13 habits of men who chase success but always end up falling short, according to psychology

What sets apart a winning man from a man who bites the dust in this gritty, tough world that’s all around us? 

There’s a lot of white noise on the subject, but it’s worth taking an honest and sober look at why some men fail and others succeed. 

Here’s the thing: 

We all grow up in different environments, cultures and families. We all have different authority figures who shape us into who we become. 

But there are certain patterns that emerge when it comes to men who work hard but still fall short of their goals. 

Let’s take a look at these red flag habits that often sink even highly talented men into failure: 

1) They don’t set realistic goals

Goal-setting is vital, but there’s a big difference between realistic goals and pie-in-the-sky daydreaming. 

Men who work hard but don’t have realistic goals often end up falling short of what they’re chasing. 

That’s usually because they’re too lost in the “big dream” to break it down into practicable steps and smaller chunks that they can measure. 

Unrealistic expectations without practical steps often lead to a cycle of disappointment. 

As Master’s Counseling Services says:

“Unrealistic expectations often lead to frustration, disappointment, low self-esteem, anxiety, and even relationship conflicts. They can create a constant sense of inadequacy and hinder personal growth.”

2) They’re too focused on the short-term

There’s a place for short-term thinking, but men who fall short often put the short-term as their main priority. 

As a result, their long-term success and progress is limited and sometimes non-existent. 

This kind of man frequently ends up in a pleasure trap where he is seeking short term payoffs and benefits at the expense of delaying gratification and waiting for his relationships, business ventures and life endeavors to pay off. 

As clinical hypnotist Ran D. Anbar, M.D. writes:

“Pleasure traps typically involve short-term pleasures that are pursued excessively and can impact our lives adversely.”

3) They procrastinate too much

Even with realistic goals and expectations, there comes a time for action. 

Men who end up falling short have a nasty habit of procrastination. They delay their goals and set them for “tomorrow” or “another day.” 

But that day keeps creeping more and more into the future and getting further away, and their output gets lower and lower. Even worse, their own mental health and acuity often begins to suffer the more they procrastinate. 

“Procrastination is connected to negative functioning and risks to mental health,” notes McLean Mental Health Hospital.

“People who procrastinate tend to have high levels of anxiety as well as poor impulse control.”

4) They don’t have enough self-discipline

Self-discipline is the cornerstone of most success stories, and for men who end up falling short there is often a pattern of making excuses for themselves. 

They don’t exert willpower at critical times and put off projects, ending up with a pattern of wasted opportunities and wasted time. 

The key to developing more willpower is something we can all work on and improve, and lack of consistent willpower is certainly an aspect of men who end up faltering in their goals.

“The benefits of exerting willpower accrue with repeated practice,” advises psychologist Michael Wiederman, Ph.D.

“Think of your self-discipline as a muscle, and each time you resist temptation or persist in a task despite a lack of motivation, you strengthen that muscle, leading to less effort and resistance in similar instances in the future.”

5) They don’t schedule or manage their time well

Scheduling effectively isn’t many people’s forte. For men who try hard to succeed but end up failing, there are often glaring issues with their schedule. 

Their sleep schedule may include sleeping very late, frequent naps or even not enough sleep, for example. 

Or they may overwork or underwork in a way that throws them off a steady climb towards more achievement. 

The results are underwhelming. 

“While it may sometimes be said in jest, too often we are failing to balance the stressful elements of our lives with things that are more mundane or simple—like packing a lunch, washing the dishes, or going for a walk,” notes the McLean Mental Health Hospital.

6) They avoid risks due to fear of failure

Men who end up falling far short of their dreams and potential often fall into one of two camps:

They are too reckless and impulsive, inefficient and sloppy, or they are too cautious and controlling without taking real risks. 

Many men reach a plateau where they achieve moderate success or breakthroughs and then “lock in” at this point, refusing to take any more risks from that point for fear of losing what they have. 

This leads to a personal and professional paralysis in which not much more dynamic movement or shifting takes place:

Real success and fulfillment eludes this man, because he’s become so focused on avoiding problems more than on proactive solutions and further breakthroughs. 

7) Running away from change or resisting it

people who never move forward in life 13 habits of men who chase success but always end up falling short, according to psychology

Change is the one constant in life, and men who end up falling short can usually be found in the camp resisting change

There are various reasons for this, ranging from the psychological to the personal: 

But the net effect, regardless of the root, ends up being the same. It ends up with a man becoming resistant to the reality around him and living in a business bubble. 

As coach and psychology writer David McCreery observes:

“There are many reasons why people resist change, including fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of losing control, and fear of change itself. 

Resistance can also be due to past experiences, personal beliefs, and cultural norms.”

8) They have overly perfectionist tendencies

The perfect is the enemy of the good. 

Men who get too restrictive about risk-taking and their goals often have overly perfectionist tendencies

They are overly self-critical and overly demanding of themselves. No matter what they accomplish they keep questioning their own value and undoing what they have just accomplished. 

In many cases they are their own worst enemy, with the end result that their progress gets erased and that they don’t stand up for themselves. 

9) They rely on their talents without the necessary practice and patience

Being talented is a wonderful gift. It can be a necessary part of many breakthroughs and achievements in life. 

But many men who don’t succeed end up relying on their talent and natural ability instead of putting in the work. 

The result is flashes of brilliance and achievement followed by dropping the ball and fading away. 

They lack consistency and long-term practice.

10) They give up or turn back too easily in the face of difficulty

Difficulty, setbacks and failure are not fun for anyone:

But they can be chances to learn. And many of these setbacks are out of our control in any case. 

Those men who end up falling short of their dreams have a noticeable pattern of bailing out when things get hard:

They start a business but then sell at the first sign of an industry slow-down. They begin working out but give up when they pull a muscle. 

It’s a definite and discernible pattern. 

11) They don’t engage in much self-reflection or self-awareness

Self-reflection and self-awareness are foundational building blocks of success in every area of life. 

Men who end up falling short often plow ahead without thinking much about their own observer’s bias or engaging in very much critical thinking and self-awareness. 

Self-awareness is something almost everyone can improve. 

“Most of us are less self-aware than we think. 

Tasha Eurich and her lab conducted a multi-year study and found that 95% of people believe they are self-aware about how they’re perceived, but only 10-15% are,” observes psychologist Liane Davey.

But for men who are significantly lacking in self-awareness and don’t have much interest in engaging in reflection, it can become a major hindrance to their business and personal relationships and working through challenges. 

12) They aren’t accountable for their mistakes 

We all make mistakes, and there’s no shame in that. 

In fact many personal and professional breakthroughs come about as a result of learning from mistakes and becoming stronger through the process. 

But men who end up falling short of their dreams tend to have a poor relationship with error and making mistakes: they go into denial, downplay their screwups or even deny having screwed up altogether. 

This leads to a cycle of not learning from their mistakes and spiraling into a cycle of under-accomplishment. 

13) They care more what others expect than their own purpose

It’s nearly impossible to succeed long-term for a man who doesn’t pursue his own mission: After all, if a guy always dreamed of being an engineer but agrees to be a doctor to please his parents or partner, even success in that field will never truly fulfill him. 

Men who end up miserable in their career often realize they have lived somebody else’s life and followed somebody else’s dreams or a culturally or familially-imposed life path. 

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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