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7 Reasons Why Smart, Hardworking People Don’t Become Successful

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For the longest time, I believed that if smart people worked hard and grew up in a reasonably nurturing environment, success would come eventually.

I looked at other people and thought, “Wow, that person’s going to go on to do great things.”

But as I grew older, I realized that’s not necessarily the case. A few people I know who are intelligent and have a strong work ethic have gone on to do notable things, while many others are doing fine. Unfortunately, there are some that drift along, unsure about what to do.

I then realized that there are a lot of factors when it comes to success, whether it means having a fulfilling career, having great relationships, or staying healthy. Yes, smarts are part of it, and so is work ethic. But there’s more at play than just these two factors.

Here are seven reasons why you might not be finding success even if you’re smart and hardworking:

1. You don’t reach out to new people

It’s easy to stick to people you’ve known for a long time. You know each other’s histories and can laugh at inside jokes together. The problem with old friends, though, is that the same ideas are recycled over and over again, and you don’t get to learn new perspectives outside of your bubble.

It can be tough to reach out at first to new people, but starting small can help. Aim for a low goal initially, such as introducing yourself to one person a week.

“You have to fight to reach your dream. You have to sacrifice and work hard for it.” – Lionel Messi

2. You are averse to change

Being in the same environment for a long time makes it hard to adapt to something new. The good news is that change presents a chance for opportunities and innovation.

Instead of resisting changes, see how you can make the best of them. Maybe you can cater to a growing businesses need or see a different perspective. Be open to new concepts and curious about the world around you.

 

3. You’re not willing to take risks

Smart people often choose the safe route. They might follow the same path as their peers or choose a career because it’s considered acceptable by their peers.

While this guarantees a degree of security, it can be mundane. I hear so often from smart people that they find their jobs unfulfilling and that they want to do something else, but are afraid to do so.

If you’re thinking about branching out into unfamiliar territory, consider what your life will be like decades from now if you opt not to pursue something. Will you regret it, or will you be happy with your decision?

 

4. You believe you deserve success based on credentials

People that worked hard in school are used to being at the top and told how much potential they show. This seems good initially, but there are some negative side effects.

I’ve heard people claim they deserve something because of their intelligence or where they went to school. They expect things to pan out automatically because of their credentials. Sadly, though, life doesn’t work like that.

In the real world, you don’t get results based on the work you put in. You get results based on the combination of hard work, strategic thinking, and some luck involved. You can increase that last factor by working on the first two.

 

5. You constantly go after whatever’s exciting at the moment

One thing I hear often from high achievers is that they hate wasting time. Smart people are all too aware of the value of their time, as time and effort spent on one thing means that they could potentially be missing out on something else.

While this is a strong attribute, it also means chasing the next big thing and not following through. Starting out in any field or endeavor is tough, and getting through the initial obstacles requires patience.

Focusing effort on one goal yields much better results in the long run than going after one thing, getting bored, and then going after something new.

 

6. You can’t commit to a decision

Being smart and working hard can open up numerous doors. Unfortunately, having too many options can be as restricting as having few choices.

An abundance of choices makes it difficult to decide what to do. As a result, it’s tempting to jump around and “see what suits you”. I knew someone who attended numerous graduate school programs, one after another. Over ten years later, she still can’t figure out what to do.

Rather than dabbling in many endeavors, I suggest testing things out first. Talk to other people and do the research before making a big decision, so that you know whether or not an option suits your personality and lifestyle.

 

7. You don’t believe in yourself

Surprisingly, smart people can underestimate their own abilities. They are their own worst critic, causing them to believe that they can’t accomplish as much as they can.

Smart people have high standards when it comes to their work. Whenever they work on a project, they tend to scrutinize and second-guess the final product.

This seems like a good thing on the surface, but it’s often more debilitating than helpful. Perfectionism can hinder people from progressing forward in their goals or starting on anything in the first place.

“It’s difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe. Everything beautiful in the world is within you.” – Russell Brand

So instead of letting fears of “what if” or “I’m not good enough” keep you back from something new, think of how you want your life to look like years from now. Getting started beats waiting for something to happen anytime.

What will you do today to get closer to your success? What are some things that have been holding you back?

Melissa Chu is the founder of Jumpstart Your Dream Life, where she helps people get productive and incorporate positive habits into their everyday lives. You can download the guide that shows you how to achieve your goals (without giving up). So get started today. Download the guide here.

Motivation

How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals

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Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.

What is Motivation?

The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.

Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).

Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.

However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals. 

How to Get Motivated

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.

This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.

4 Ways to Make Starting Easier

1. Schedule it

One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it. 

When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.

An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”

2. Measure something

It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.

3. Extrinsic motivation

This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.

4. Make it public

Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

How to Stay Motivated Long Term

When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.

These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:

1. Stay in your goldilocks zone

The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.

For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging. 

The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.

2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals

Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within. 

For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.

3. Use “chunking”

Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.

Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.

For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.

4. Be flexible

We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.

5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion

Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.

This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.

Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.

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Motivation

What Is Dark Motivation and How Can I Use It to My Advantage?

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It’s Thursday, 8 PM. I’m relaxing at home, doing normal things, and scrolling social media. Tomorrow is a big day. There are lots of things to do with moving pieces of furniture because I’m moving to another city. On top of that, a repairman is coming to my house at 8AM, so I’ll have to get up early. (more…)

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Motivation

The Killer Morning Routine to Boost Motivation

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Motivation

Why “No Pain, No Gain” Is More Powerful Than You Realize

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