What’s keeping you from becoming the next Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey?
Is it simply that they’re more innately talented, or they just got lucky? Probably not.
Over on Quora, users have weighed in with their thoughts on the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that can prevent you from achieving your full potential.
We’ve highlighted the most insightful responses, along with some expert commentary, below.
1. Fear that you’ll fail
Quora user Rebecca Massey says fear is the top factor that keeps people from doing what she did: quitting a full-time job to do what they love (in her case, writing).
Specifically, she writes, many people are afraid of failing at their new venture. Here’s her advice for reframing the situation:
If you legitimately gave it your best shot and you failed, then perhaps you failed at your goal, but you will have succeeded in dozens of other ways: new skills learned, new connections made, new experiences lived, new things discovered about yourself and what you’re capable of, and if nothing else, the peace of mind that comes from erasing a “what if?” from your life.
2. Fear that people will think you’re stupid
Massey says many people are also living in fear that others will think they’re insane for trying something new. And they’re right: “Some people WILL think you’re stupid or crazy — even if you’re a wild success — and it will hurt.”
At the same time, Massey says you can draw strength from your supporters, and there will always be supporters.
“You WILL ALSO be stunned at how many people already think that you’re smart and awesome and that what you want to do is totally great and that you should do it right now,” she writes. “Even total strangers! Find those people and keep them close. They will outweigh the naysayers.”
3. Letting other people make decisions for you
“Whether it was my parents, or other successful people, or people at work, everyone’s opinion seemed more important to me than my own,” writes Matt Hearnden. “If I don’t make my choices, then somebody else will. That’s not fun, and it’s definitely not success.”
So how do you exercise more autonomy?
Over at Psychology Today, Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D., recommends writing down what you think other people will say about you if you choose to make a change, so you can separate their feelings from your own. Then you can work on taking small steps in the direction of what you want.
Write down your three greatest accomplishments and failures. Shutterstock
4. Not taking the time to find out what’s important to you
If you don’t know what drives you personally, you’ll always be pursuing someone else’s vision of success — and you’ll never be satisfied.
Hearnden describes the exercise he used to figure out what mattered to him: “When I took the time to find out what was important to me, when I bothered to make it important to me, I wrote it all down and circled the absolute most important things. There was only one thought: ‘That’s me.’ That’s clarity. That’s motivation.”
Writing for Inc., Kevin Daum highlights another exercise for identifying your core values. He suggests answering questions like “What have been your three greatest accomplishments?” and “What have been your three greatest failures?” and coming up with a few sentences of advice for yourself based on your responses.
5. Not putting in sufficient effort
“No matter how genius and smart you may be, without effort, you won’t go far,” says Jay Seo. “If you look at all the successful people discussed in Quora, such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs, they put countless hours into their expertise.”
Ultimately, what determines whether you put in those hours is your attitude. When it comes to professional success, having a can-do attitude is as important as (or more important than) knowledge or skills because it allows you to learn.
6. Giving up
Indeed, Edison famously said: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.”
In other words, he used each seeming failure as a learning experience that contributed to the innovation process.
7. Getting too comfortable
It’s great to be happy with what you have — but not to the extent that it hurts your sense of ambition.
Writes Shruti Gandhi: “When people start getting comfortable in their careers or life in general, the drive to work towards achieving more eventually decreases.”
Steve Tobak makes a similar point in Entrepreneur: “When it comes to their work, highly accomplished people are never satisfied with their own performance. They’re always hungry. They always expect more of themselves. And that’s usually a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
In other words, the more you demand of yourself (within reason, of course), the more you’ll achieve.
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