Twelve types of people who never succeed at self-improvement

Today I’m going to shift focus and talk about what not to do.  Or rather, how not to think. 

Yeah, kind of like my other article on mental barriers, but that article was about very specific limiting beliefs people often have.  This time I’m zooming out a bit to dissect the broader mentalities that I’ve observed in people who fail at their personal goals. 

Self-disclosure time: I’ve been dealing with a mental barrier of my own for a while: the belief that every article needs an awesome intro to hook my readers, otherwise they won’t read the article.  This has lead to me wasting hours obsessing over the first few paragraphs of nearly every article I write.  I know I need to get over that, sooooo…no cool intro for this article. 

Except maybe that actually was a good intro. Hmmm.

Anyhoo, here are twelve groups of people who I’ve noticed are almost never successful at reaching their goals, at least until they fix their mindset.  Except, they’re not really “types of people” in the sense that you either fall into one of them or you don’t, but more like mentalities that people can sometimes fall into.  You’ll see what I mean. 

I’ve given a few examples of the kinds of things they say that illustrate these mentalities.  I want to be very clear here: no matter how crazy those quotes may sound, they’re all either direct quotes or close paraphrases* of things I’ve actually heard from people.

*Pages insists that this is the correct term, but it sounds really off to me.  Seems like it should be paraphrasals, or maybe paraphrasings. 

The Lazy Inquirer

The vague inquirer asks one of two kinds of questions. The first type is extremely general fitness questions, utterly devoid of personal or environmental context.  The second type is simple, factual questions that could easily be Googled. 

What they say

Hey John, I was wondering, how can I lose weight?

I’d like to sleep better- how can I do that? 

Great article John, but what are macros? 

What does iso-lateral mean?

What’s going on here

The lazy inquirer wants somebody else to do all the work for them. 

They have a goal- lose weight, sleep better.  They can’t be bothered to formulate a more specific goal, or read the dozens of articles I’ve already written about sleep or weight loss.  Hell, they can’t even be bothered to Google the question they’re asking. 

The lazy inquirer is hoping for a magic bullet solution that works for everyone and doesn’t require significant effort or even thought.  Sure, just eat pork instead of beef, do planks and lunges three days a week, and the fat will melt off. 

No such easy answers exist.  If you want to make a serious improvement in your life, you need to put in a serious effort- both in terms of the action you take, and the thought that goes into it. 

When I reply to these people with clarifying questions- how much do you weigh now, what are you doing to lose weight already, etc- they almost never reply. 

What to do if you tend to ask lazy questions

First off, you need to accept that reaching your goals will require serious effort. 

Second, you need to educate yourself, rather than demanding that other people spoon-feed you information.  That means Googling any questions you have, and checking to see if I’ve already written articles on a subject before asking really vague questions about it.

When you do ask for help, they make the effort to ask a specific question, with context.  Here’s an example of a great question:

Hey John, I’m an intermediate level trainee, lifting weights 5 days a week with an upper/lower split, and I’m worried about overtraining.  I know what the symptoms of overtraining are, but how big of an issue do you think overtraining is?  And what’s the first sign of overtraining that I should watch for?

Notice how this person does three things: they provide context (intermediate lifter, 5 training days on a 2-way split), they show that they’ve done their research, and they ask very specific questions.

The Perfectionist

The perfectionist believes that they can only see results if they do everything perfectly.  Their diet and training program need to be both aggressive, and perfectly customized to them.

What they say

I’ve spent a few weeks reading about training programs, but I haven’t started one yet because I don’t know which one is best.

I haven’t been working out because I don’t really have time to go to the gym three days a week.

I’d love to start a business, but I can’t just quit my job!

What’s going on here

At their worst, the perfectionist views working on their goals as all-or-nothing.  Either they’re doing everything right, or they’re doing nothing.

A lesser version of perfectionism is the idea that there’s a threshold level of work- a minimum below which your efforts don’t count- going to the gym three days a week, for instance.

In some cases, perfectionists have looked at successful people and bought into the cliche that in order to be successful like them, you need to do what they do. 

In other cases, it’s simply an excuse to not do anything- some perfectionists would rather fantasize about being a pro athlete than do the work to shave half a minute off their mile time.

What to do if you’re a perfectionist

Perfectionists need to change their mental model from that of an on-off switch to that of a dial.  Instead of having the attitude that they’re either working on their goals or they’re not, they should think in terms of levels of intensity of effort.  If you’re currently at a six out of ten, you can turn that down to a four if things get too busy, or up to an eight when you have the time and energy.

Perfectionists need to internalize the idea that everything counts, and doing what you can is better than doing nothing.  Don’t have time to hit the gym three days a week?  Go two days a week, or work out at home. 

Perfectionists also need to understand that you can starting taking imperfect action, and make adjustments along the way.  A crappy manuscript can be edited, your diet can be adjusted, your guitar technique will improve.  Just get started. 

The Intimidator

The intimidator is the opposite of the perfectionist- at least at first glance.  They’re afraid to bite off more than they can chew, particularly when faced with new experiences, and tend to imagine worst-case scenarios.  When it comes to exercise in particular, the intimidator has an exaggerated fear of injury. 

What they say

Whoah, I’ve never heard of those exercises!  They sound way too advanced for me!

I’m afraid to try and build a website.  It all looks so complicated- I wouldn’t know where to start!

I can’t just go up to a strange woman and start talking to her- what if she slaps me or I get kicked out of the bar?

What’s really going on

Two things: fear of the unknown and fear of failure. 

Let’s tackle fear of the unknown first.  When the intimidator ponders something they don’t know very much about, they mentally fill in the blanks with the most intimidating thing they can think of. 

As an example, I’ve noticed that intimidators tend to assume that any exercise they’ve never heard of before is “advanced.”  And while some movements are certainly more technically demanding than others, the fact remains that difficulty is primarily a function of how heavy of a weight you’re lifting.

Fun fact: I once had a client who said she had never heard of the Arnold press, but it sounded way too advanced for her.  What made it sound advanced, I wonder?  Does the name Arnold sound really technical? 

I convinced her to at least look the exercise up on YouTube before deciding she couldn’t do it.  She then emailed me back and said she was already doing Arnold presses, except she only knew them as dumbbell rotary shoulder presses.   Which is all they are. 

Second, intimidators tend to assume any failure will be catastrophic.  If they exercise wrong, they’ll get hurt.  If they start a business and fail, somehow they’ll lose all their money- even if they only invest a hundred dollars into the business. 

Counterintuitively, in many cases, intimidators are also perfectionists.  The combination of these two mentalities can be utterly paralyzing.  When people fall into the perfectionism-intimidation trap, as I call it, they won’t make a small effort because they think small efforts don’t count, and they won’t do something big because that’s too scary.  So they do nothing. 

What to do if you tend to intimidate yourself

First, they should directly tackle their fear of the unknown by researching whatever it is they’re intimidated by.  Look up instructions.  Watch exercise demos on YouTube.  Read case studies. 

Second, think through what the actual worst thing that can happen is.  If you start a business, you can’t lose more money than you put into it.  If you’re exercising, you can always use a lower weight to make things safer.

Third, understand that most failures are not catastrophic, but merely learning experiences.

Fourth, take action.  The best way to stop being intimidated by something is to actually do it.  At this point, intimidators have a tendency to come back and say “But what about….?” 

No.  You are not a special snowflake.  As with the perfectionist, the key here is to stop overthinking it and just get started.

The Environment-Blamer

Environment-blamers believe they’re at the mercy of their environment.  To listen to them, life is not a series of things that they do, but a series of things that happens to them.

What they say

I can’t stop eating junk food because my coworkers keep bringing it to the office.

I want to work out at the gym more, but I can’t find any empowering music to listen to.  I can’t believe how sexist and negative most song lyrics are! 

I’m waiting for a better job to come along.  Hopefully a friend will recommend me for one, or my boss will offer me a promotion. 

This isn’t my fault!

What’s really going on here

The environment-blamer has an external locus of control.  To quote Wikipedia: Individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their life derive primarily from their own actions: for example, when receiving exam results, people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves and their abilities. People with a strong external locus of control tend to praise or blame external factors such as the teacher or the exam.

Mountains of research have been done on this subject, and unsurprisingly, they all find that people with an internal locus of control are more successful- at everything- than people with an external locus of control.  Locus of control is probably the single most consistent psychological predictor of success.

The thing is, if something is within your power, then it’s also potentially your fault.  If you could lose weight, then you also bear some blame for being fat.  The environment-blamer is usually motivated, at least in part, by a desire to dodge blame for their problems. 

I want to note that people are heavily influenced by their environments.  In fact, a person’s environment is often more predictive of their outcomes than their own personality.  This may seem to contradict the last paragraph, but there’s the thing: you can choose what environment you’re in.  People tend to self-select into environments that they fit into.  Many of the most important choices you’ll make relate to picking your environment.    

What you should do instead of blaming your environment

Take some responsibility.  Affirm that you have the power to improve your life.  Acknowledge that this means you bear some responsibility for your problems, but don’t beat yourself up over it.  Let the past be, and focus on improving your future.

Ask yourself honestly if your environment really is part of the problem, or if that’s just an excuse you make.  If it really is, then change your environment, whether that means finding a new job, making new friends, joining a new gym, or joining a business mastermind group.  Surround yourself with people who will push you towards your goals, not pull you away from them.   

If you’re in a toxic environment, it’s up to you to get out.

The Freetard

The freetard is unwilling to spend money, even in the pursuit of goals that are supposedly very important to them.  They often request or even demand free products and coaching, and get angry when asked to pay for something.

What they say

You’re CHARGING people for coaching?!  You’re attitude is that of a loser!  Goodbye!

Tell you what, I know you need reviews for your product- how about you give it to me for free, and if I’m successful with it I’ll write you a glowing testimonial. 

I’d know I’m more than a hundred pounds overweight, but three hundred dollars a month for fat loss coaching just sounds too high. 

You should just give this away for free.  Think about it, the goodwill you’d get from doing that would vastly outweigh the money you get from selling it.

Is this all just a scheme for you to sell your products?

What’s really going on here

Show me what a person spends their time and money on, and I’ll show you their priorities. 

Some people have the money, but aren’t willing to spend it because they’re not really serious about their goal.  These people tend to accumulate massive numbers of cheap or pirated books that they never read.

Some people view making money as inherently unethical, particularly when what’s being sold is information or something equally intangible.  You can identify these people by their use of terms like “scheme” and “plot.”  Yes, it’s all a “scheme” to trade my labor for money.  I’m “plotting” to get paid for the work that I perform full-time.  You got me.

Some people simply don’t have the money to buy the things they want.  Instead of just acknowledging that they can’t afford something, they get defensive and convince themselves that there’s something morally wrong with selling things they can’t afford.

Finally, some people don’t see value in investing in themselves because they don’t value themselves, or don’t believe in their ability to succeed.  Hiring a coach to help you lose weight is a great investment if it works, and a waste of money if it doesn’t- many freetards have already subconsciously decided that they’re almost certain to fail, and are simply trying to minimize the money they waste when they do.

What to do if you’re a freetard

Seriously examine why you’re so hostile to the idea of paying for things.

If it’s because you can’t afford what they want, you should focus on doing what you can to reach your goals without spending money- but drop the anger and don’t resent people for selling stuff you can’t afford.  Also, maybe find a way to earn more money.

If you’re not willing to spend money because you’re not really serious about your goal, abandon your goal.  Don’t waste time half-assing something you don’t care about.

If you have toxic attitudes towards money, you need to spend some time looking inward and figuring out where that’s coming from. Understand that money is not evil.  Understand that people who have built a career on helping you reach your goals deserve to be paid for it, just as you deserve to be paid for your job.  Understand that everything that costs money isn’t a scam. 

And if you aren’t willing to spend money on something because you don’t really believe you can succeed, that’s also something that warrants a lot of introspection.  Figure out a real action plan for reaching your goals, and commit yourself to spending the time, money, and most importantly, the effort needed to reach that goal. 

The Endless Researcher

You should always do your research before starting a new diet, new workouts, or any kind of self-improvement program.  A little research, anyway- before long, it’s time to take action.  But for the endless researcher, the initial research phase never ends, and the action never begins.

What they say

I’ve been wanting to start a diet, but there are so many of them it takes a long time to figure out which one to try.

I know I should be saving and investing, but I can’t figure out which investing strategy is best.

What’s going on here

The endless researcher tends to view planning and execution as strictly sequential.  That is, they think that once the planning is done and they start working on something, they have to stick to the game plan they started with, without deviation or course correction.

Endless researchers are also often intimidated- their excessive planning can be a form of creative avoidance that they use to delay doing the scary work of actually executing on their plans.

How to break your procrastination habit

Put a strict time limit on the initial research phase before you start something- anywhere from a day to a month, depending on how complicated it is.

The initial research phase before you start a new project or habit only needs to do two things.  First, it needs to give you just enough information to get started.  And second, you need to figure out any decisions that would be really hard to change once they’v been made- a domain name for your business, for instance. 

That’s it.  You don’t need to, and generally can’t, plan everything to the end before you get started.  You also don’t need to overcome your mental barriers before you get started- if you feel intimidated, you can just get started now, and the intimidation factor will fade away with experience.

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but if you tend to fall into the endless research trap- do a bare minimum of planning, and then just get started.

The Success-Phobe

We all have goals, and presumably we want to reach them.  The success-phobe is afraid they’ll be too successful.

What they say

I’m not lifting weights because I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder. 

I want to make more money, but I’m afraid if I do I’ll drift apart from my friends once I’m earning more money than them. 

I’d like to date more, but I’m not going to go out and flirt with random girls.  I have no desire to be one of those guys who hooks up with a new girl every week.

I want to lose weight, but every time I start to lose weight I get scared and stop dieting.

What’s going on here

If you look closely at those four quotes, you’ll see they fall into two distinct groups.  The second and fourth quotes indicate that people are afraid of reaching their goals.  The first and third quotes indicate someone who is afraid of overshooting their goal. 

People who are afraid of reaching their goals are usually afraid that success will have undesirable side-effects: getting rich will cause them to become arrogant or snobbish, successful dieting will cause them to develop anorexia or orthorexia, etc.  Most often though, their fear is social.  They worry that success will cause them to drift away from the current friends, or even suffer ostracism from a judgemental peer group, as in this unfortunate example.

If you’re afraid of overshooting your goals, it could be one of two things.  First, it could well be that you’re actually afraid of reaching your goals, and you’re just not being honest about that.

On the other hand, you could honestly worry about the consequences of overshooting your goal.  This is frankly a bit silly- it’s not that easy to put on a lot of muscle, or get rich, or radically change your personality.  If you do overshoot your goal, you can always take a step or two backwards. 

How to overcome success-phobia

First, you need to do a little introspection to figure out what exactly you’re afraid of and where it’s coming from.

If you’re honestly worried about overshooting your goal, it’s time for a reality check.  Talk to a few people who have done what you’re trying to do, and internalize the idea that it’s not so easy that you’ll just wake up one morning having gone further than you intended.  Understand, also, that whatever you do is reversible if you need to reverse it. 

If you’re worried about success or unintended side-effects of reaching your goal, you need to figure out how to make that a non-issue.  If you think success will make you arrogant, build habits into your life to cultivate humility.  Worried about your friends disapproving of you?  Talk to them about why your goals are important to you.  If they’re not supportive, find better friends. 

The Corner-Cutter

Smart people try to find better ways of doing things.  There’s a fine line, though, between striving for efficiency and just being lazy.  The corner-cutter is constantly looking for ways to get success without the hard work.

What they say

Which two exercises should I do to burn the most fat?

Can I still lose fat if I have juice with breakfast?  What about if I have a couple of beers a few evenings a week?  Can I still lose fat if I cut my workouts back to twice a week? 

I really try to apply the 80/20 rule- I only work 4 hours a day.

What’s going on here

Laziness, basically.

The corner-cutter often justifies their mentality as “working smarter, not harder,” or following the 80/20 rule- the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts.  This is seductive, because it sounds like you can put in only 20% effort and get the same result as someone who works their butt off.  While that rule is generally accurate, it has a couple of big limitations. 

First, it requires you to know in advance what’s going to work and what isn’t.  You usually can’t know this to begin with, so when starting something new you often have to work hard at first until you learn enough about what works and what doesn’t to “work smarter” apply the 80/20 rule. 

Second, in practice it usually doesn’t mean putting in 20% effort.  It means cutting out 80% of what you do, then taking the remaining 20% and doing it five times as much.  I know it sounds like you could just do one fifth of the work and get the same results as everyone else, but the problem is, “everyone else” consists mostly of people who fail.  You need to do better than most people, not merely do just as well as them with less effort. 

Do you think the woman asking for just two exercises was planning to spend several hours a week doing just two movements?  Hell no.  She was hoping to exercise for ten minutes, two or three times a week.  That’s not the 80/20 rule; that’s just trying to do less for the sake of doing less.

Corner-cutters often fail to appreciate the cumulative effects of all their corner cutting.  Yes, you can lose weight while still eating donuts, or hardly ever exercising, or drinking beer, or sleeping 6 hours a night, or rarely eating vegetables.  You can do any one, maybe two of the above.  What you can’t do is all of them. 

To be clear, it is totally possible to get better results with less effort by using a smarter game plan- by picking the best exercises, focusing on the most effective marketing channels for a business, or using the right strategies to build new habits.  It isn’t a free ride though- you have to work hard up front to figure out what works, and when you cut things out, you should be adding more effective habits and tactics to replace them.

How to stop cutting corners

First, accept that working harder and working smarter aren’t mutually exclusive.

Second, adopt the mentality of front-loading the work: focus more on working hard at first, and plan to apply the 80/20 rule later.

Third, balance cutting things out and adding things in.  If you cut out a few exercises that don’t seem useful, add in some better ones- or just do more sets of the exercises you didn’t cut out.  If you don’t follow one dietary rule- if you have liquid calories, for instance- make up for it somewhere else, such as by cutting out alcohol or eating extra vegetables. 

The Vacationer

Sometimes life is easy.  Things are swimming along at the office, there’s not much happening in your personal life, so you have plenty of time and mental energy to work on your personal goals.  But then there are times when it gets tough- you travel a lot for work, or your children finish school and are home all summer.  When life gets tough, the vacationer hits the pause button on their goal, promising to come back to it later.

What they say

I’m traveling a lot for work these days, so I’m going to stop working out for now.  I’ll start hitting the gym again in a few months when things settle down.

I’m dealing with a lot of family stuff- my aunt died, my daughter is severely depressed.  I just don’t have the energy to diet right now.

This is going to be a busy semester, so there’s no time to work on my artwork.  I’ll get back to it during the summer.

What’s going on here

This is another manifestation of all or nothing thinking.  Vacationers are a lot like perfectionists in that they think they have to do things just right or not at all.  The difference is that the perfectionist doesn’t get started on things out of fear of not doing “good enough,” whereas the vacationer starts out doing “good enough,” but once they don’t have the time and energy for that, they push the pause button. 

Vacationers are under the illusion that there’s going to be some perfect time to work on their goals.  There isn’t.  Life always puts obstacles in your way, and you’ll always have to deal with them. 

This “pause button” mentality is the core of the vacationer’s problem.  Taking frequent or extended breaks is usually toxic to your self-improvement goals, because it prevents you from ever building consistent habits.  In fact, you slide back into your old habits.  You aren’t really pausing things; you’re moving backward.

How to stop pushing pause

Change your mental model from that of an on/off switch to that of a dial.  Remove all notions of starting/stopping from your head, forever.  Instead, think in terms of a scale of intensity of effort.

One a scale from one to ten, how hard are you working on your goal right now?  Let’s say it’s a six.  When life throws a curveball at you and you have less energy to put into your project, dial it down to a four.  When you have more time and energy to put into it, dial things up to an eight. 

Don’t wait for that to happen to you either- you need to proactively look for ways to free up time and energy to put into the things you’re working on.  If you don’t, that dial is going to turn down far more often than it turns up.  If you actively look for ways to put more effort into your goals- while being flexible enough to turn it down when you really need to- over time you can turn things up from four, to six, to eight, all the way up to eleven. 

The Outrage Junkie

The outrage junkie is constantly being angered or offended by something, to the point where they focus on their anger to the exclusion of their own self-improvement goals.  Often, they manufacture excuses to be offended by deliberately misinterpreting things other people say. 

What they say

I can’t believe you would call people freetards!

I weigh over 200 pounds, and your article about an “overweight” woman who is only 30% body fat is a slap in the face to real women with real problems. 

How dare you say that people have the power to earn more money!?  Don’t you know that some people can’t work because they’re disabled?

You say that most women don’t respond well to intermittent fasting, so how do you explain the fact that I’m a woman and I do well with IF?

What’s going on here

Generally, outrage junkies are unhappy with themselves or their lives, and their constant outrage is a way of distracting themselves from their unhappiness by focusing on other people.  There’s often an element of defensiveness or inferiority complex here, as outrage junkies try to drag other people down rather than building themselves up.

Then again, some people just like getting into arguments.  This is most apparent when an outrage junkie deliberately misinterprets someone else’s statements just so they can start an argument- treating a generalization or a “most/usually” statement as an “all/always” statement, for instance.

My advice to outrage junkies

Cut it out, take a look in the mirror, and get your shit handled. 

The Anti-Elitist

Egalitarianism, in the sense that people should generally be respected, have equal rights, and be given similar opportunities, is a wonderful thing.  Some people take it a lot further though, becoming hostile to the idea that anyone is any better than anyone else at anything, and blaming successful people for other people’s lack of success. 

What they say

I believe that all bodies are equally healthy and attractive.

Fashion is for snobs, shallow people, and rich assholes.

Weightlifting is for bros, and I don’t want to be a bro.

Rich people only care about money.  It’s their fault that other people are poor.

What’s going on here

This is another one mostly that stems from defensiveness.  Anti-elitists hate the idea that anyone else is better or more successful than them, and they deal with that by denying it.

Typical rhetorical tactics of anti-elitists include insisting that everyone is equally smart/fit/capable/special, deriding successful people as shallow, assholes, or criminals, often backed by a zero-sum view of the world, and attaching negative stereotypes to successful people.

This kind of toxic anti-elitism is anathema to the whole concept of self-improvement, because you can’t get better if you don’t believe there’s any such thing as better. 

How to reframe anti-elitism

Accept that there is such a thing as better.  Some people dress better than others.  Some people are in better shape than others.  Some people are more successful in their careers than others. 

And no, people don’t necessarily have weaknesses that compensate for their strengths, or vice vera.  The huge bodybuilder and the hot cheerleader aren’t necessarily stupid.  Rich people aren’t necessarily shallow or selfish.  Fat people aren’t all nice. 

These assumptions stem from a cognitive bias called the reverse halo effect, and they are wrong.  Getting good at one thing doesn’t automatically make you bad at something else.  Some people are just better than others.  Real life is not like an RPG where every point you put into strength is a point you can’t put into wisdom. 

The good news here is that not only can you get better-not just better at one thing, but better all-around- you can share your strengths with others.  Want to be socially conscious?  Great- build yourself up, then use your success to help other people.

The Defeatist

Success requires a certain amount of optimism- not the kind of optimism that comes from assuming things will be easy, but the kind that comes from believing in your own ability and determination to persevere through difficulty.  Defeatists don’t have this optimism, and they’re quick to say so.

What they say

I’ll just give this a try.

I can’t lose weight no matter what I do.

I’m just never going to be a very charismatic person.

It’s not really possible to run a successful business in your spare time.

It’s just who I am. 

I’m hoping for a miracle here.

What’s going on here

The defeatist decides they’re going to fail before they even begin.  Sometimes they explicitly state that they’re going to fail.  Other times, it’s in the subtext of what they say- often expressed as “giving this a try,” or referring to any hypothetical chance of success as magical or miraculous.

The defeatist suffers from a lack of self-efficacy- they don’t believe in themselves, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Studies have demonstrated that self-efficacy is vital to success in pretty much everything you do, including academics, health, task performance, and career satisfaction. In other words, having low self-efficacy will make you worse at everything, and having high self-efficacy makes you better at everything.

Declaring that you’re going to fail also creates a dynamic in which you incentive yourself to fail.  Once you’ve said that success is impossible, you put yourself in a situation in which succeeding would prove you wrong, while failing would prove you right.  Since people hate being proven wrong, this creates a strong subconscious incentive to sabotage your own success in order to avoid the embarrassment of being proven wrong, and you end up working at cross-purposes with yourself. 

Counterintuitively, defeatists sometimes do hire coaches or buy self-improvement products, but their intent in doing so is not so much to succeed as to have someone to blame when they fail.

How to develop self-efficacy

Don’t ever declare to other people that you’re going to fail.  Tell them you anticipate difficulty, sure, or that you’re not feeling confident.  Ask them for help if you need it.  But don’t tell them you’re going to fail. 

Don’t rush to tell yourself you’re doomed either.  Instead, suspend your disbelief and look for ways that you could do the things you want to do. 

You need to build a sense of self-efficacy, and that comes from actually succeeding.  Break your goals down into smaller goals, some of which can be reached quickly, so that you can score some quick wins to build your confidence and motivation.  Over time, as you score more and more victories in more areas of your life, you’ll build up confidence in your own abilities. 

Now for the big meta-lessons

One thing that probably jumped out at you is that a lot of these seem to overlap.  That’s because they do.  In my experience, people who have one of these mentalities usually have several of them. 

Another lesson I hope you’ve picked up on is the need for introspection.  Most of these mentalities don’t have a single cause- success-phobes, for instance, can be driven by a lack of self-worth, worry about unintended side-effects of success, or fear of social consequences.  Figuring out what’s driving your limiting beliefs and self-sabotaging behavior often requires you to look inward. 

On the other hand, hopefully you noticed that part of the solution to most of these was some variation of “just take action and get started.”  After all, you can have all the right thoughts, but it’s ultimately the actions that count. 

And that means there’s a big caveat to the need to look inward and figure out where your beliefs are coming from: you don’t need to finish doing that before you start taking action.  You can take action now, and work on fixing your internal beliefs as you’re already taking external action towards your goals.

In fact, that’s often the best strategy, since there’s a two-way relationship between beliefs and actions.  Your thoughts and feelings obviously influence your actions, but thanks to cognitive dissonance, your actions also shape your beliefs. 

So to recap, it’s a three-step process, with steps 2a and 2b happening simultaneously:

  1. Look over this list and figure out which of these thought patterns you’ve unwittingly fallen prey to.

2a.  Fix your behavior- take the correct actions. 

2b.  Do some navel-gazing, figure out where your limiting beliefs are coming from, and change them.

One of the most liberating realizations I ever had was the realization that I didn’t always have to act in ways that are congruent with how I’m feeling at the time.  I could travel the world despite feeling intimidated, or start working out despite feeling the need to research more. 

Unfortunately, most people never have this realization, and they never do the hard work of thinking over their limiting beliefs and toxic thought processes.  Like flies repeatedly flying into a window, they intermittently try to improve their lives, fail, and then after a break, they try more or less the same thing all over again, swearing that “this time it will be different” despite having no particular reason to believe that. 

For those few who are ready to work hard, tackle their limiting beliefs, and obliterate all obstacles to success, I’m currently offering coaching on weightlifting, sleep, fat loss dieting, and meditation.

You can be different.  Examine your own thought processes and do the upfront planning work to figure out how you’re holding yourself back.  Then start course-correcting by simultaneously improving the actions you take, and challenging your own limiting beliefs. 

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