What are the common daily habits people default to that reduces their chance of achieving success? According to the famous Chinese proverb, “your thought becomes your word; your words become your action; your actions become your habit; your habits become your character; your character becomes your destiny”.
In today’s video, you will learn 7 common habits that make achieving success more difficult and how to overcome these limiting habits. Before we get to it, be sure to subscribe to After School Africa for more insightful videos like this.
1. Setting unreasonable standards
In my entrepreneur journey, I have crossed paths with different business founders. I’ve shared an office building with a number of them. And have watched some go from the business you’d envy to shutting down. In two particular but separate instances, the founders began by setting standards that would only make sense for a business that was already growing or that had a huge startup fund. They spent a huge amount of money furnishing the office space, expensive internet subscriptions, hired full-time developers and administrative staff. They created high monthly operating costs that ran the business to the ground. They didn’t survive for more than two years. These guys definitely had well-meaning intentions. But they had set unreasonable standards for themselves. This attitude often stems from blindly emulating successful people or businesses without considering where these people started from.
Whether in business or in a career, you shouldn’t be afraid to start small. Jumping from a business idea to a well-furnished office with high operating costs is extravagant and unreasonable. Graduating from school and setting the standard to work in a multinational company or nothing, without experience or personal contacts is possible. But in most cases, you are better off giving yourself the option of starting with what you can lay your hands on and build from them. A lot of times, setting unreasonable standards can sabotage your success.
2. Not show up
The story was told of a famous direct marketer whose client complained about not getting enough clients for his business. The marketer asked him how many phone calls he and his team had made in the past 24 hours. “None,” he said. The market then asked him to go to the bank and withdraw $100,000 in cash and bring it to his office. Confused but he obliged. There on the table was $100,000 cash. The marketer took the money and started throwing it away, bundle by bundle into the corners of his office. “That’s my money you are throwing around,” the client said. To that, the marketer responded, “each time you fail to pick up your phone and make that phone call, you are also throwing money away”.
The moral of the story is that if you do not show up in front of people, nothing happens. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “the people who get on in this life are those who go out and look for the circumstances they want. And if they can’t find them, they make them”.
Not showing up is the number 1 reason most people fail. It’ll seem harmless to just sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you. But no matter how much you think you deserve something if you don’t show up consistently; if you don’t get to work every day; you will lose out on opportunities to get it.
3. Being a Perfectionist
This is similar to setting unreasonable standards because perfectionism is unreasonable and unrealistic. But it goes even further. Many people never try because they are waiting for the perfect time. Almost every business or person that has made it to the limelight has been criticized for a flaw. Airplanes crash, products get called back after they hit the market, economic systems are deeply flawed, and doctors kill more people due to errors than pilots. The world is not a perfect place. Humans are not perfect.
Learn from how the software application market works. No app published on the app store is perfect. It usually comes with bugs and room for improvement. People rate these apps publicly; some negatively. The developers have to continue creating new features, fixing bugs, and updating to new versions. It’s a continuous process. Imagine spending years trying to create a perfect app that is bug-free and has all the features people want now and in the future. It’s practically impossible. Stop thinking too highly of yourself. Stop expecting to be perfect or to create something perfect before putting it out there. The point here is not to encourage mediocrity. Instead, it should encourage you to actively work towards excellence, rather than passively expecting perfection.
4. Waiting too long to make a decision
It’s easy to complain about or mock people’s bad decisions. You may marvel at how a leader made the wrong choice when the right one was clear as day. It’s easy to know what’s right when you have no liability. But when you’re in their shoes, you’ll find that it may be difficult to make a decision at all. We put something at stake every time we make a decision. That is why making decisions is scary for most people. But you cannot avoid making important decisions in life.
There are opportunities everywhere today. Job marketing is changing; businesses are changing, skill requirements are changing for many professions. You have decisions to make. And not making a decision is a decision. In fact, the world today is no longer about going big; but about moving fast. Speed is the new big. And when it comes to making progress, acting fast is more important than being right. Great leaders and successful people don’t make the right decisions 100 percent of the time. Rather they make the right decision majority of the time. It’s so much better to try, fail, revise and try again than spend all of your time debating and never actually doing it.
The 40/70 rule is a valuable principle from General Colin Powell on decision making: “You only need 40 to 70 percent of the information to make a decision”. If you require total certainty before you make a decision, you’ll miss opportunities.
5. Focusing on too many things at once
Multitasking is not a skill. It is a harmful habit that sabotages productivity. It’s impossible for our brains to focus on more than one thing at a time. What people call multitasking is actually ‘task switching’. You are simply taking your attention away from one thing and paying it to another at short intervals; going back and forth.
Adam Smith explained the importance of division of labor and focusing on a few things with the example of a manufacturing pin. 10 workers can produce 48,000 pins per day if each of the 18 specialized tasks was assigned to particular workers. But without division of labor, a worker would be lucky to produce even one pin per day. You will have to be a multi-tasker to perform the different processes of making a pin. And this is counter-productive. You will make progress faster when you focus on the few things you are good at and let other people focus on what they are good at. Many smart people, especially business owners take pride in doing many things by themselves. But there is no pride in being a jack of all trade and master of none. Doing too many things at a time sabotages your chance of success.
6. Having a negative attitude
Bad things happen every day in the world. Life is tough. But it’s even tougher with a negative attitude. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examined the link between cynicism and income. The authors defined cynicism as the belief that most people are egoistic, deceitful, and evil as opposed to good, honest, and trustworthy.
After evaluating income levels and attitudes of people from all around the globe, researchers found that cynical people earn an average of $300 per month less than their more positive counterparts. In other words, people with negative attitudes are less likely to be financially successful. The researchers developed several theories about why a negative attitude could lead to lower-income:
- Cynical people are less willing to trust others. Consequently, they may refuse to cooperate.
- They are suspicious of other people’s motives, which could make them less likely to collaborate or network.
- They may refuse to ask for assistance when they need it because they don’t trust that anyone would genuinely help them.
These behaviors can rob one of the opportunities and important relationships. A negative attitude does not only affect income, it also affects mental and physical wellness. A first step to moving from a negative attitude is to start practicing gratitude.
7. Shifting blame
Shifting blame; the art of making others responsible for all the difficult things that happen to us – is something our modern society seems to support as acceptable. Parents, politicians, and the public can easily fit into the list of people to point fingers at as the cause of how life has turned out.
Most people will take the credit if things go well in life, but shift the blame on circumstance and other people when things go bad. However, your chance of success increases when you take ownership of both your successes and your failures. Not taking full responsibility takes away your independence as a human being and sabotages your ability to make progress. Once you become an adult, you have no one else to blame for your life’s outcome going forward but yourself.
The common mistakes that make achieving success more difficult for people are setting unreasonable standards, not showing up, being a perfectionist, being indecisive, focusing on too many things at once, having a negative attitude, and shifting blame.
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