A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It’s a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end, as long as we learn from it.
As human beings we often make the same fundamental mistakes over and over again. For example, deep down we know it’s smart to take it one step at a time, to maintain good daily habits, and to seek out healthy, supportive environments. Yet we often do the exact opposite when times get stressful and we’re under pressure.
Yes, we do the wrong things even though we know better because the human mind has weaknesses. It becomes forgetful and insensible sometimes. And the only way to conquer these weaknesses is to practice conquering them. So today, let’s practice strengthening our minds by discussing three super-common mistakes Angel and I have seen plaguing dozens of our coaching clients, course students, and conference attendees over the past 15 years — some things many of us do daily that drain nearly all of our potential…
1. Waiting to feel more confident before taking the next step.
Countless people misinterpret how confidence works. They think confidence is something they have to possess before they can perform at their best. So they decide to wait until they feel more confident before taking the next step. But waiting around isn’t a confidence-building activity, so they never feel more confident and they never take action.
Let this be your wake-up call…
Confidence is not a prerequisite to present and future performance. Rather, confidence is a direct bi-product of past performance.
For example, if you start your day on the right foot, you’re likely to have improved confidence throughout the rest of your day. Conversely, if you start your day poorly and fall flat on your face, that prior performance will likely lower your confidence for a short time (until your confidence level inevitably cycles again).
But the real kicker is the fact that today is tomorrow’s past. Your confidence going into tomorrow is directly dependent on you taking positive action today and learning from it. And this means two things:
- You can leverage your present actions to improve your future confidence.
- Forcing yourself to take the next step is the first step to feeling more confident.
So whenever you catch yourself waiting around for more confidence to magically arrive before you start working on the task in front of you, remind yourself of how confidence works, and then force yourself to start before you feel ready.
Back in 2008 Angel and I started the blog (and life’s work) that would ultimately become Marc and Angel Hack Life. We didn’t know how to design a website. We didn’t know what a blog was. We didn’t even really know how to write very well. All we knew were five things:
- We recently lost two loved ones to death (mental and physical illnesses).
- We were grieving and struggling in our personal and professional lives.
- We needed an outlet.
- We were interested in writing, and improving our writing.
- We had not been writing enough.
How did we learn to start a website and build a blog? How did we find the confidence necessary to do so? Same way anyone else does it: bit by bit, step by step, one page at a time.
You start reading and learning. You make decisions and take action. You make mistakes. You learn some. You try again. You get a little better. You get a little more confident. You learn some more. You make more decisions and take more action…
And before we knew it, we were blogging daily on Marc and Angel Hack Life.
This process is at the core of all effective confidence-building and goal-achieving initiatives, and it’s one of the most essential skills you need to develop to succeed in life. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a blogger, an entrepreneur, an artist, or a doctor. Learn to start before you feel ready, and you will learn how to succeed, step by step, before you even realize you’re good enough.
2. Succumbing to big thinking paralysis.
Just as you don’t need more confidence to take the next smallest step forward, you don’t need more and more planning and overthinking either…
Stephen King once said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” I have that quote taped up in my home office. It reminds me that while proper planning, strategizing and masterminding is important as you move through a project, it’s also extremely easy to lose yourself indefinitely in doing so.
When our great ideas are still just concepts floating around in our minds, we tend to think really BIG. And while thinking big isn’t inherently bad, the downside is that it often makes the barrier for taking action quite high. In other words, we tend to overthink our projects to the point where they seem more complicated than they actually are, and so we stall again and again to give ourselves more time to prepare for the next step.
To avoid “big thinking paralysis,” pare your bigger ideas down into simpler, immediately testable activities. Can you trial-run the idea of a larger scale conference by hosting a series of smaller local events? Can you take an idea for a book and test it by writing several related blog posts (like Angel and I did with “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently”)? Can you draw it before you build it? Can you prototype it? Once you’ve tested your idea on a smaller scale, you’ll have the insight and data you need to take your idea and project to the next level.
And along these very same lines, also remind yourself that big goals don’t make positive changes happen, small daily habits do. Because too often we obsess ourselves with a big goal — a monumental end result — but we’re completely unfocused when it comes to the habit (the small recurring steps) that ultimately makes the goal happen. And so the weight of this big unrealized goal sits heavy in the mind and brings our progress down to a crawl.
Does that sound at all familiar?
If so, it’s time to shift your daily focus AWAY from your goals. Think about this…
If you completely ignored one of your goals for the next few weeks and instead focused solely on the daily habits that reinforce this goal, would you still get positive results?
For example, if you were trying to lose weight and you ignored your goal to lose 20 pounds, and instead focused only on eating healthy and exercising each day, would you still get results?
YES, you would! Gradually you would get closer and closer to your goal without even thinking about it.
3. Working hard in unhealthy, unsupportive environments.
No matter how good your habits are, and no matter how much determination and willpower you have, if you keep yourself positioned in an environment that works against your best intentions, you will eventually succumb to that environment.
This is where so many of us who get #1 and #2 right make life-altering missteps. When we find ourselves struggling to make progress in an unhealthy environment, we somehow believe that we have no other choice — that positioning ourselves in a more supportive environment, even for short intervals, is impossible. So rather than working in a supportive environment that pushes us forward, we expend all our energy trying to pull the baggage of an unhealthy environment along with us. And eventually, despite our best efforts, we run out of energy.
The key thing to remember here is that, as a human being, your environment immensely affects you. And, consequently, one of the best uses of your energy is to consciously choose and design working and living environments for yourself that support and facilitate the outcomes you intend to achieve.
For example, if you’re trying to reduce your alcohol consumption, you must…
- Spend less time around people that consume alcohol.
- Spend less time in social environments that promote alcohol consumption.
Because if you don’t your willpower will eventually collapse…
“One more drink won’t hurt, right?”
You need to set clear boundaries, commit, and then reconfigure your environment to make the achievement of your commitment possible.
Let’s think about some other common examples:
- If you want to lose weight, your best bet is to spend more time in healthy environments with people who eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis.
- If you want to become a paid, professional comedian — a goal one of our Getting Back to Happy Course students recently achieved — your best bet is to surround yourself with professional comedians, do local gigs together, share experiences, and orient your living and working environment to that goal.
- If you want to overcome your struggles and live a happier life, your best bet is to spend more time communicating with people who share these same intentions. This can be achieved through local support groups, personal-growth conferences like Think Better, Live Better, or online via courses and supportive communities.
The bottom line is that habits, determination, and willpower will only get you so far. If you want to make a substantial, positive, long-term change in your life, you also have to change your environment accordingly. This is truly the foundation of how we evolve as human beings. We mold and adapt to our environments, gradually, for better or worse. Thus, conscious growth involves decisively seeking out or creating enriching environments that encourage you to grow.
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to forgive yourself if you’ve recently mishandled one or more of the points above… Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made, for the times you lacked clarity, for the missteps that created needless delays or stress. These are all vital lessons. And what matters most right now is your willingness to learn and grow from them.
But before you go, please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this essay. Your feedback is important to us. 🙂
Which one of the points above resonated the most today?
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