I was reading a book on leadership by Karen Joy Hardwick when I came across this quote, “We are a culture that confuses busyness with purpose.”
It made me pause and consider how intentionality plays a huge role in success. How, if we aren’t very self-aware, we could be investing our energy into the wrong things.
And that won’t get us anywhere. Our energy is not a bottomless resource, after all.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that highly successful people don’t waste their energy on certain things that many of us often get caught up in. In this article, I’m going to share these insights with you. Let’s dive in!
1) Worrying about things they can’t control
I’ll start with something I learned very early on in my life, back in my 20s. I used to be a preschool teacher, so that might have contributed to this early lesson.
You see, one of my rude awakenings in my first year of teaching is that there’s only so much I can control – my lesson plan, my classroom setup, the way I communicate with students, parents, and colleagues…
But I couldn’t control other things, like a child’s mood, their home environment, the cooperation of their parents, admin decisions, and other such issues.
So, I had to learn how to stop stressing about these things. It’s not like my worrying was going to change anything in those areas.
What I did instead was to just do the best I could with the parts I could indeed manage. And those parts I couldn’t? I learned how to adapt and strategize to deal with them!
Successful people understand this all too well. They know that their energy is a finite resource, and it’s best used when directed towards actionable items.
2) Seeking perfection
This is hugely connected to my previous point. Perfection is an illusion, yet many of us chase it relentlessly. It’s why we have this strong desire to control everything.
Not only that, but we also think that if we just get this one thing perfect, we’ll finally be successful or happy.
But successful people know that this is a waste of time and energy. Because perfection is impossible to achieve.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying they get by with mediocrity. No, the difference is, while they don’t seek perfection, they do strive for excellence, a much more attainable goal.
Because it makes room for mistakes, which are necessary for growth.
3) Repeating mistakes
Speaking of mistakes brings me to this next point. Yes, we all make mistakes, no doubt about that.
But you know what matters? How we handle them. Successful people make their mistakes count by learning from them and never making the same mistake twice.
So, if they messed up a presentation at work, yeah, they might feel disappointed in themselves. But you can be sure that the next presentation they do will be so much better.
It does require three things:
- The humility to accept their weaknesses
- The self-awareness to examine what happened
- A mindful attitude to help them keep track of their thoughts and behavior
So, the next time you make a mistake, do what they do: Learn, adjust, and move forward.
4) Dwelling on the past
If you looked at that list above, you would have noticed that mindfulness is on it. You see, that’s something successful people really take to heart. It’s what keeps them from dwelling on the past, another energy-draining yet unproductive activity.
We’ve all been there, replaying past events or mistakes over and over in our heads. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s an easy trap to fall into.
When successful people make mistakes – and as we’ve discussed earlier, they do – they don’t beat themselves up over it. Instead, they extract the lessons, adjust their approach, and move on.
They understand that the past can’t be changed, but the future is theirs to shape.
Remember, energy spent on regret is energy wasted. The future is a much better investment.
5) Holding grudges
Part of not dwelling on the past is letting go of grudges, and that’s another thing successful people do.
They know that holding a grudge can feel satisfying in the moment, but it’s a significant energy drain. It’s like carrying a heavy backpack with you wherever you go – it slows you down and tires you out.
That’s why they choose to forgive and move on. Life is too short to burn on negativity, and they need their energy to reach their more exciting dreams.
Again, investing in the future!
6) Fear of change
Speaking of the future brings me to this next thing – the fear of change.
That feeling of not knowing what will happen, of not being sure you can handle it…that’s really uncomfortable. I totally get it.
But here’s a little secret I’ve learned from successful people: they don’t fear change. They embrace it.
It’s all about perspective. Successful people see change as an opportunity, not a threat. They know that it’s the only constant in life and that the only way to thrive is to adapt.
So, how exactly do they deal with the uncertainty? Well, they get proactive – they prepare for any possibilities, they use their strengths to deal with the change, and they make sure to have a great support system.
Most of all, they choose courage, hope, and positivity, not fear.
And that’s what keeps them ahead of the curve!
7) Waiting for the “perfect” moment
The “perfect” moment – we’ve all waited for it. The perfect moment to start a business, write a book, or take that trip.
But here’s the thing – while success does hinge a bit on luck and timing, life doesn’t always work like that.
You won’t always know the right time for anything. And if you keep on waiting for it to come, you could be waiting forever!
There’s an old saying I like that goes, “Don’t wait for the perfect moment. Take the moment and make it perfect!”
That’s exactly what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos did. He had this idea for a store that sells everything, but at the time, e-commerce wasn’t a thing yet. But he went ahead, quit his job, and started Amazon from his garage.
The rest is history, and he is now one of the richest people in the world!
8) Participating in gossip or negative talk
No time for drama – that’s something you’ll often hear from successful people.
And they would be right. Gossip or negative talk might indeed feel so entertaining in the moment, but in the big scheme of things, they don’t do anything for you. And it’s not a good look.
If anything, they distract you from your goals and feed into a negative mindset. How then can you be the best version of yourself?
9) Trying to please everyone
The best version of yourself is the authentic one. That’s why you won’t find successful people bending over backwards trying to please others.
Look, being liked and accepted is a natural human desire. I used to have that intense desire myself when I was younger.
Fortunately, I’ve long since learned my lesson. People-pleasing is an impossible, exhausting task. And it makes me feel hollow, as if I’m not being true to myself.
Because that’s what it really is – it forces you to fit into the mold other people want you to follow.
To be successful, you need to be okay with the idea that not everyone will agree with you or like you. Believe me, it’s going to free you up to be the real you and live a life that’s true to your values and vision.
10) Comparing themselves to others
Finally, we get to the last thing successful people don’t waste time and energy on. The comparison game is one we’ve all played at some point, but while it’s a completely natural inclination, it truly does more harm than good.
Once again, I’ll point this out: the best version of yourself is what matters. Successful people have their eyes, not on how other people are doing, but on their own progress.
They celebrate their wins, learn from their losses, and continually strive to be better than they were yesterday. This approach saves them energy and keeps them focused on their path.
As you can see, success isn’t accidental, nor is it something that comes effortlessly. It’s a result of purposefulness and focus, of being intentional in the things you invest your time and energy on.
Hopefully, this list has given you some food for thought and led you to reexamine your own habits. There might be a few you’ve been wasting your precious energy on, and now is the perfect time to ditch them!