Breaking myths: 7 damaging myths about success and achievement

You’ve got dreams and ambitions — maybe it’s a corner office, a bestselling book, or just a happier, healthier life. 

But you might also have a nagging voice in the back of your mind: “What if I’m not cut out for this?” 

We’ve all been fed a lot of myths about success that can hold us back, making the road to achievement seem like a maze with no exit. 

So what if I told you that breaking these myths could be your first step towards real success? 

In this article, let’s shatter 7 damaging myths that could be standing between you and your dreams.

1) “Success equals money”

The saying “money makes the world go ’round” has made so many of us believe that a fat bank account is the ultimate marker of success. 

It’s as if the numbers on a paycheck can define your worth or validate your skills. But let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves, “Is that really true?”

Contrary to popular belief, success isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula tied to your finances. Money is just a resource — a useful one, no doubt — but it’s not the be-all and end-all. 

The richest person in the room isn’t necessarily the most successful if they lack emotional well-being, meaningful relationships, or a sense of purpose.

Here’s a small experiment: think of someone you genuinely admire. Is it solely their wealth that impresses you? Or is it their qualities — like kindness, resilience, or passion — that make you look up to them?

Success is multifaceted. It’s about living a life aligned with your values, achieving your personal goals, and creating a meaningful impact on the lives of others. 

2) “You have to sacrifice everything”

The image is romanticized: the tireless entrepreneur burning the midnight oil, the artist forsaking all for their craft, the parent juggling a career and kids, all in the name of success. 

It’s easy to buy into the myth that achieving your dreams means saying goodbye to everything else that matters — your health, family, or even your own sanity.

But let’s debunk that notion right now. Success doesn’t demand that you throw everything overboard; it asks that you find balance.

Don’t get me wrong, hard work and dedication are essential, particularly at the beginning. However, true success complements your life instead of consuming it. 

Think about it, what good is that high-paying job, accolade, or recognition if you’re too stressed, sick, or disconnected to enjoy it?

Try this exercise: make a list of your priorities, placing your pursuit of success among them. Now, consider how you can achieve your goals while still maintaining other important aspects of your life like health and relationships. 

You might be surprised to find that balance isn’t just possible — it’s necessary for lasting success.

3) “Failure is not an option”

You might have seen a determined startup owner say, “Failure is not an option.” It comes across as brave and powerful, but it’s actually a dangerous myth. 

This mindset can put you under incredible pressure, making you afraid to take risks or step out of your comfort zone. What if you stumble? What if things don’t go as planned? The fear can be paralyzing.

But here’s a liberating truth: failure is not only an option; it’s a necessary stepping stone on the path to success. 

When you look at the stories of accomplished individuals, you’ll find a long series of setbacks, mistakes, and failures behind them. What sets them apart is their ability to learn from these experiences and keep going.

Think back to a time you failed at something. It stung, didn’t it? But did it also offer you a lesson, a new perspective, or a chance to grow? 

That’s the hidden value of failure — it teaches us in ways success never can.

4) “You need to be ruthless”

And then we have the ruthless go-getter, clawing their way to the top with little regard for anyone else. You’ve seen this character glorified in movies and business books, right? 

According to this myth, if you’re not willing to step on others to get ahead, then you’re not cut out for success.

Let’s bust this myth wide open: You don’t have to be ruthless to be successful. In fact, empathy, collaboration, and kindness are often the unsung heroes behind many success stories.

As I’ll explain next, real success isn’t a solo endeavor; it’s a community effort. Whether it’s mentors offering guidance, friends providing emotional support, or colleagues collaborating on projects, other people play integral roles in our journey. 

And when you’re ruthless, you burn bridges that you may need to cross again later.

In breaking the myth that you need to be ruthless, you’re actually opening doors to more meaningful, sustainable achievements. 

You’re building a network of relationships that will not only support your success but also make the journey there far more rewarding.

5) “Success is a solo journey”

traits lack of empathy Breaking myths: 7 damaging myths about success and achievement

The myth of the “self-made” individual has a strong allure. It’s the classic tale of a lone wolf who rises to the top, needing nobody and owing nothing. 

While it’s an empowering idea, it’s also a damaging myth that can make you feel isolated and pressured to do it all on your own.

The truth is, no one becomes successful in a vacuum. Behind every successful person, there’s a support system — a team of family, friends, mentors, and even rivals who’ve helped shape their journey. 

Even if it looks like someone reached the top by themselves, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a network of people who have offered advice, lent a listening ear, or provided a much-needed reality check.

Let’s pause for a moment. Reflect on your own life and the people who have helped you along the way. 

Maybe it’s a teacher who saw your potential, a friend who always believed in you, or a family member who provided unwavering support. These connections are invaluable. 

So give yourself permission to seek help, collaborate, and share credit. And guess what? This makes the road to success not just more achievable, but also more fulfilling. 

The journey is long and full of challenges, but it’s a road better traveled with companions.

6) “Success is finite”

How many times have you heard that there’s only so much room at the top? This myth paints success as a zero-sum game, where your win is someone else’s loss. 

It’s as if there’s a limited supply of success to go around, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. 

As you can see, this mindset can turn us into hyper-competitive, anxious individuals always scrambling to outdo each other.

So let’s debunk this damaging myth: success is not finite; it’s abundant. Your achievements don’t take away from anyone else’s, and theirs don’t detract from yours. 

In fact, success often breeds more success, for you and for those around you.

Think about it. Have you ever been inspired by someone else’s success to pursue your own goals? Likely, the answer is yes. 

When someone in your circle achieves something great, it often serves as a catalyst, encouraging you to go after your own dreams.

So the next time you catch yourself comparing your achievements to someone else’s, remember that there’s enough success to go around. Celebrate others’ victories as you would your own, and let their success uplift you, not intimidate you. 

7) “You’ve ‘made it’ when you’re successful”

Many people buy into the idea that once you achieve a certain level of success, you can kick back, relax, and coast for the rest of your life. 

This myth is not only misleading but can also be deeply unsatisfying. Why? Because it paints success as a final destination rather than an ongoing journey.

The truth is, success is fluid. What feels like “making it” today could feel ordinary or even inadequate tomorrow. 

Our goals and dreams evolve, and that’s a good thing. Constant growth and change keep us engaged and alive. 

Take a moment to reflect on past achievements you were once super proud of. While they are still worth celebrating, you’ve likely set new goals for yourself since then. 

That’s because reaching one level of success often opens our eyes to new possibilities.

Instead of striving to “make it,” aim to keep growing, learning, and setting new goals for yourself. The journey doesn’t stop when you reach a milestone; it merely takes a new turn. 

And when you think of success as an evolving path rather than a finish line, you’ll find more joy and fulfillment in the pursuit itself.

The realities of success and achievement

We’ve shattered some of the most damaging myths about success that you’ve probably heard time and time again. 

So here’s the deal — success isn’t a one-size-fits-all venture. It’s personal and ever-changing. 

The yardstick for success is not money, ruthlessness, or the absence of failure, but your own satisfaction and growth.

Shake off these limiting beliefs and dare to carve your own path, one that makes room for collaboration, celebrates each step, and allows you to evolve. 

Picture of Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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