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The Top 10 Reasons You Haven't Achieved Success at Work

I write to share career and lifestyle insights with those who strive to make each day count.

What's holding you back?

What's holding you back?

Deep in the archives of our minds, we all remember arriving at our first jobs with our hearts full of hope, our faces shining, nursing dreams in our hearts of days ahead when we would finally walk the talk and become a CEO or start our own businesses.

For most people, finding the correct vocation and starting on a career path is something that we approach in our younger years with a lot more enthusiasm and vigor than at any other stage of our careers.

Somewhere along the line, the dream may have faded. We trade in the "new recruit" buzz of getting to work early with a spring in our step and instead, we become best buddies with our alarm clock snooze buttons.

The truth is that we would all like to perform to the best of our abilities in all spheres of life, but perhaps nowhere more so than in our jobs and careers. But somehow, that initial spark fade, we get caught up in the daily nine-to-five grind, and we end up feeling like another cog in the wheel.

Rather than throwing your hands up in the air in frustration and reaching for yet another cup of coffee to get you through the day, perhaps it is time to reflect on some of the reasons why we feel stuck in mediocrity. The following are the top 10 habits, excuses, and tendencies that could be keeping you from realizing your greatness.

1. Negative Self-Talk

Contrary to our best efforts, we all seem to have those moments where a little voice of doubt creeps into our heads. Many of the conversations we have with ourselves inside of our own heads are detrimental to our health. Think about it—how many times a day do you beat yourself up about things and circumstances that are beyond your control?

How to Move Forward From This

It is time to stop being your own worst enemy. There really is no time like the present to nip those pesky thoughts in the bud, not simply by replacing your negative self-talk with affirmations and positivity, but also by being able to walk the talk. Don’t simply think. What you do can be just as important, if not more so, than what you say to yourself about yourself.

Changing Your Script

Make a conscious decision to replace negative thoughts with positive, grateful affirmations and encouragement.

  • Negative: I feel so fat and lethargic. Nobody at work acknowledges my effort. I feel inadequate and underqualified.
  • Positive: I am grateful for this body, and I am willing to do the work in order to change my circumstances. I am working hard at doing my best and striving for personal excellence. I commit to opening my mind to learning about new and exciting things.

2. Investing Too Much Energy in Trivial Matters

While being bombarded with all types of media while dealing with all of the tasks and pressures modern-day living places on us, it is easy to lose attention and focus. Having the attention span of an ant is not desirable at a workplace or in any other sphere of life. Take stock of the distractions that grab your attention in your working day.

You may need to find ways to streamline your focus. You might not be able to entirely eliminate distractions, but you can drown them out with a little music in your headphones. If you have a chatty deskmate who wants to grab your attention every two seconds to tell you about her awesome weekend away at a music festival, you may need to rein in your situation by communicating your need for space and silence while you work. While you’re at it, avoid energy vampires at all costs.

What to Focus on Instead

  • The tasks at hand
  • Conserving energy reserves for work that needs to be completed
  • Preserving a sense of wellbeing rather than over-committing to too many tasks, projects, watercooler chit chat, and other trivial matters that eat into your work quality and delivery

3. Entertaining Too Many Thoughts and Opinions

Ever heard of the saying, "too many cooks spoil the broth?" Well, there comes a time when entertaining too many voices and opinions also has the power to negatively affect your life.

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If you find yourself running from pillar to post asking for professional advice, thoughts, and opinions before you consider your own voice, stop for a second. Ask yourself why you are looking to others for advice instead of trusting your own insight and experience.

Use your eyes—observe, listen, and see if there is anything you can learn simply by being watchful instead of asking over and over again. The number of opinions you take into account can be drastically reduced if you remember one very important thing . . . yours is the opinion that matters the most!

4. Not Listening Enough

Yes, there is a time and a place to state what’s on your mind, but sometimes, the reverse is also true. Everybody appreciates someone who is secure and able to hold their own in a corporate setting, but nobody wants to deal with an overbearing know-it-all who loves the sound of their own voice.

Think of scenarios where you felt unheard, not listened to, or not validated. Remember this whenever you feel the need to let your "gift of the office gab" take over.

By listening, you can easily pick up valuable cues from your environment that you wouldn’t ordinarily notice do if you continued to motormouth your way through meetings and monopolize conversations.

Benefits of Listening in the Workplace

  • Noticing behavioral patterns
  • Reading body language and social cues
  • Being listened to attentively when you do speak

5. Not Saying Enough

You must also consider the opposite side of the coin—that you may not be saying enough at work. You may be attending all the boardroom meetings, nodding your head vigorously, and laughing at all your boss’s jokes, but is this really communication? Do people at the workplace know who you are and what you stand for?

While it is always good to be polite and diplomatic, this should not come at the expense of speaking up when necessary and appropriate. By not saying enough, you are missing the opportunity to be heard and understood. Most importantly, you are not doing yourself or anybody else a service by hiding your insight. You certainly don't need to become the belle of the ball or dominate every single conversation, but you do need to be heard.

6. Failing to Balance Work and Play

A key part of being a normal, healthy, and balanced individual is remembering to have a bit of fun every once in a while. The professional sphere has changed over time. No longer is work limited to the typical nine-to-five hours.

The lines have become blurred, and you are required to be a bit more socially savvy and dynamic after hours, as work and our social lives become increasingly intertwined. While the jury may still be out on whether these changes are for the better or not, an important part of growth is acknowledging that a part of being dynamic is being able to adapt to the times.

But hey, it doesn’t all have to be one raucous party or bar hopping session after the other. Maybe your brand of fun and relaxation is a quiet holiday away with friends, chilling out by a campfire at the beach, or finding a quiet nook on Sunday morning to enjoy breakfast and a kick-ass whodunit murder mystery.

It is all well and good to be a steadfast worker, but you don’t have to be imprisoned ball-and-chain style to the desk in order to show your commitment. Try to strike a happy medium between being a desk jockey and a social butterfly.

7. Letting Emotion Take Over

Bringing relationship drama, family strife, or financial issues into the office is a recipe for disaster. Equally, always assuming that decisions made in your office space are personal or designed to make you fail is a sure-fire way to create your own personal hell.

Let’s face it, while everybody at the office is human, and you may even connect and make friends with some, nobody really wants to be dealing with anybody that is a hot mess.

Remember to be calm, think before you speak, and avoid sending emotionally charged emails and memos to colleagues. You will be a more calm and balanced individual for it.

8. Not Having a Plan

Another excuse many call upon is being stressed, which might just be code for not having a plan. It is well and good to land a job that pays the bills. But ask yourself—what is the bigger picture? Working and being in a career space isn’t merely about the work.

Are you relaxed, content, and doing work that you love and that fulfills your life’s purpose? Consider this a soul-searching question; can you really truly aspire to greatness, whether in your personal and professional life, if you really cannot see beyond the next five minutes of your life?

9. Being Jealous of Others’ Achievements

We’ve all had those moments where we fixate upon someone that we greatly admire and aspire to be like. Whether it is for their accolades, experience, personality and presence, or simply how all of those elements come together, we all have people we look up to.

On one side of the coin, we are lucky enough to experience great joy and admiration of that person. On the other, sneakier side of things, a green-eyed monster creeps in, and we find ourselves becoming jealous of what the other person has in their lives.

While admiration, even when fueled by a little jealousy, can provide a helpful boost in motivation, we need to take care that we don’t fall over the edge and begin engaging in full-fledged envy and insecurity.

A part of being human and understanding our place in this world is that we compare our lives to that of others. It’s normal, it’s human, and it's acceptable, but where, exactly, do you draw the line?

If we put as much energy toward cultivating our own skills and abilities as we do toward deconstructing how we come up short, that would be a great place to begin. Take the time to assess your own set of skills and what it is you can bring to the table. In the workspace, set up appointments with mentors and people with whom you can have an effective skills exchange.

In fact, the people in your workspace aren’t the only ones who can help you grow as a professional. Look outwardly to collaborate with friends, family, and acquaintances for feedback, networking, or skills. This is essential to your growth.

You have your own set of skills, talents, and abilities—a full and unique set nobody else possesses in the world.

10. Believing That You Are Not Ready

Most people light up with excitement when asked what it is that they would ideally like to do for a living. When the question is posed, the answers that emerge are lyrical and poetic. We often speak with rapture and joy in our faces about the establishments we would like to own, the products we would love to design, the places we would like to go to, and the people we would like to collaborate with.

When asked for a timeline on when to expect the deliverables of our dreams, however, we falter. Why then is it so difficult for us to set the steps in motion in order to achieve our dreams? We believe that we are simply not ready for greatness.

Reality check! There really will never be the perfect time to do anything in life. Often, all you can do is search for the most suitable moment, be as prepared, educated, and well-researched as you can be, and then go right ahead and do it. When it comes to your career path, ask yourself some really piercing questions.

  • Are you languishing in a comfort zone, afraid to take the next step?
  • What are the thoughts, feelings, and emotions holding you back from a readiness for greater things?
  • What are the beliefs you need to change?

If you must, sit down with pen and paper and make a point of journaling exactly what it is that is holding you back, and then apply yourself to asking exactly what tangible steps you need to take in order for you to reach that point in your life.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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