Success is tricky. There is no shortage of information about what creates success, but there are secret saboteurs in your thoughts and beliefs that may be sacking your accomplishments.
If you aren’t where you want to be in life, consider the following:
1. Choose accuracy over history
Your beliefs are not necessarily accurate. Your perception of the world is based on your personality traits, such as neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, or openness. In addition, what you learned in your early childhood environment and what was role modeled for you play another part.
Your views are more about your history than accuracy. Not to say that everything you set store by is wrong, but just because you think it, doesn’t make it so. Look for proof.
2. Be aware of your biases
Your brain uses mental shortcuts to evaluate new information out of necessity. Those shortcuts, however, influence how you perceive the world. Though there are hundreds of proven biases, here are a few more commonly known ones that impact what you believe.
Confirmation bias makes you more likely to accept new information that supports beliefs you currently hold about the world. This one makes you unlikely to change your mind once it’s made up.
Availability heuristic makes you more likely to overestimate the importance of information that is easy to remember. Lastly, there’s conformity bias which makes you want to conform with other people.
A 2015 article in Business Insider cited 58 biases that screw up the way we think and subsequently, what we do! Being aware that your brain may be limiting you and having some idea what the most common biases are can help you be more critical of information you take in and help you to be open to ideas and knowledge different from your beliefs.
3. Recognize, refute and replace negative self-talk
You have 50,000 to 80,000 conversations in your head per day on average, and some percentage of them are negative self-talk. For many people, that percentage is less than 50%. I’m not good enough, I’m too fat, or I can’t are all examples of negative self-talk.
Begin to recognize these thoughts and refute them by stating reasons why they’re not true. Lastly, replace them with something better such as “I have what it takes to do what I am meant to do,” or, change your “I can’t” to “I can.”
“Your smile will give you a positive countenance that will make people feel comfortable around you.” – Les Brown
4. Choose optimism
Optimism is defined by Merriam Webster online as, ”an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome.” In short, it means to be hopeful which does not preclude healthy skepticism.
Martin Seligman is one of the founders of positive psychology, and in his book, Learned Optimism, shares strategies to grow your optimism. In the book, Dr. Seligman shares that “most people catastrophize. Learned optimism is about accuracy, and works not through an unjustifiable positivity about the world but through the power of ‘non-negative’ thinking.”
5. Rely on grit over talent and passion
Psychologist Angela Duckworth in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, states that “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” She talks about how it’s easy to be in love with what you do but more challenging to stay in love with it. That takes grit. Pursuing something because you have a passion for it is not enough to keep you going.
You must be willing to hone your skills, develop your creativity and grow what you do. Discover, develop, deepen. Moreover, don’t expect talent and innate ability to do more than open doors and create opportunities. These are little more than clues to your passion. Grit is what creates success.
6. You figure out what you love over time not overnight
You also figure it out by trying many things and getting out of your head. Most people are not born knowing what their soul’s purpose and passion are. To figure out what you love, try different jobs, volunteer with different organizations, look for clues, and look for mentors to help you.
Knowing what you don’t like is important to the process of figuring out what you love. Dr. Duckworth shares, “most grit paragons I’ve interviewed told me they spent years exploring several different interests, and the one that eventually came to occupy all of their waking (and some sleeping) thoughts wasn’t recognizably their life’s destiny on first acquaintance.”
As someone who studied classical ballet, accounting, finance, international business, French, fashion and psychology in college, followed by positive psychology, coaching, and writing, I can vouch for it taking years, and thousands of dollars to find what I enduringly love doing.
“Entrepreneurs average 3.8 failures before final success. What sets the successful ones apart is their amazing persistence.” – Lisa M. Amos
7. A growth mindset wins over a fixed mindset
You will be more successful if you believe, not that you are ready, but that you aren’t. If you have a growth mindset, you know that to be successful you will have to learn new things, face challenges, and adapt.
In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck shares that, “in the growth mindset, you don’t always need confidence…even when you think you’re not good at something, you can still plunge into it wholeheartedly and stick to it.”
When you are open to new information, whether it is consistent with your current beliefs or not, you have the opportunity to grow.
Whether you are cultivating optimism, finding or deepening your passion, or dialing down the influence of biases, having an open mind and expanding it can turn you into a high performer. If you feel stuck, try something new.
Tony Robbins says, “Don’t quit. Try a new approach.” You may be holding yourself back either by negative self-talk or old programming. If doing what you always did hasn’t gotten you where you want to be, try something new. Start by challenging your thoughts and beliefs.