10 things you must stop doing if you want to be successful

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. -Mark Twain

The internet is awash with articles about what successful people do to become successful. But by focusing on addition, these articles overlook a greater truth: Success has at least as much to do with what you cut out of your life as it does with what you add in.

Regardless of your definition of success, here are ten things that you should stop doing in order to live a better life.

1. Stop trying to be yourself

To define is to limit. -Oscar Wilde

There are so many problems with telling people to “be themselves” that it’s hard to know where to start. First off, it’s vapid- who else would you be? Second, it’s probably the first thing you tried anyway. But most importantly, it conflates genuine personal growth with fakery and inauthenticity.

You’re not the same person today that you were ten years ago. And when you change, it always feels weird at first, because you’re doing something that isn’t characteristic of you. That’s normal. Embrace it.

Don’t force yourself to be the person you have been. Be the person you want to be.

2. Stop being realistic about your goals

True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing. -Jean Cocteau

In principle, it’s always good to be realistic. In practice, realism is all too often just an excuse not to dream big. It’s not realistic to think you can start a billion dollar company, or win a Nobel Prize, or or write a best-selling novel. And yet, many people do those things. At its worst, realism conflates the improbable with the impossible.

So don’t be realistic about your goals. Be ambitious instead. But do be realistic about how much hard work will go into achieving those goals.

3. Stop needing to be original

Whatever is well said by another, is mine. -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Some amount of originality is necessary, sometimes. Yet the most successful people in history have usually been those who iterated on previously existing ideas, rather than those who threw everything out and started from scratch. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t invent social media. Elvis didn’t invent rock and roll.

If you think everything needs to be original, you’ll throw out good ideas simply because they’re not yours. Instead, use good ideas where you find them, and focus on being original where there’s a need for improvement.

4. Stop chasing comfort and pleasure

Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself — expanding and learning as you go — you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip. -Dean Karnazes

There are at least two kinds of happiness. The first, hedonia, comes from simple pleasures, like eating food and watching TV. The second, eudamoia, comes from being engaged in activity that you find challenging and meaningful.

Too many people equate hedonism with happiness- but a happy life shouldn’t be one big party. You do need to relax sometimes, so hedonia is useful in moderation. Eudamoia, however, is what produces a truly happy and fulfilling life. Successful people balance both types of happiness.

5. Stop trying to “work smarter, not harder”

Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come. -Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. It’s tempting, then, to think that you can be more successful than everyone else while also working ten hours a week.

But there are two problems with this. First, it takes a lot of work to figure out which 20% of your activities are most valuable. With enough time, you can do it- but that only lets you be moderately successful while working somewhat less.

Second, the most successful people in the world are working both smarter AND harder. To achieve true greatness, you have to do the same.

6. Stop being attached to your social circle

Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. -Oprah Winfrey

As life goes on, you’ll find yourself drifting apart from some of your friends. It is normal and healthy for friends to grow apart as their interests change. While your life goes one way, they may be moving in another direction.

You may be tempted to halt your self-development in order to maintain your current relationships. Some of your friends may even try to stop you from changing, for fear of losing you. But change you must.

This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with your friends- just that you have less in common than you used to. It’s better for you and others if you can focus on people who are your passions. Remember that a friend to all is a friend to none.

7. Stop trying to impress people

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like. -Will Rogers

Trying to impress people is a surefire way to stress yourself out over something that isn’t very important anyway. And that’s if you like those people- trying to impress people you don’t like is one of the surest ways to make yourself miserable.

When you try to impress people, you end up valuing the image of success over the substance of it. There are times in life when you nee to worry about other people’s opinions- if you’re pitching investors, applying for a job, or trying to get published. But outside of those situations, it’s better not to worry about what everyone thinks of you.

8. Stop looking for work-life balance

There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life. -Alain de Botton

Work life balance sounds great in theory, but it presupposes that work and life are two separate things, and that work is something you want to limit.

The most successful people don’t entirely separate work and life. They find ways to do both at once, particularly by socializing with people in their industry. They also find ways to enjoy their work.

Instead of trying to escape work so you can enjoy life, make doing meaningful, enjoyable work a central part of your life.

9. Stop following the news and pop culture

Why is this interesting? Why are we watching? -Kate Tempest

It may seem like keeping up with current events is an essential part of life, but how often do you use any of that information? Do you really need to know who won the Oscars, or the details of the latest political story?

Watching the news mostly just stresses you out, and following pop culture mostly just wastes your time. If any of it is truly important, people will tell you about it anyway.

Read up on something if you’re actually going to use that information- by all means, educate yourself about politics before an election, or read about a movie before deciding if you should see it. Otherwise, ignore current events and focus on your own life.

10. Stop trying to do more

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. -Bruce Lee

Most self-help advice tells you to do something more- eat superfoods, start using a productivity tool, start meditating, start a side business.

But if you’re not doing well at whatever you’re already doing in your life, the last thing you should do is spread your focus even more thinly, and make more demands on your time.

The first thing you should do is look for things you can cut out of your life. Cutting things out frees up time and mental energy while cutting down on stress, so you can focus more effectively on the things that will add the most value to your life.

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Call to Action

If you want to eliminate your bad habits so you can focus on the few things that matter, read my free Habit Change Cheat Sheet to learn the 5 most powerful techniques for changing any habit.