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There are a number of timeless universal principles that can guide you to success. They usually involve setting goals, being determined and having a clear vision.
And then there’s advice that sounds great and seems to make a lot of sense, but backfires when put into practice. It’s important to be aware of these misguided beliefs and bad habits, so you can avoid pitfalls in your journey.
Here are the seven biggest myths about achieving success. Replace them with healthy habits that will help you create a happier life and achieve sustainable success.
1. Follow your passion and you will be successful.
We’ve all heard it before: if you do what you love, you will naturally advance and become successful. This sounds great, and seems to make a lot of sense. And for some people, it may be true. Doing what you love can increase your motivation and make you more determined to see your goals through.
But there are other important factors to keep in mind. If you love doing something, but there is no market for your skills or product, you have a significant hurdle to success. Chances are, if you take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, and consider all possibilities, you will discover that there is more than one path to success. You may find there is something else you like nearly as much, and one with a better market and a higher chance of success.
Keep in mind that there is no perfect job. No matter how much you love doing something, there will be elements of your work that you may dislike or even dread. Instead of focusing solely on doing what you love, make sure that you love what you do. Work should be something you enjoy and gain a sense of fulfillment from.
Remember that there may be more than one career option out there for you and that most people go through a variety of careers over a lifetime. Be open to pursuing new paths.
2. You have to be a perfectionist workaholic to achieve your goals.
Being a workaholic is considered an admirable trait among entrepreneurs and business professionals. And being a workaholic usually goes hand in hand with being a perfectionist. If you aren’t willing to work long hours and ensure every detail is absolutely perfect, then you must not want it badly enough. This myth says that you must be willing to sacrifice everything to become wealthy and successful.
If you follow this rule, you’ll set the bar so high that it will become nearly impossible to succeed. It will all end up backfiring, because the more we hound ourselves to work harder, the more difficult it is to focus. Our productivity drops, we become frazzled and stressed and it becomes difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.
You must take time for yourself. Giving yourself a break and letting your mind wander is important in promoting creativity and ingenuity. Allowing yourself to decompress will actually get you further faster.
Related: Vacation Tips From a Workaholic
3. You must stay focused on the future and working toward your goals.
This myth says that successful people are always focused on the future and working to anticipate problems their companies will surely face. We must all be constantly making to-do lists and working toward our future goals.
However, if you are so focused on what’s next, you may be forgetting to live in the present. Constantly looking ahead without taking stock of what you have will make it difficult to connect to the people around you, and you may find yourself locked into an unhappy mindset.
Research shows that people who stay focused on the present are happier. They have an easier time engaging with others and appreciating all the little moments that bring us joy and contentment. If you keep marching forward with blinders on, always looking for the next accomplishment to tick off, you will live in a state of constant dissatisfaction.
Try practicing mindfulness, in which you focus on the present moment and take time to be grateful for your current life.
4. An expensive education will jumpstart your success.
For many years, it has been believed that any worthwhile career begins with attaining a four-year degree. The bigger and more renowned the school, the better your chances for success.
However, attending a traditional four-year university is simply beyond many people’s budget, and not everyone is cut out for it. Does that mean they are doomed to an unsuccessful life? Absolutely not!
Education can come in many forms and be gained in a variety of ways. There’s no longer just one way to do it; an unconventional education can be just as valuable as one gained through an Ivy League school.
The key is to absorb knowledge and gain life experiences that will teach you how to apply your wisdom. Even the most expensive four-year school only gives you the tools to help you learn and grow. It’s up to you to come up with a plan and execute it.
5. Focus on what you do best.
If you want to be successful, this myth says, you should immerse yourself in one area of expertise. You should play to your strengths and work to develop your knowledge in that area exclusively.
Well, that may work for some. However, the downside to being hyper-focused on one area of business is that you may be closing yourself off from another field that might be more rewarding. Think of all the serial entrepreneurs who have successfully launched a variety of businesses based on their far-flung interests.
Would Sir Richard Branson be as successful if he had remained resolutely focused on mail-order records? Today his conglomerate, Virgin Group, owns over 200 wide-ranging companies.
Instead of focusing only on the things you are good at, work to develop a range of skills. Having other aptitudes and interests will increase your creativity and keep your mind active and nimble. Make time to pursue new areas — you’ll feel excited about new possibilities, and this will keep you from getting into a rut.
6. You have to always look out for yourself.
Many of us buy into the Game of Thrones theory of ultimate success, believing that scheming and conniving your way to the top is the only way to achieve your objective.
The thinking is that if you aren’t looking out for No. 1, then who is? But successful people know better. They aren’t focused entirely on themselves; instead, they are serving others and helping others become the best they can be.
They realize the importance of having compassion for others and helping others succeed. This instills loyalty in those around them. It creates a sense of commitment and reciprocity. Everyone is motivated to work hard for their common goal because there is a feeling of “being in it together.”
Who wants to work hard to promote someone who only thinks of themselves? If you truly want to get ahead, focus on others. Mutual respect, cooperation and reciprocity will be your biggest allies.
7. Money equals success and happiness.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that success, happiness and wealth are linked. We often measure our success by how many zeros are behind our annual salary. Believing that money will bring us happiness is perhaps the saddest and most devastating myth of all.
If the most important measure of your life’s achievement is based solely on dollars, you are setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment. You are saddling yourself with a materialistic mindset that will impede your ability to enjoy life and see the beauty in the world around you.
Money should never be the ultimate goal. Money is a means of providing comfort and security for yourself and those you care about. Focus on making good choices when it comes to how you spend and save, but always remember that it’s people who will add the most value to your life. If you are providing value to others and being of service, the money part will follow.