Struggling To Succeed
Updated: Jul 11
1. Success is a Moving, Target
Be honest: What, really, is success for you?
Is it about launching a product or new business?
Is it about paying off debt and being financially free?
Is it about doing what you love so you can care for your family?
Or is it something that kinda, sorta changes as time goes by?
Too often, we chase an idea of success that’s patched together from what we’ve read or observed or think we should be aiming for. Sometimes it’s built from what we’ve learned, and sometimes it’s based on the things you think success can deliver for you, extrinsic factors like lifestyle, property, status, or vacations.
When success is just a vague idea that comes and goes, changes shape and always seems out of reach, it makes it much easier to second-guess yourself. There’s no foundation to come back to and no compass to tell you which way is where.
And even if you reach some measure of success as a result of your efforts, you’ll feel disconnected from any sense of achievement it might offer. That’s why achieving the wrong kind of success will never bring you true happiness or provide any real value.
2. Success is a Judgement
We’re taught from a young age to elevate success and the successful. Those who create multi-million (or billion) dollar businesses are splashed over magazine covers for us to idolize. So, our success begins to be measured by what they accomplished verses our actual goals.
Success is good. Failure, not so much. There are successful people, and then there’s the unsuccessful. We use these terms to describe and define more than we realize.
Our judgements around success have even turned it into a consumer need, right up there with a house, a car, and money. It’s a need, drive, and focus based on unchallenged expectation. It’s a judgement that’s flawed, leaving no room for grey, keeping eyes fixed forward, and not seeing the value of all experience, regardless of meaningless labels.
Success isn’t a person, it’s simply something that happens from time to time. Stop judging success and failure as good and bad. Get past that and find the value.
3. Success Isn’t Here, Now
It’s easy to dream about the moment you become successful. We all tend to fantasize about the big pay-off for all our hard work, the moment when it all comes together and how it’ll feel to finally have made it. So it’s funny that this kind of success is always in the future. Just a few more weeks or months away. Just one more challenge or goal. Just a bit more work, and you’ll finally be successful.
But where does that leave the right now? Feels to me like pinning your hopes on being successful in the future diminishes your value in the right now.
Placing your sights on the future to a possible successful event can sometimes be a good motivator (in the short term at least), but you only get to get real success by giving your very best right now, without knowing how things will turn out. Even knowing that you may fail in the process.
The present is where the action happens.
4. Success Doesn’t Result in Happiness
Research shows that even if you have a successful career, money, and good physical health, you wouldn’t be happy without supporting, loving relationships.
I know you know that, but underlying it is the simple fact that being “successful” does not change how your brain works. Your fears are still your fears. Your self-doubts are still your self-doubts. And your worries are still your worries. In fact, success can often layer additional layers of thinking on top of what’s already there. You might worry about whether you’ll ever be successful and have other thoughts and fears ripple out from that. You might wonder how you can keep the success you’ve already achieved going, or how long it’ll take before people figure out that you don’t deserve it. Or you might be afraid that you won’t be able to repeat it and be terrified that others will see you fail.
No doubt about it, success can tie your brain in knots and layer on second-guessing, self-doubt, and people-pleasing.
What helps is to make your next decision based on how much you get to be yourself and the value you get to create.
5. Success is Already a Limitation
Your sense of self, your sense of identity, your level of self-confidence, and the power that your doubts and fears have over you will all help to paint that picture.
If you don’t see yourself as the kind of person who can write a novel, you never will. If you think you’re too introverted to present to 3,000 people, you’ll exclude that possibility. If you don’t feel capable enough to go for that promotion, you won’t try.
A vision of success comes with all of this other scary stuff, and is often tempered and shaped by it. If it’s too scary, you make it less scary, or you dismiss it completely. If it’s not “you,” you make it more you, something safer and more predictable. And if you don’t feel good enough or worthy enough of it, you set your sights much, much lower.
Real confidence is being able to trust your behavior and know that you’ll be okay and whole no matter what happens. That’s where it’s best to invest your sense of self, not some half-baked definition of success, because it’s by simply taking repeated, meaningful action—regardless of how things turn out—that amazing things happen.
Here are the six reasons I find most people struggle to find success—and how to fix them!
1. You’re not setting goals
Why would you walk through life without goals?
The short answer is you shouldn’t. The Marine Corps teaches the importance of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.
The acronym refers to:
Specific: Rather than saying “get in shape,” define what you specifically want to achieve, such as losing weight, toning up, etc.
Measurable: Rather than saying “lose weight,” say “lose 10 pounds in two months.” This is a quantifiable goal and can be tracked.
Attainable: Ensure your goal can be accomplished.
Realistic: Be honest with yourself, and keep in mind any obstacles you may need to overcome.
Time-bound: Set a deadline. Deadlines are key to accomplishing your goals, but you must adhere to them!
2. You don’t practice accountability
Nobody is perfect. We all know this. For that reason, it is extremely helpful to have someone holding you accountable to your goals.
Accountability should be unique to what works for you. For me, my accountability partner is Dre. He is my best friend and someone I trust to have my best interest at heart so I know that he will commit to holding me accountable.
The important piece is to have checks and balances in your life that ensure when your moment of weakness comes, you can resist it!
3. You’re making excuses
Nobody cares about your success more than you do. So stop making excuses, and start doing. Stop worrying about problems, and start finding solutions.
It is imperative that you do something every day in order to move the needle forward. Making excuses will accomplish nothing; it’s simply wasting your time.
This is why having intentional friends or support systems are important. We are all human, and it is natural to make excuses—sometimes without realizing it. Much like accountability, a friend who can see through your B.S. is a must have. Excuses don’t make you feel better (in the long run), and they have no place in your life!
4. Your network sucks
It is said that your wealth is the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you’re the smartest person in your network, you need to find a new network.
These statements might sound cliché, and I’m sure you have heard them before. But there is a reason they are repeated often: they are true!
You don’t need to cut all of your friends out of your life, but there is nothing wrong with making changes that better align with your life and goals.
Seriously, if the people around you aren’t helping you grow as a person and accomplish your goals, you need to improve your network. A good way to do this is to attend events, meetups, or find people online who are like minded and share similar interests and goals.
5. You aren’t learning
You need to learn something new every day.
Formal education is great and all, but that isn’t what I mean. You need to learn something every day that will help you achieve your definition of success.
This could mean reading a book, listening to a podcast, or having lunch with a mentor. Search Google for useful blog posts or YouTube videos during your free time!
The point is that you need to set aside time every day for personal development. I believe that the best investment you can make is in yourself!
Don’t overlook opportunities for growth. Daily growth compounded over time will make you into a very successful person.
Conferences and seminars offer a bonus perk: they are an excellent way to combine personal development and networking! I love attending these events to grow personally and build my network, while simultaneously getting a motivational boost!
6. You’re not owning up to things
Everything is your fault! Much like making excuses, failure to take responsibility for your situation is a waste of time and not conducive to improvement.
Is being late to work because of traffic your fault? Yes. Because if you had left the house 10 minutes earlier, you would not have been late.
Will Smith has a great motivational video about the difference between fault and responsibility. In his short clip (which I recommend that you watch by searching “Fault vs. Responsibility” on YouTube), he states that whether or not something is your fault, it is still your responsibility.
An example is that it’s not your fault if your significant other cheats on you, but it is your responsibility to decide how you’re going to react.
We need to shift our mindset from thinking “this happened to me because x, y and z and instead think in terms of “this happened, so how do I fix it?” or “this happened, so how can I ensure it doesn’t happen again?”
It isn’t easy to take extreme ownership when things go wrong, but it is much more productive. This mindset shift will open a lot of doors to you as a leader, and the better you get at this, the more successful you will become.
Now that you are aware of these six reasons you’re not succeeding, it is time to own up and change!
Start to work on all six of these issues, and look for ways to grow.