastinate even more. 

It’s a vicious cycle that can really get in the way of achieving our goals and have a big impact on our long-term success. 

Someone who often says, “I’ll do it later,” might well be stuck in this cycle of avoidance. 

4) “It’s not my fault”

Ever caught yourself or someone else saying, “It’s not my fault”? 

We’ve all heard it, and most of us have at least thought it, but why do we resort to this mindset?

Well, as noted by clinical psychologist Alisa Crossfield in a Psychology Today post, “The reason why variations of “it’s not my fault” are so popular is that it lets us off the hook from guilt, blame, and anger.”

It’s essentially a refusal to engage with the reality of the situation. 

Take, for instance, a team project at work. When something goes awry, pointing fingers at others or external circumstances might momentarily ease the sting of failure. But what does it achieve in the long run? 

Not much, other than perhaps a fleeting sense of self-preservation.

The truth is growth and learning are often nestled within the uncomfortable embrace of our mistakes and missteps. 

By saying, “It’s not my fault,” we slam the door on these invaluable lessons. We miss out on the opportunity to reflect, recalibrate, and rise stronger from the setbacks.

5) “There’s nothing good in my life right now”

Saying, “There’s nothing good in life right now,” shows a struggle to see and appreciate the good around us. 

While life can get tough, we all, almost always, have things to be thankful for.

But what does this have to do with success?

Gratitude isn’t just about being polite; it’s powerful stuff in terms of fostering success. 

The Mayo Clinic has shared that giving thanks can do wonders for us, including helping us sleep better, improving our mood, and even boosting our immune system. It can also help with serious stuff like lowering depression, easing anxiety, and managing pain. 

As you might imagine, all of these things aid in being successful. 

Adding to this, hyper-successful people like Tony Robbins, Oprah, and Ariana Huffington have all talked about how important gratitude is in terms of their mindsets. 

Basically, gratitude is huge; without it, we really truly be successful and happy. 

6) “I’m just unlucky”

When people chalk up their failures to being “unlucky,” they’re usually referring to things they think are out of their control. And it’s true that some things are just that, out of our control. 

But here’s the catch: believing too much in luck can make us overlook the power of our own actions. 

It’s like giving ourselves permission to ignore the role of hard work, planning, and making smart choices. We start to think success is just about fate, not effort or strategy.

But as Oprah tells us, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”

While we can’t control everything, we can always control how we respond and the effort we put in. So, instead of blaming bad luck, it’s more helpful to focus on what we can do to change our situation.

7) “This is too hard”

Whenever someone says, “This is too hard,” it suggests a defeatist attitude that can really slam the brakes on any journey to achievement.

Successful people rarely, if ever, hold this sort of defeatist mindset. 

Take J.K. Rowling’s story, for instance. Her path to publishing the Harry Potter series was anything but easy. As a single mother living off welfare and suffering from depression, her first submissions were rejected by twelve publishers.

None of us would blame her for thinking, “This is too hard.” But she didn’t, or at least she didn’t act on it. 

Rowling’s persistence is a shining example of what can happen when you refuse to give up on your dreams, no matter how daunting the obstacles may seem.

Thomas Edison, the mastermind behind countless inventions, might agree. He once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” 

The point is that viewing challenges as insurmountable walls blocks our potential for growth and learning. Successful people know that each challenge we face and overcome molds us into stronger, more resilient individuals. 

They don’t say, “This is too hard”; they say, “How can I overcome this challenge?” 

The bottom line

That wraps it up for today, folks. 

Our words reveal much about us. If you notice someone you know and care for often uses these phrases, they might need some help getting back on the road to success. 

As always, I hope you found some value in this post. 

Until next time. 

Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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