There are endless paths to success.
You could choose to emulate other successful people. You could find a mentor or coach. You could read personal development books or attend seminars and workshops.
If you’ve been doing any – or all – of these things, you might have noticed that certain patterns and themes tend to play out again and again.
These usually center around “smart” habits or widely accepted advice that’s advocated by just about everyone in the self-help world including top coaches and success “gurus.”
But here’s the thing…
Just because an idea is well-known or repeated often, doesn’t make it right.
Here are 3 “smart” habits that seem like good ideas but could actually be blocking your path to success and happiness.
“Smart” Habit #1: Positive Thinking
Being resolutely positive can take you down the wrong path pretty quickly.
The human brain is wired to focus on the negative.
When our ancestors assumed a saber-toothed tiger was about to leap out and go for the jugular — even when this was not true — it helped them stay safe. Assuming the worst ultimately allowed the human species to survive an extraordinarily harsh, unforgiving and dangerous world.
Most of us no longer live in an environment where life or death situations are the norm but a part of the modern, evolved human brain is still rooted in ancient times.
This causes us to continuously focus on the worst-case scenario and cling to beliefs that run along the lines of “if anything can go wrong, it will.”
When you try to “forcefully” override this built-in safety mechanism, it’s an exercise in futility.
Research shows that when you force yourself to focus on positive thoughts but you don’t feel positive, you’re only reinforcing the deeper negative thoughts that continue to run in the background of your mind.
This is why so many people report that positive affirmations just don’t work. If you don’t feel wealthy, repeating the phrase “I am wealthy” only makes you realize that you’re really not.
Radical Alternative: The next time you’re aware of a cloud of negative thoughts floating through your mind, resist hitting the “positive switch”. Instead, allow these thoughts to rise. Don’t try to stop them and don’t attach any belief, meaning or power to them. You’ll find these thoughts fade away on their own.
“Smart” Habit #2: Goal-Setting
You might be shocked at seeing this habit listed here.
What could possibly be bad about setting goals? Just about every personal development book and teacher on the planet says this as a must-do when you’re charting a path to success.
But there’s a hidden problem with setting goals that hardly anyone ever talks about and it can derail even the boldest dreamer and the best plans.
By default, a goal exists in your future. Never in your present.
This means that your goal is always ahead of you, above you, in front of you – never in your grasp.
This can create deep feelings of inadequacy and frustration. It means you’re a failure until you achieve your goal. At which point you’re successful until you set the next goal.
This is not to say that you should abandon setting goals altogether. It just means that you need to be aware that goals are not the “virtuous pillars of personal development” that they’re often proclaimed to be.
Radical Alternative: Be flexible with your goals. Understand that a goal can be changed, moved, shifted and transformed. And this may come as a shock but you can even choose to abandon a goal altogether if it’s not working for you or if it’s not aligned with who you are and what you truly want.
“Smart” Habit #3: Daily Meditation
You might have heard or read that the world’s most successful people meditate everyday and now you feel compelled to do it too.
But here’s the thing – our thoughts come and go like clouds across the sky.
Trying to control your thoughts with extremely restrictive meditation techniques – including forcing yourself to sit still and “empty your mind” for a specific period of time – often serves to heighten feelings of frustration and anxiety, not decrease them.
Radical Alternative: Don’t force yourself to meditate. Instead, stay open to finding other ways to achieve mental clarity and focus. For instance, you could try deep breathing, to bring yourself back to center.
You could also turn to mindfulness. Give your full attention – cultivate mindfulness – when you’re doing daily tasks like washing the dishes or doing the laundry. Anything that helps you train your mind to stay in the present moment is a great substitute for formal meditation practice.
Rule No. 1 of achieving success and happiness? Question everything.
These “smart” success habits seem awesome but when you don’t modify and tweak them to fit, you could end up causing more harm than good.
Remember it’s your life.
You get to make the final decision on what works for you and what doesn’t.
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