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The Painful Truth: Why You’re Not Getting What You Want In Life

(And How To Change Now)

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Are you always finding excuses as to why you’re not moving towards your goals?

Your ideas are still… ideas. Your dreams remain dreams.

While “just do it” is well-meant advice, sometimes it helps to get more specific. Following are reasons why you don’t get what you want in life with simple tips on how to get out of your own way.

You’re In Denial

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“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
- Nathaniel Branden

Whether you say that you’re too busy to hit the gym or work on that business plan… Admitting that you’re stuck because of inaction gives you control of your life. This isn’t always easy. Some people go through a lifetime without doing it. It can be more comfortable that way.

This will be “your year”, right? Just like last year!

Recognizing your reality allows you to start seeing and resolving the underlying causes. You can either accept your situation as it is or transform it. The choice is yours!

How to change:

  • Instead of blaming external factors, accept that you’re responsible. For your actions, your behavior, your success, and your failures.
  • To change your reality, face it. Get specific. If you are overspending, know exactly by how much and on what. If you’re underperforming, know exactly in which areas and what’s needed to change. If you haven’t reached your goals, map out why, and so on.

You Don’t Know Where You’re Going

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One common reason why we don’t take action is the need of feeling that what we do has a meaning. Research shows that finding your purpose is essential for happiness and fulfillment. It also boosts focus, drive, and gives you a sense of clarity.

“People are not lazy. They simply have goals that do not inspire them.”
- Tony Robbins

Moreover, a sense of direction is one of the key factors that separates successful people from others. Once you’re clear on your vision, it is as important to define goals and how to get there. This will help you take action. Remember that the only difference between a dream and a goal is a plan!

How to change:

  • Focus on finding your passion and designing a life of meaning. When you do, you will become more selective about how you spend your time.
  • Define your goals and consider if they are goals worth having. If you have a lot of resistance toward doing something, it could also be a sign that you shouldn’t.
  • Create a strategy for yourself. Write a mission statement that gets you excited! Think about how you could achieve something, not if you could. Define the steps, especially the first simple ones, to make things happen.
  • Make sure you can connect the dots between your tasks and the big picture. “I want a successful business so I better stay on top of my finances” connects the task to your goals. “Oh no, I have to do bookkeeping” doesn’t.

After Chocolate, Comfort Is Your Favorite Thing

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As humans, we have six needs that drive our decisions. The need for certainty is one of the most powerful ones. This is what makes us seek out things we know we will enjoy, like eating your favorite chocolate cake. It is also what drives us to avoid pain and face our fears.

Excuses for not taking action often come from fear.

Fear can come in many forms — fear of failure, self-doubt, and so on. Worrying about what others think, procrastination, and low expectations of yourself are all signs of fear. Our craving for certainty is the reason why it’s tempting to pick up bad habits or stay in our comfort zone. Our brains prefer the easy way rather than dealing with uncertainty. By being aware of this, you can hack these natural impulses and stop making excuses.

How to change:

  • Replace limiting beliefs that are holding you back with empowering ones. What does success look like and how would that make you feel?
  • Work on your mindset. If you think you can’t, you won’t. When you believe that you’re capable of doing something, you become more confident. You’ll come up with ways to overcome challenges because you know that you can.
  • Start seeing challenges or failures as opportunities to learn, grow and transform. Fear is a natural part of life, conquering it is all about your approach towards it.
  • Break down your fears. Define the worst-case scenarios and how to prevent them. A solution-oriented approach helps you prepare and calm down.
  • Think about the cost of inaction in a few months or years’ time. This is often worse than going for what you want.
  • Get support from people you trust. Find your tribe via family, partners, friends, or communities of like-minded people.
  • Anxious or out of balance? Write down what you’re worried about. These are areas that need your attention. If you don’t feel well, it’s harder to perform in any area.

You’re Trying To Be Mr/Ms. Know-It-All

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If you’re like me and have many ideas and things you would like to do, it’s easy to end up doing a little bit of everything.

Choose progress over moving slowly in a million directions.

You should also always consider whether you should do a task or hire someone else to do it. Do you keep on pushing important things forward? Review your priorities and consider whether it’s time to take in some help. Stop doing everything yourself and watch your results reach new highs. Spend your time where you should, not all over the place.

How to change:

  • Take a step back. Distribute your time based on your priorities. You won’t be able to go all-in on everything at the same time. If you want to advance several initiatives, collaborate with others.
  • If you decide to move forward with many ideas at the same time, adjust your expectations. Things will take longer.
  • If you lack focus, declutter your mind. Journal and write things down instead of keeping everything in your head. I use to-do lists for everything!

You Can’t Walk Pass A Donut Without Eating It

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Even if we know what to do and believe we can, sometimes we still just don’t. If it was easy, everyone would be healthy and live fulfilling lives.

That’s not the case.

Making stuff happen requires effort, consistency, and discipline. Even if we enjoy something, like working out, our mind will still suggest that it might be a good idea to skip it sometimes.

The good news is that you can strengthen your willpower and self-discipline. Wouldn’t it be a pity to look back when you’re 80 years old to realize that you never lived your dream life because you were distracted?

How to change:

  • Hold yourself accountable and be honest. “I choose to go out for a drink instead of working on my project”. Sometimes that might even be the right thing to do!
  • Practise self-discipline. For example, don’t check your phone every time you feel like doing it. In this way, you take the control back and can make the right adjustments. Many apps can help you to keep track.
  • Find creative workarounds instead of complaining that you don’t get anything done. If you for example “don’t find the time”, wake up a little bit earlier. Or ask someone to help you with other tasks to free up your time.
  • Develop healthy habits that support your goals. This could be anything from practicing Duolingo once a day to reading, journaling, and so on. Calendar reminders are a simple way to help enforce new habits.
  • Commit to long-term decisions to avoid re-considering things on a daily basis. For example; I’ll work out 4 times a week. Then you don’t even have to ask yourself whether you should work out today, it’s already decided!

You Have Negative Associations With What You Want To Be

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Many people look down on others’ success. While there can be different reasons behind it, this is often a coping mechanism. Deep down, you might believe that you can’t achieve a goal. So you humiliate or diminish the efforts of those that have achieved it to boost your own ego.

“They got lucky” or “they used others to get there” might make you feel better about the lack of your own results.

If you look down on others that have what you want, you only reduce your efforts. Changing your negative associations with being the person you want to be is key to getting there.

How to change:

  • Challenge your perspective. What can you do instead of judging others to trust and believe in yourself and the path you’re on?
  • Remember: Just because someone else is doing well doesn’t mean that you can, too.
  • Look beyond your judgment and ask yourself why it triggers you. What can you learn from these people and what they have accomplished?

You’re Wasting Your Time With The Wrong People

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The people you interact with most directly influence who you are and what you do. While this isn’t breaking news, it’s such an important point! Make sure you surround yourself with people who support and inspire you.

Also, don’t waste precious energy trying to educate or inspire people who aren’t interested.

How to change:

  • Review your network on a regular basis. Be aware of who the most important people are in your life are and don’t take them for granted.
  • Ask yourself whether you need any new connections. Friendship, business partners, mentors, or whatever. Be proactive in finding and developing those relations.
  • Spend time with people who already have accomplished the things you want to do and those who push you to become the best version of yourself.
  • Avoid toxic people. Such as those who always are negative, drain, or fundamentally misunderstand you.

You Don’t Remember The Last Time You Read A Book

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As Heraclitus famously put it; “The only thing that is constant is change”. Continuous learning is essential to expand your skillset, stay relevant, and reach your full potential. It helps you get that project, sparks new ideas, and boosts your confidence.

Often, we’re so focused on the results that we forget the beauty of learning in the process. We want to “be done”, instead of understanding how something is working. To stay ahead, develop the expertise for your area and make “always improving” a natural part of your life.

How to embrace lifelong learning:

  • Embrace a growth mindset.
  • Stay curious and open-minded. Assume less, ask questions, read!
  • Get used to being uncomfortable. Throwing yourself out there also means that you will make mistakes. It’s a part of the process. Fail fast, but fail smart.
  • Be playful! Set off time to think, write, or experiment with solutions for fun. Let go of all the “musts”. Give yourself space to discover, improvise, and challenge convention.

You’re Not Asking For It

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From simple things, such as more salt at the restaurant or a better room at the hotel, to that project you want. Sometimes getting what we want is as easy as asking for it.

Often we assume that we’re too demanding, or worry about what the other person will say. Instead of assuming, ask! The worst that can happen is that you get a no, and often the answer is yes. Either way, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

The more you practice asking for what you want, the easier it becomes.

How to change:

  • Don’t overthink it. For simple things, just ask! For bigger areas, like a new project or your needs in a relation, clarify why you’re asking. For example, why you’re a great fit for a project.
  • Understand what you’re asking for. If you’re proposing a higher client fee, that might come with an increased scope or at least improved results, etc.
  • Believe that you deserve it! Stop coming up with excuses for why you don’t and why the other person will say no before even asking.

Change Is Simple, But Not Always Easy

Change is simple in a way because it’s about decisions.

You can set a new goal and start working towards it today.

Meaningful change, however, often requires effort and commitment over a long period of time. Many people are not willing to do that. They want the result without putting the work in.

Accept that you can either continue to make excuses or choose to transform your life.

What do you prefer?

Originally published at on February 23, 2022.



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