The #1 Reason You’re Unsuccessful & How to Change It

Success comes in all forms. Only an individual can define success for him or herself, but somewhere along the way, our American culture decided to streamline what success is for all of us. What were we all told when we were young? “Get good grades so you can go to college, so you can get a good job, find a good spouse, buy a nice house and car, have 2.5 kids, own a dog, and be happy.”

Although we may have been the few blessed with good parents who saw the world a little more well rounded, the truth is that the rest of the world’s message held more weight. I never knew I had an option to do anything but go to college after high school until I was recruited by the Marine Corps for my music skills. Wait! What? I can be a US Marine AND play music! WHAT?! I’m sure my mom told me that I had other options of what I could do after high school, but they never felt like options because the information never even stuck in my brain…PEOPLE! The only reason I became a US Marine was my mother convincing me that I could do all the things she knew I wanted to do and didn’t have to go to school right away.

I had turmoil in my decision making process, but not for long. I am a “balls to wall” decision making person at my core, so I don’t sit on decisions too long. (Obviously, I was destined for the Corps.)

My point remains the same. How do we define success? Well “we” collectively cannot determine success for any one person. We have a unique journey to fulfill and there are no duplicates in the world.

So why have we bought into this one picture of how life is supposed to work? Of how success should be measured?

The reason you’re unsuccessful in life pursuits is most likely because you’re trying to pursue some fake life of success.

Who said you have to go to college to be successful? I don’t think anyone is doubting the success of people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Sophia Amoruso, David Neeleman, Paul Allen, and Larry Ellison.

Who said you had to get married to be successful? There are many unsuccessful married and unmarried folk.

Who said the big house with the white picket fence is what makes you happy? I have an uncle who can buy a dream home in any city in the country and he chooses to rent a small 3-bedroom house because he wants to move when he’s ready to move, and he has no need for extra space to fill with extra stuff. He’s a guy who loves experiences, not things.

Who said….OK. I think you get my point, and if not….The #1 reason you are unsuccessful is because you are allowing society to define success. Only you can define your own success.

You will never be successful trying to live someone else’s version of success.

And to that point: How many people consciously want that life for you? If you ask most of your friends and family, they will probably say, I just want you to be happy. Well good news! It’s easy to please them! Just choose to be happy, and if you find that difficult, it’s probably because you’re attempting to live someone else’s life.

So today, instead of trying to choose happiness in a life that isn’t meant for you, choose you. Choose what you want out of life. Maybe that means you choose to go back to school so you can eventually leave a job only your parents wanted for you. Or maybe you choose to leave school to experience the world the way you always wanted to experience it.

If you don’t know who you are at your core, you’re not going to be able to choose wisely. And all of the personality assessments in the world won’t be able to decide for you. They couldn’t possibly supply enough questions to determine the infinite possibilities of who you could be.

The good news? You can work to know yourself better and define your own version of success. Success that only you can define. In order to get to know yourself, you have to be purposeful and intentional about understanding your ins and outs. And here are a couple of activities that can help you with that.

Question it. Even if you think you know how you define success, there may be more you haven’t figured out. So spend a little time asking yourself these questions:

  • Do you know what makes you happy?
  • And what makes you sad?
  • Do you have a fire that feels like an inferno every time you hear of or see a particular situation?
  •  When do you feel energized, like you’re on top of the world?
  • When do you feel completely drained?
  • Do you know any things at which you seem especially gifted? You’re a natural _________
  • Can you describe yourself in 4 words?

Another great way to know how you would define success is to write your own eulogy. I did this exercise once with my business coach, and L-O-V-E-D it! You know why? Because my life isn’t over yet! I can make all of those things real – until the day I die, I have that chance.

What is it you want people to say about you when you’re gone? If you can write that down, you’re on your way to redefining your own success and setting your path on the right trajectory. Don’t be hard on yourself, nothing is written in stone…yet. Until the day we're buried 6 feet under, we still have a chance to make our dreams a reality.

And let’s be honest. I’m sitting here writing this as a 36-year-old woman, a mother of a 13-year-old, running a business, and on the verge of some big changes in my life – I expect my eulogy and my definition of success to change and grow as I change and grow. Don’t be so married to this picture of success that you aren’t allowed to change your mind. You always have that right, so be kind and forgiving to yourself.

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