There’s often a lot of focus placed on what we must do in order to achieve success, but it can be more difficult to determine what we must give up to achieve it. Seemingly innocuous actions can accumulate into full-on self-sabotage and keep us from accomplishing our most desired goals. Want to increase your chances of reaching success? Consider giving up the following:
1. Comparing yourself to others
The only person you should compete with is your past self. Everyone enters the game at a different starting point, and everyone’s journey differs. You can be certain that at any given moment, some people are doing better than you are and others are doing worse. You can dwell on that and feel badly about yourself, or you can direct your energy into taking action that will let you achieve your goals. The choice is yours.
While you should absolutely learn from your past mistakes, you should also recognize that obsessing over them is futile. Very few (if any) among us haven’t been in a situation that we wish had played out differently, but unless you possess powers of time travel, playing the “what-if” game will cause more harm than good. Instead, concentrate on the good that’s in your life now and assess why you wish things would have turned out differently so that you may make different choices in the future.
3. Mindless scrolling
Though it may feel like not that big of a deal, spending time looking at your phone can steal away valuable time that you could devote to something productive or enriching. Instead of getting sucked into the digital world, designate specific times to check social media or set a timer so you realize exactly how much time you’re dedicating to your feed.
4. Toxic relationships
Whether they constantly bring up your past mistakes, put you down, or goad you into making bad decisions, letting toxic people go can preserve energy that you didn’t even realize you were wasting. If someone is doing more harm than good in your life and you often walk away from your interactions feeling drained or upset, consider scaling back the amount of time you spend with that person or breaking things off altogether.
They do more harm than good—actually, they do no good at all. While understanding who you do and do not trust is extremely important, sweating the small stuff can create roadblocks to your own happiness. People mess up—you can share your feelings with them and give them an opportunity to attempt to correct their mistake, cut them lose, or if your grudge is against someone you didn’t know well, you can chalk it up to a bad experience and move on. Work toward forgiving or letting go, but don’t let hatred take up space in your head and poison your life.
6. Waiting for a sign
If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it! Truly going for something you want can feel intimidating, so you may want to just hang back until the stars align, but waiting for optimal conditions to move forward is a major waste of time. Keep working toward your goals because it’s what you want to do; don’t wait for permission to live your dream.
In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, “Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it's just terrified.” Sometimes done is better than good. Strive toward being the best that you can be, but don’t fixate on your mistakes so hard that you stop moving forward.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.