Albert Schweitzer said, “Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Gone are the times where success is defined by wealth, power and notoriety.  In today’s modern economy people want more; we want a sense of self-satisfaction, happiness and community.  We want to feel alive and if we’re not actively and practically engaged in what we’re doing, we’re not achieving that feeling of success.  In fact, not being engaged feels heavy, like work, and that feeling decreases motivation and productivity.  Think about the last time you approached a task that you really didn’t want to do – that year-end spreadsheet, a much needed employee evaluation or maybe the fall washing of your windows.  Did you procrastinate?  Did the task sit naggingly in your mind or like a boulder on your shoulders?  Was there a dip in your motivation and a feeling of dread as you began the task?  If you weren’t feeling inspired, or inspiring for others, then you weren’t being successful!

The behaviors that sabotage success fall into four main categories: our relationship with self, our relationship with others, our presence in the world and our connection to something bigger – or our “higher selves”.   The sad truth is that the vast majority of people don’t realize when they’re sabatoging their chances for success, engagement and happiness. They remain oblivious to how their behaviors subvert the outcomes they desire.  Below are six common ways we sabotage our success and tips to addressing each one!

1.  A Need to be Right.  The need to be right is often rooted in a fear of being wrong.  In truth, we learn the most when we are wrong – and we should embrace those instances as opportunities to grow and flourish.  If you’re so sure that you’re right that you’re not listening to another view….you’re probably wrong!  The need to be right feeds the ego while the willingness to be wrong changes our mindset and our culture.

Tip:  Remember that you have two ears and one mouth.  This means that you should be listening twice as much as you’re speaking.  When you walk away from a conversation do you feel like you’ve used only 1/3 of the time talking?  Can you summarize what the other person said with sincere understanding?  Do you think your listeners walked away feeling like you dominated the conversation or participated with honest investment of their ideas.  Review these tips on listening to increase your skills.

2.  Poor Communication.  In order to experience success you have to be able to successfully communicate – effectively, with clarity, confidence, and compassion.  Communication bridges differences in beliefs, thoughts and actions and when we do this from a place of kindness and respect for others we are inspired and inspiring. Many people end up burning critical bridges because they don’t pay attention to how they communicate.  No matter how great your thoughts are, sustained success doesn’t happen if people think you’re a jerk or you are oblivious to the needs and desires of others. Success may come temporarily because of your authority but it will quickly flee if your communication style regularly irritates and offends people.

Tip: Work diligently on becoming more self aware of what you are saying and how people are responding – both verbally and non-verbally.  Do you craft your messages carefully before you speak, assessing how they’ll be received by others, or just blurt out what you think and feel with little regard to implications and repercussions? Read the fabulous book The Four Agreements and start by implementing one agreement a week so that you can live with more integrity while also supporting the needs of others.

3.  Following vs Leading.  This is a tricky one.  We often view leadership as something that is intimately tied to our professional lives thinking that leaders are department heads, division heads or C-Suite seat holders.  Why do we think this?  Well, most often it’s because those position holders have people who work for them – therefore they must be leaders.  Not always the case – although successful leaders always have more effective workers.  Success starts with the ability to lead yourself.  This means that you are consciously taking your destiny into your own hands vs reacting to external events and letting those events determine your destiny.  If you have difficulty leading your own life, you’ll most certainly have difficulty leading others.

Tip: In all honesty….get a coach!  I’m not just saying that because I happen to be a coach – I’m advocating that because over and over again I hear people talking about the impact that coaching has had on lives, organizations and cultures.  The beauty of coaching is that you have your own personal cheerleader who is focused on nothing but the success of you!  Not only do you learn to be a leader in your own life but you also become more inspiring to those around you – and that has huge impacts on your own engagement and prosperity.  The biggest investment you can make toward success is an investment in yourself and if you’re reading this article, you already realize that you need to do something!

4. The Urge to Fix Others.  It’s a whole lot easier to focus on fixing others than it is to address yourself and it’s a brilliant way to distract you from pursuing your own success.  Why?  Because you get to convince yourself that you’re being altruistic by “helping” others and, it’s okay if you don’t have enough time or energy left to work on your own success because, well because, you’re helping others.  STOP!  It’s not your job to fix others – it’s your job to be the example that inspires others to change themselves.  And, once you realize this….you’ll find yourself with a bucket of free time to proceed on the journey of your own success.

Tip:  When you feel the urge to hop into someone else’s problem and resolve it – remember that by doing so you’re actually robbing them of an opportunity to learn and grow.  And, given that they didn’t solve it or fix it themselves, they’re probably going to have to repeat the lesson somewhere down the road.  All you’ve done is delay their learning!  Instead of jumping in to assist, try focussing on your listening by telling yourself that they get to be exactly where they are and that it’s not your job to rush them through that space.

5.  Choosing the Wrong Posse.  If you were a basketball coach, you’d choose players that complimented your coaching style and performed well under your particular structure.  Choosing your team in life is no different.  People either drain you or inspire you and one draining person on your team can crumble the entire structure.  Is there anyone in your posse who is draining?  People who are one-sided? Passive-aggressive? Lack forgiveness and trust? Are punitive?  If so, their presence is like death by paper cuts – slow, annoying, painful and a huge impediment to your success.

Tip: Creating sustained change is two-fold.  First, you have to recognize that there’s a problem and second, you have to have a game plan or strategy menu.  To confirm whether a suspected toxic person is indeed toxic to you – simply make two columns; one named “inspiring” and one named “draining” then spend one week marking an X in the respective column for the feeling that you have after each thought process about him or her.  You don’t have to have interaction with this person but the affect that their presence has on your thoughts will be enough to reveal whether they are toxic to your life.  Then, decide whether you want to distance yourself (so you’re not as affected) or if you want to totally abandon ship.  Deciding that will most likely reveal a game plan that will work for you.  You’ll then feel better and have more time and energy to work on your own success.

6.  Not Having a Clear Vision.  If you don’t have a clear vision of what success means to you and what you look like “being successful” then you don’t really know what you’re working toward – nor will you know when you get there.  Having a clear vision allows you to establish benchmarks of accomplishment where you can see progress.  When you see material progress toward your vision, you will be more inspired and excited to keep moving.

Tip:  Create a vision of your “ideal self”.  What does your life look like?  What are you doing?  What does it feel like?  What impact are you having?  Questions like this will help you formulate what success means for you and if you have a clear vision, it’s much easier to create strategies for attaining that vision.  After you create your vision, everything that you do should contribute toward movement in the direction of that vision!

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