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How The Success Mentality Can Limit You

Success_Next_ExitThere is a great emphasis on succeeding in our society.

Wherever we turn, we’re reminded with messages that reinforce the ‘success mentality’. Advertising slogans and salespeople want us to buy this and that, self-help books tell us that we can have more and more, and our bosses want us to do more work with the promise of more money and/or a promotion. Success is the name of the game in today’s culture, and if we aren’t seen as successful by the outside world, then we aren’t worth knowing.

But there is something about this mentality that I don’t agree with. It almost forces us to chase more prizes, more toys, more money, and more reputation, all for the case of ‘staying ahead of the pack’. The mottos, “If you can’t keep up, you get left behind” and “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” symbolize this thinking – you need to have the motivation to earn more and more, otherwise the world is no longer interested in you.

I believe this desire for more and more limits us – instead of feeling wonderful about what we do, we see it as a necessary struggle in order to have more. I don’t think this is the way to live life. I think there are far better ways – ways which involve loving what we do on a daily basis, doing what we do for others as much as ourselves, and being able to cope with ‘losing’. This ‘success mentality’ doesn’t advocate passion for your work.

Here are 4 ways in which the success mentality can limit you:

You Focus On The Goal But Ignore The Process

To many people, life is about nothing more than achieving goal after goal after goal.

No matter whether it’s a pay-rise at work, or a new swimming pool in your home, or losing 20 lbs by Christmas, we all have goals. They are the visualization of our desires, where we know that if we reach our goals, our lives will be happier. But some people pursue their goals relentlessly, always on the lookout for ways to reach their current goal, and then finding a new goal once they’re done. To them, their motivation is all about getting their reward and finding success.

But the problem is that, by focusing on goals and chasing them, they overlook the process of how they reach those goals. They are so captivated by their dreams of the rewards that they race through the process as quickly as possible in order to make those dreams a reality. The ‘process’ to reaching their goals is just a necessary obstacle to overcome.

And yet, we gain so much more from learning about our goals than we do from the goals themselves.

When we work towards our goals, we learn new skills, build on existing skills, meet new contacts, strengthen existing relationships, develop our discipline as we keep moving, and reflect on where we’re going. But all of this is overlooked by our single-minded pursuit of our goals. We don’t pay attention to what we’re learning and developing, and so we miss out on all the benefits we could gain otherwise.

99% Of Your Work Is Preparation

Although we rightly celebrate the special moments in our lives, they are few and far between in the grand scheme of life. In fact, they probably consist of about 1% of our total lives.

The vast majority of our lives, the 99%, are spent in preparation for those rewards that we seek. When we set a goal for ourselves, such as getting a raise, then 99% of our time related to that goal will be spent in preparation for that raise. The actual time, the 1%, spent getting the raise will be small, possibly a meeting that lasts about 30 minutes. We spend far more time preparing and practicing for a goal than we do achieving that goal.

But as I mentioned earlier, we overlook the process and try to rush through it, all for the sake of that ‘magic 1%’. Although we remember the special moments of our lives, it’s unwise to ignore or disregard the other 99%. To do so is to miss out on the vast majority of our time on this planet.

Wanting Isn’t The Same As Needing

Another way in which the success mentality limits us is by confusing our differing desires. We always desire certain things or emotional states, but there is a divide between desiring what we need, and desiring what we want.

Some of the things we need are:

  • Shelter
  • Food/Drink
  • Social connections
  • Respect/Love
  • Warmth
  • Clothing
  • A certain amount of money

And that’s about it, not counting specific cases. On the other hand, some of the things we want are:

  • A bigger house
  • A better car
  • More money
  • More vacations
  • Work we’re passionate about

And so on. The key difference, and a good way to tell whether your desire is in the ‘want’ or ‘need’ category, is that we can generally survive without the things we want, but we can’t survive without the things we need. Although this is simple in principle, we sometimes can’t tell the difference between our goals in each category.

Success_Next_ExitThe success mentality personifies having everything you want, whether you need it or not. We don’t need a swimming pool in our house, yet we can be driven by the success mentality to achieve this, even over a ‘need’ goal such as love and respect for ourselves and for others. Our needs can be pushed aside by our wants, and so we can find ourselves wealthy in some areas of our lives, but lacking in others.

Winning Won’t Change Who You Are

Despite the wonderful feelings we get when we achieve our goals and when we have ‘successes’ in our lives, they fail to do one thing – change who we are.

If you were to look in the mirror the day after you achieved a goal, you wouldn’t see a ‘new-and-improved’ version of yourself staring back at you. You’d still see you – the same person, with the same personality. The success hasn’t changed you much at all.

In his book “Sacred Hoops”, Phil Jackson, one of the most successful NBA coaches in history, shares a story from the 1972-1973 NBA season when he was playing for the New York Knicks. After they’d won the title and were celebrating in New York, Jackson felt this strange sensation – a complete lack of thrill. He was happy he’d won the title, but instead of being overwhelmed with joy, he felt empty. He kept asking himself, “Is this it? Is this supposed to bring me happiness?”

What Phil had realized was that no matter how many times you win, you have to go back to your life and start all over again.

Just as athletes and sports stars have to prepare for the next competition no matter whether they won or lost, we have to continue living our lives no matter whether we reached our goal or not. Chores still need doing, the kids still need looking after, and you still need to eat, sleep, wash, and go to the toilet. In the broader picture of life, not much has changed at all.

The ‘success mentality’ can promise much, but it can also limit you.

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